Italian is a beautiful language that’s beloved by so many people all around the world. While there are plenty of classes that you can take, sometimes the timings or locations aren’t super convenient. So, here are the best ways to learn Italian on your own!
Let’s dive in and find out more.
14 Best Ways to Learn Italian on Your Own: How Can I Teach Myself Italian at Home?
1. iTalki Classes for Conversational Practice
This is #1 on the list of how to learn Italian on your own because it is for sure the best way to learn a language online on a super low budget (which I’m all about!).
iTalki connects you with native speakers and tutors to help you learn and practice Italian no matter what time zone you’re in.
This is super important if you’re not in a place where Italian is widely spoken, as you need to build up your speaking and listening confidence before you visit Italy and speak to the locals.
Even if you are in Italy, I really recommend you get to an A2 or higher conversational level before speaking to native speakers out in the wild (outside of simple conversations).
I’ve taken hundreds of classes on iTalki (usually at about $5-$7 per class) and it has taught me Italian, improved my Spanish, and got me to an intermediate level with my French.
Basically, you are paying a native speaker to talk to you WITHOUT using English for a half-hour to an hour. There is absolutely nothing more valuable than that at any level of language learning.
You can find my language study plan here to show exactly how I use these classes with only a few other (free) resources to learn a language quickly!
It’s the best website out there for one-on-one classes with native speakers (trust me, I’ve tried others and they don’t compare!)
I literally won’t shut up about iTalki, so this is definitely one of the first places I would start.
Although I put iTalki first, if I’m starting with a language from scratch, I will complete the first couple of units in Duolingo before I try to use it in a language class. Here’s my Duolingo strategy!
Duolingo gets a lot of hate from language learners, but it’s free, motivational, and can get you from an A0 (knowing nothing about the language) to an A1-A2 level (basics, talking about yourself, etc.) and that’s what you need to get started speaking with an iTalki teacher.
3. Grammar Textbooks Like Easy Italian
It’s a classic for a reason! Language-learning textbooks are tailored and made for independent learning and Italian textbooks are no different. You can get a ton of amazing Italian textbooks catering to different levels and age ranges.
For example, you might be a beginner, but that doesn’t mean that you want to learn the same words and phrases as an eight-year-old! In recent years, there’s been a boom in adult, context-specific language-learning textbooks that are a lot more practical.
You can buy anything from grammar books to dictionaries to worksheets and vocabulary-building textbooks, specifically for Italian. These are great to use as a standalone language-learning tool, as they follow a set structure in chapters or units. All you have to do is follow along and do a chapter a day or so.
Italian textbooks are also really useful as a reference tool when you’re using other methods. For example, language-learning apps are notoriously bad for teaching grammar.
It’s mostly because apps provide bite-size learning experiences and it takes time and effort to get to grips with Italian grammar properly. So, by combining Italian textbooks with other learning methods, you’re going to have a much more well-rounded experience.
I recommend this book on Amazon, Easy Italian Step-by-Step.
I used this book when I was first learning Spanish (which was the first language I learned) and I thought it was well-organized and it kept me motivated to keep learning difficult grammar concepts.
I plan to buy the advanced version of this book this summer and work my way through it!
It goes through each of the major concepts of Italian grammar and then has exercises to help the practice what was learned.
The answers are all in the back of the book, so it’s a really great way for you to test yourself at home.
4. Netflix TV Shows and Movies & Rai TV
If you’re looking for a fun way to learn Italian, why not check out some Italian-language TV shows and movies?
Here are the best ones on Netflix and how I use them to learn Italian, plus here’s how to get Italian TV on your laptop for free from anywhere.
You can do this by searching “Italian” in the search bar and clicking on “Italian Movies and TV.” Unfortunately, there aren’t many options on Netflix for Italian, although Netflix seems to be working on that!
To find all the shows originally made in Italian on Netflix, follow this link to the genre tab for Italian TV shows (the genre number is 62866 (it looks like this: https://www.netflix.com/browse/genre/62866).
Subtitles or No Subtitles?
This completely depends on what you want to focus on and the level you are at. For example, when I am a beginner and I want to watch a show that is more advanced, I usually turn on the subtitles since the main goal is to learn more vocabulary.
However, when I am a beginner and I am watching a show that is aimed at beginners, I don’t turn on subtitles.
Why? Because the goal is to get used to listening to the language and being able to pick out the vocabulary that you do know in order to understand the parts you don’t know yet.
Personally, I think listening and understanding are skills that can be overlooked, especially when you are first starting.
think about it this way, what is the point of learning how to say “Dov’è il bagno?” if you aren’t going to be able to understand what they say next?
