Okay, I’ve been studying Italian for several months now and I’ve explored so many different apps, websites, and courses to help me. I think it’s time I shared these. All of these are free, and pretty much online so you can study and improve whenever you want.
- Duolingo. “OF COURSE Duolingo!” This is probably the most popular language-learning app there is out there, and it’s no surprise. It starts out simple and builds on itself, so you know a new word when it comes and how to use it in a variety of sentences. This includes, reading, writing, listening, and even speaking if you’re up for it! The curriculum set up in short, interactive lessons (grouped by topic) so that you get points and level up; you can even set daily goals and meet them consecutively to keep up your streak. I like this app because it’s easy to pick up and complete a lesson in around 5 minutes. I do recommend studying grammar and verb conjugation on your own in addition to this because it pretty much expects you to learn through application. (But depending on your learning style, you might be fine learning Italian with this app alone!)
- Memrise. Ok, I really love Memrise. I first picked it up to learn Japanese Kana, but there are a multitude of other languages to choose from! It’s basically a flashcard app that prompts you with cards at set intervals (based on a highly effective Spaced Repetition System). The words/phrases start out as seeds that grow every time you get it right! The more they grow, the less you have to study them; once they’re flowers, they’re considered “Learned”. 🙂 I also love that you get points and can set daily goals and try to keep up your streak. It truly “gamifies” the experience and it’s quite addicting. Another feature are “mems” which are somewhat-silly reminders to help you recall it next time; some are more helpful than others. The basic Italian course covers some common words and phrases, but remember it’s pretty much a super fancy and effective and fun flashcard app; in my opinion it should be used in addition to grammar studies because it doesn’t specifically address that. (But again, you may be able to just pick that stuff up based on your learning style.) Check it out!
- CoffeeBreak Italian. Hands down, this is the best podcast there is for learning Italian. (You can listen online or via a podcast app) It’s set up as if you’re about to go visit Italy and need to communicate with a variety of people about a variety of things. The lessons prepare you to have conversations beyond the basic “I’d like to order a cup of coffee.” or “Dove’ il bagno?”, and teaches you to create your own sentences. It’s NOT about memorizing a set of phrases or knowing a certain number of vocabulary words, but literally how to speak and have your own personal conversation. I also like the cultural notes in each episode about Italian life, and tips for your trip. Episodes run from 10 to 30 minutes depending on the content, but I find they’re worth every listen! (There is a premium option that you can purchase but I’ve never bothered with it and feel like I’m getting the bulk of the course!)
- EdX. Have you considered talking an Italian course at your college? How about taking one for free? That’s what open courseware is, and Wellesley College through EdX is the only one (so far) that offers a course in Italian Language learning. Yep you just sign up and make your way through modules with lessons, videos, flashcards, quizzes, and discussion posts at your own pace. Just like an online class! When you’ve finished the beginner course, you can move on to Intermediate and Advanced levels. It’s free to take these courses, but you can buy a completion certificate (maybe to add to your LinkedIn profile or resume?) for just $50. The next best thing would be to get actual college credit for it!
- Native speaker. This will be the hardest resource to find, but it’s pretty obvious. You’ll need someone to actually practice the language with, and one who is hopefully willing to give you some corrections! I met my language partner by chance, so I don’t have any real recommendations for finding one. Alternatively there are websites like iTalki, which connects you with a personal language tutor that you can Skype with for a couple dollars an hour. (I’ve never used iTalki but it’s the most recommended resource I’ve come across, so I’m including it on this list for those without access to a native speaker.) For a free language-exhange app, I use HelloTalk. You can send text or audio messages to Italian (or other language) speakers trying to learn English. The best part about this app is the ability to make and send corrections without interrupting the conversation. It’s free to use and download so definitely check it out!
Many of these resources can be applied to other romance languages and even some Asian languages too. I’ve been a second-language learner since January 2015 so I’ve combed through lots and lots of tools to help me, although I’m very reluctant to spend any money quite yet. Hope this is useful to those starting to learn a new language ^.^
Is there a resource/website/app that I missed? What do YOU use to study Italian? Let me know in a comment below!