To learn to speak Italian, the language of food, fashion, art and opera, is a goal for more and more people. Why not study Italian in Italy?
The novel by Elizabeth Gilbert, and now the film with Julia Roberts, Eat, Pray, Love , started the rush. The film Letters to Juliet with Vanessa Redgrave reinforced it. People wishing to learn Italian, like the protagonists in those films, are hopping onto planes and arriving in Rome and Florence daily, ready to jump into the Italian lifestyle and learn to speak the language.
A word of advice is in order: Hold on! Not so fast! Prepare this life-changing learning experience carefully in advance, so as to take full advantage of living in Italy while frequenting a language course.
Preparing for an Italian Course in Italy
First, start at home by signing up for a free online course of spoken Italian. Simply buying an Italian grammar book and studying a chapter a day is not enough. From the beginning of their study, students should hear the pronunciation of words they learn, not simply read them. The BBC offers an excellent introductory course of spoken Italian, online. The video course consists of realistic situations with basic but useful vocabulary, especially designed for the beginner. Each short scene includes interactive grammar lessons, vocabulary lists and suggestions for further study.
If the student is still keen to continue, the next step would be to invest in The Rosetta Stone course of Italian. The CDs are expensive, but far less expensive than finding oneself in Italy, enrolled in a language school that does not correspond to expectations, and with little chance of remedying the situation. The Rosetta Stone course provides the spoken Italian necessary to navigate through any rough waters once in Italy. It is the Cadillac of language learning …a complete course based on research into how people learn their own languages. The course is used by the US military and many international corporations. Students are presented with hundreds of vocabulary words, combined in various ways, on ever increasing levels of difficulty, plus excellent grammar and syntax explanations.
While pursuing these courses, the student should do everything possible to surround herself with spoken Italian.
How? Try these suggestions:
To hear Italian as it is really spoken, rent Italian movies and set the language option on the TV to “original language.” If the plot is difficult to follow, watch the movie first in English, then in Italian, several times. Add sub-titles, then watch the movie again, pausing to listen to and study the written word as it is spoken.
Here’s a short list of some of the best Italian movies available in the US, new and vintage, all with clear Italian, not dialect, spoken by the actors.
- Cinema Paradiso
- La Vita e’ Bella
- The Leopard
- The Conformist
- 8 ½
- Don Camillo
If the student is Italian-American, finding a relative in Italy to correspond with should not be difficult on Ancestry.com. Or use Facebook to find an Italian who wants to practice her English. Set up one-to-one exchange conversations on Skype….one session in English, one in Italian. Ecco! A personal Italian tutor! Of course, the usual caution is advised: avoid revealing personal information online.
On nights out, choose Italian restaurants and practice pronouncing the items on the menu with the staff. Most Italians working in restaurants here in the US would be happy to correct faulty pronunciation (as long as it is not during rush hour!).
Choosing an Italian Language School in Italy
Once preparation has been completed to the student’s satisfaction, it is time to find a good Italian course in Italy. Rome and Florence, of course, offer courses all year round in various language schools. However, to avoid being surrounded by other American students and thus missing out on an authentic introduction to Italian life, go online and check out the courses offered in other Italian cities, such as Milan, Venice, Verona, Padua, Bologna, Pisa and Naples. Google “ corsi d’italiano” plus the name of a city. Or use social media to find someone who can recommend a school that teaches Italian in Italy.
The best will offer courses catering to mixed nationalities. Studying along with Spanish, French, North African, Polish or German students will ensure that Italian will be spoken between students, in class and out…it will be the only common language.
Be sure to ask if the teacher is trained in teaching Italian to foreigners and how much experience he or she has. Check on the number of students in a class. Eight to ten is ideal… more, less so. Also ask if the school is in the town center. Schools located far out in the suburbs usually mean unnecessary transportation expenses and fewer possibilities of socializing in the evenings.
Finally, the best way to learn Italian is to speak it, no matter how embarrassing that might be at the onset of the Italian course. Enjoy Italy, make Italian friends and try to speak only Italian to them. And of course, be safe!
Source: Transitions Abroad