You still won’t know where the bathroom is.
However, I think both strategies can work well. I like to turn on the subtitles even with languages I know well on days that I want to find new vocabulary words to study.
I know that I understand well the gist of what is being said, but there are specific words that I am still missing.
Also, keep in mind that subtitles are almost never exactly what the person on the show is saying. The characters are speaking usually quite fast and the subtitles are more of a summary of what they are trying to say.
This is helpful for learning vocabulary as a beginner but can be a crutch and a weakness if you rely on it since you aren’t actually forcing your brain to keep up with the pace of a native speaker.
Some of my personal favorite Italian TV shows include Winx Club, Maggie & Bianca: Fashion Friends for beginners.
Summertime and Luna Nera for intermediate to advanced learners.
Popular Italian films include Rose Island, The Life Ahead, The Hand of God, La Dolce Vita, and so many more.
One of the major reasons why watching TV shows and movies is so good for improving your language skills is that they give you a visual context. Even if you don’t understand every single word that’s being said, you can still pick up on the general gist of what’s going on through context.
For instance, if you’re watching a medical drama and everyone’s running around, normally you know that something bad has happened.
Also, if they’re in a hospital setting, they’re more than likely going to be using vocabulary that’s specific to that setting. This helps narrow down the possibilities of what’s being said.
5. Learn Phrases Quickly with Memrise Flashcards
When I spent around 2 months really focusing all my time on learning Italian, I spent a lot of time on Memrise.
I have found that I still remember Italian words and phrases that I studied on Memrise years later, which really shows that their method works even when you might not feel like you’re making progress.
Memrise works really well if you want to build up your vocab super quickly using flashcards and still have the gamified experience with points and levels like Duolingo has.
Plus, unlike Duolingo, they are showing you phrases that actual native speakers are using on a daily basis and you get to hear and watch them say it each time you go over the phrase.
6. Start Listening to Italian Music
Is it just me who’s been under Maneskin’s spell since they won Eurovision a couple of years ago? Listening to Italian-language music can help immerse yourself in the language, much like you do when you’re walking around the bustling streets of Florence, Milan, or Rome.
Again, you don’t need to fully understand what’s being said, but you’ll get a feel for the language, the way it sounds, and the pronunciation of certain words and phrases. Over time, you’ll find yourself singing along to these songs and getting to grips with Italian pronunciation, all while listening to some amazing music.
You can do this on the go, in your headphones, or while you’re cooking in the kitchen or studying away at home. As language-learning apps often lack when it comes to pronunciation, music, and audio-based language-learning tools can help bridge that gap!
Here are some of my favorite songs (I’m into pop, so if that’s not your thing you probably won’t like these lol)
- Bye Bye by Annalisa (Anything by Annalisa honestly!)
- Direzione la Vita by Annalisa
- Da zero a cento by Baby K
- Tutto per una ragione by Benji & Fede
- Bambola by Betta Lemme
- D’estate non vale by Fred De Palma
- Nera by Irama
- L’altra dimensione by Maneskin
- Cascare nei tuoi occhi (probably one of my favorite songs EVER)
- La Dolce Vita by Fedez, Tananai, Mara Sattei
- Finimondo by MYSS KETA
- Vieni nel mio cuore by Ultimo
- BABY GODDAMN by Tananai
One of my favorite language learning activities is to memorize lyrics to my favorite songs, so whenever I need a language refresher I can put on my Italian playlist and practice without a ton of effort. I’m both singing in Italian and remembering vocabulary, win-win!
7. Written Conversation Practice with ChatGPT or HelloTalk
HelloTalk is a free app that allows you to chat with native speakers. You correct their sentences and they correct yours.
The main downside of this app is that you can only use it to learn one language, instead of having chats in multiple languages going at one time.
The people you are chatting with can correct your messages, but sometimes it’s hard to find someone willing to do that.
I’ve also been having long conversations with ChatGPT in Italian and I would definitely recommend telling stories in your target language to ChatGPT and asking it to correct everything you write.
I found this was the best writing practice I’ve gotten without going to a school.
This is a great way to get free conversation practice and also practice your writing skills.
8. Anki Flashcards
Although this one didn’t stick with me for very long, this is one of the main ways people learn languages on their own, so I need to add it to this list!
Anyone who’s studied languages at school will know the magical benefits of flashcards. Whether you create them by hand or use digital flashcard apps, they’re a quick and easy way to improve your vocabulary on the go.
The book Fluent Forever: How to Learn Any Language Fast and Never Forget It, which is one of the most popular language-learning books, uses Anki as the method to always remember what you’ve learned.
