How can I improve my Italian? That’s a question I get quite frequently.
Well, the easiest answer would be: “spend some time in Italy“. As a matter of fact, spending some time in the country where the language you are learning is spoken is the most effective way of improving such language. Unfortunately, this is not always so easy to be done.
That’s why I came up with some very simple tips to help you practice your Italian in your daily life, without having to pack your bags and buy an expensive airline ticket. But let me be clear: these tips are meant to improve your Italian, which means that you should already be mastering a bit of the language.
When it comes to starting to learn a language, I am quite old-fashioned: some basic grammar rules and a few exercises to fix them are a must. In my own experience, that’s the best way of creating a solid foundation for language learning, from which you can start building your knowledge in less orthodox ways.
But let’s focus on improving the language now and see a few little habits that can help you do so without too much hassle: we all live busy lives and finding the time to focus on language learning can really be a struggle.
– I know this might seem quite weird and you probably won’t like it if you care about design, but a very good way of learning new vocabulary is placing post-its on things. When you are learning the Italian vocabulary for the kitchen, for example, you can put a post-it saying “frigo” on the fridge, another with “forno” on the oven and so on. Both the action of writing such words on things and seeing them every day on the related object will help you fix them in your mind. And you can easily remove them in a very short time for a better-looking house.
– since we all check our emails at least once a day, subscribing to a specific newsletter can be a very good way of learning a new word every day. You might not remember them all but I am sure that many of them will stick in your mind very easily. I am subscribed to a newsletter of this kind both for English and Italian – there are other languages as well – and I am very happy about it. The Italian one is called La parola del giorno and you can subscribe here.
– if you are more into social media, Instagram is a great tool for vocabulary building. If you check Instagram and look for daily Italian words, many profiles will come up. My favorite are: Italian Words, An Italian Word A Day and Learn A Word A Day, which is brand new but actually seems very cool. If you are interested, I also have my own daily Italian word project, which also involves Instagram Stories. If you want to check it out, you’ll find it on my Instagram profile.
– when it comes to reading, the tip is always the same: read books in Italian. Well, this can be quite easy if you are an advanced speaker, but if you are a beginner or even an intermediate, this can be quite challenging. My suggestion is: read books about the things you like. Are you passionate about food? Then look for cookbooks in Italian (you’ll find plenty of them). You probably already know most of the content and this makes the language easier. For example, my husband improved his English by reading books about stocks and investing, which is something he is really interested in.
– another option would be reading children books: they are amazing, use a very simple language and are always full of illustrations. If you are a beginner, they are a perfect option to approach the written language.
– but reading doesn’t necessarily have to do with books, there is a wide array of new media nowadays and they are perfect for improving our reading skills without even noticing it. You can use Twitter, for example, texts are short there and don’t take much time to be read. For example, I love Proverbi Italiani or Vecchi Proverbi: phrases are super short and – in most cases – quite simple. Same goes for Facebook, Instagram or blogs: look for what you are interested in, a heap of great resources will come up.
If you want more tips about improving your reading skills, you can check this other post of mine.
– when you are learning a new language, practicing your listening skills is one of the easiest things to do. The Internet offers amazing resources and most of them are free. One of the tools I use the most to improve my English is YouTube, which is literally a goldmine of language learning resources. Apart from the channel that focus on the language, which you can easily find by researching the proper keywords, some of my favorite Italian channels are: La Scimmia Yoga, if you are into yoga, The Bluebird Kitchen, if you like cooking and lifestyle, and Ilenia Zodiaco, if you like books. But actually there are many more I love, so please ask me if you want more suggestions.
– if YouTubers are not really your thing, you can do something quite old fashioned but still very useful: you can listen to songs. If I can say I know English well – at least I think so – it’s because I spent countless hours listening to The Smiths with a lyrics book in my hands. Luckily nowadays you do not need walkmans and books. YouTube can be a really useful tool since all songs have lyrics videos but if you want to be a bit more old-school, you can print out the lyrics and follow the songs. It works, believe me. You’ll learn a real lot.
– among the other listening tools that come to my mind, apart from films and tv series, which you can easily find online (speaking of movies, I have recommended some Italian movies here and here), you should try listening to podcasts or to audiobooks. As I have written in a post last year, I think that audiobooks are an amazing tool for language learning. When it comes to improving your listening skills, you can try putting on the audiobook and following the written text at the same time: it is actually a very effective way of practicing many skills at the same time.
– if you feel the need of improving your writing skills, I’d suggest you add a habit to your daily life. For example, if you are into journaling or keeping a gratitude journal, why don’t you do it in Italian? Your writing skills are not that advanced? Well, you can just try writing a phrase or two, to begin with. I used to keep a gratitude journal in the past and it was just a few words a day, so I’d say it is totally doable.
– another thing you can do is to find a nice notebook – I am sure you have plenty of them in your drawer. Or is it only me? – and write a phrase every day. For example, if you are subscribed to the daily newsletter I mentioned above, you can take the word of the day and use it to make a phrase. In such way, it will be easier for you to keep the word in mind and you’ll also practice your writing: two birds with one stone! 🙂
– if you are not into journaling nor have the time to write a phrase every day, then you can use Italian for your daily chores. For example, if you need to write down your grocery list, you can do so in Italian, or you can use the language to jot down notes or appointments in your diary or to-do list: you might end up using always the same words but the result will be mastering them quite easily and without much effort.
Unfortunately, when it comes to speaking, there isn’t much you can do: you have to chat with a native speaker. The best way to improve your language skills is to find yourself in a foreign language environment and being forced to speak. However, as we said before, not very many people are able to leave their daily life and spend some time abroad.
Luckily, Skype has been invented and you can chat with whomever you want wherever you are. If you are interested, Chiacchieriamo is one of the services I offer and the one that gives me the most satisfaction because I can really see how people improve their speaking skills after practicing for a while. However, if you are not interested in working with me – I can’t see a possible reason why 🙂 – you’ll find a lot of other teachers and fellow speakers on the Internet by just googling for online lessons.