Anki is a spaced repetition flashcard app.
This basically means that after you make a flashcard, Anki will show you that card to review right before you are about to forget it.
So at first, you review the word more often, then after a while, the intervals become longer and longer.
In a way, the decks become your brain, but instead of forgetting the words you’ve learned, it nudges you to remember them every few weeks or months.
Anki is free for Android users but costs $20 for iOS. This is just a one-time payment. The app is completely free if you use it on the desktop version.
9. Try Out Additional Language Learning Apps Like Pimsleur or Mondly
These language-learning apps can help you learn Italian in a fun and engaging way. From games to quizzes to leaderboards where you can take on friends and family members, language learning apps are a super interactive way to learn Italian or any other language that takes your fancy!
Another huge bonus when it comes to language learning apps is that they’re great if you’re on the go. A lot of the time, you can access these apps if you have WiFi or mobile data, but some premium subscription options also have offline modes.
So, if you’re traveling around Italy and want to keep brushing up on your Italian skills, you can absolutely do so, with all the knowledge in the palm of your hand!
If you’ve ever used a language-learning app, you’ll know that they’re really good at nudging you to take action and make time for your Italian practice (I’m looking at you, Duo the Owl!).
So, if you’re not great at staying motivated or sticking to a study plan, then language apps can be a great way to keep you on the straight and narrow, and ensure your progress keeps on coming!
10. Get Reading Practice with LingQ
LinQ is my learning language app of choice. I use this app every single day and I see myself using it forever. Why?
Because it’s not actually the app that is teaching me the language, it’s native materials like Youtube Channels, Netflix, and Cosmopolitan Magazine.
If you are someone who wants to immerse themselves in native materials instead of resources made for learners, LingQ is hard to beat.
It basically makes it so you can measure the words you are exposed to while reading or watching things in your target language. You can import anything from across the internet and it keeps track of words you’ve seen before, words you have learned, and words you have struggled to remember.
When you see a word you don’t know, you can highlight it, then every time you see that word in other articles or video, if you recognize the word, you can click on it and change the level so you can keep track of new vocabulary that you are learning in context.
The app keeps track of every word you learn and you can review them in the flashcard section of the app. But for me, this is a great way to gamify reading and watching TV in my target language. I love getting notifications that I’ve reached another 1,000 words.
I can also say that as someone who absolutely detests flashcards and memorizing words, this method actually works.
By encouraging myself to read and consume as much content in my target language as possible, I am actually remembering and learning words quickly and being able to recall them in my iTalki classes.
The main criticism of LingQ is that the user interface is not the best and it doesn’t look very modernized. However, once you get past this, you can use this app to start to reach more advanced levels of your language by learning a ton of vocabulary.
You can use the app for free but a lot of the features are limited. I think that if you were ever going to pay for a language-learning app, let it be this one!
The price varies depending on how long you subscribe, but it includes all languages on the app. The price is between $7-$13 per month.
In my opinion, LingQ is the best alternative
11. Read Graphic Novels
This might sound like an unusual way to learn Italian on your own, but it’s actually super helpful! On a recent trip to Italy, I bought the graphic novel of a story I already knew in Italian to help me learn.
As I already knew the rough story and characters, I had all that much-needed context, while the images and text style helped to illustrate what was going on in the story.
Essentially, this graphic novel worked a lot like a grown-up, entertaining, picture book. Graphic novels are super fun to read, and you can use a dictionary or photo-based translator on your phone, like Google Lens, to help you with any words you’re unfamiliar with.
Alternatively, you can also buy the English version and have them side-by-side to speed up the process.
Unlike watching TV shows or movies in Italian, you can translate and read these graphic novels at your own pace, splitting them up into sections as you see fit. It’s a lot more manageable and you can reread them again and again to see how much vocabulary you’ve retained!
12. Listen to Podcasts Like Learn Italian with Lucrezia
It might sound weird to learn a language from a podcast, but this method of learning Italian is only getting more popular! Most language-learning podcasts are a mix of English and Italian and often feature two or more presenters having conversations that revolve around a certain scenario or context.
You can just open the Apple Podcast App and find the “Podcasts by Language” section, then click through and scroll till you find Italian.
Of course, my Italian queen Lucrezia’s podcast is #1! Others I’ve listened to and liked were Italiano Automatico Podcast, Speak Italiano – Pensieri & Parole, and Easy Italian.
Either the title of the podcast episode or a short intro in English will offer some quick explanation about that edition’s theme and what to expect from the podcast. It might be two friends catching up over coffee.
This can include pleasantries such as “How are you?” and “How are your family?”, as well as ordering coffee and lunch in a cafe setting.
Podcasts often offer more practical vocabulary that you’re likely to use in the real world, especially when you’re traveling around Italy or trying to move there. You can listen to these podcasts on the go or in the car, and learn Italian no matter where you are.
One of the best things about language-learning podcasts is that they’re completely hands-free, so you can continue to go about your day at the same time!
13. Take Online Quizzes on Sites Like Online Italian Club or Clozemaster
Quizzes and other forms of gamification make learning Italian a lot more fun and engaging. You can challenge yourself or challenge others to beat your score.
Having someone else there to practice with and push you can really help, whether you know them in real life, or just by a screen name on a language-learning website.
You can find a set of specific quizzes that are more academic, like official CEFR practice tests if you’re working toward getting your B1 level in Italian. These practice tests and quizzes are designed to help you in all four language-learning areas: reading, writing, speaking, and listening.
There are actually very few language-learning tools that cover all four, and it’s just a good way to know what level you’re operating at.
Clozemaster is a super fun way to get yourself to learn a bit of everything, grammar, vocabulary, etc. Basically, it gives you a sentence with one word missing and you have to type in the answer.
Clozemaster used to be a free language resource, but they recently switched to a paid model. Although you can still complete a few sentences per day, in order to really use this resource effectively you’d have to pay.
14. Try Italian Cookbooks and Recipes
Want to dive into Italian culture? One of the tastiest ways to do that is by cooking Italian cuisine. Recipes are an amazing way to brush up on your Italian skills as you know roughly what to expect from the medium.
You know that there are going to be ingredients, measurements, instructions, and cooking-related words like boil, fry, combine, bake, and more.
Whether you actually follow along and cook each recipe, or just start reading and trying to translate an Italian cookbook, it can be a targeted way to improve your food-based vocabulary. You can then test out your new knowledge at a local market, asking for the ingredients that you need to create your delicious meal.
It’s a super satisfying process if you’re living or staying in Italy and have self-catered accommodation, like an Airbnb or a Vrbo. If you find a recipe in Italian that also has step-by-step photos accompanying the instructions, it can help you get used to the cookery lexis and word bank!
How Hard is it to Learn Italian?
Honestly, if you know any other language from the Romance family, like Spanish, French, or Latin, then you’ll probably find Italian pretty easy to learn.
There are a lot of similar grammar patterns and vocabulary between this family of languages, so if you know one, it’s fairly simple to pick up one of the others.
How Long Does it Take to Learn Italian?
Like any language, it can take a long time to learn Italian. On average, it takes between six and nine months of consistent study to get to an intermediate, conversational level of Italian.
You can speed this up if you study between 15-20 hours a week or around three hours per day, but for a lot of people, this is an unsustainable amount of time to commit to learning Italian alongside, you know, living your life!
Can I Teach Myself Italian?
Yes, you can teach yourself Italian. There have never been more ways to learn Italian on your own. Of course, it might take you slightly longer to learn Italian than if you went to a specific class run by a professional Italian teacher, but it can be a lot more convenient in the long run.
These self-taught language methods are also really useful for revising or practicing your Italian skills in between lessons. So, whether you’re trying to teach yourself Italian on your own schedule, using techniques and styles that work best for you, or you’re just trying to find revision tools to supplement your studies, there are plenty of tools to help you on your way!
Why Learn Italian?
Besides it being a beautiful language, Italian is an excellent language to learn if you’re traveling to Italy or southern Switzerland as the cantons of Ticino and Grigioni are both Italian-speaking regions. As one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, it’s well worth learning at least basic Italian before you visit this outstanding country.
Although English is spoken throughout the majority of Italy, there are more and more rules coming in about speaking Italian in public spaces. Especially, if you’re thinking of moving to Italy, knowing Italian will soon become a prerequisite for citizenship and permanent residency permits.
In addition to this, it’ll simply help you integrate more into Italian culture and society. If you know the language, you’ll be able to make more friends, understand the Italian way of life, and generally get more out of your time in this beautiful nation.
Let me tell you, Italian bureaucracy is a lot easier to get around if you can speak the language! As a Romance language, learning Italian can also give you a really solid foundation for learning languages like French, Spanish, and Romanian.
There are a ton of similarities between these languages so if you want to become a polyglot, learning Italian is a great place to start!
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Dayna Brockbank is a travel and language-learning blogger who has lived around the world but has now settled in Nice, France. She speaks 3 languages at varying levels of fluency: Spanish, Italian, and French, and graduated with a Bachelor’s in Spanish Education. She and her husband focus on making travel part of life by living cheaply and traveling on a budget.