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mcsnazzy's avatar

What's the fastest and least expensive way to learn Italian?

Asked by mcsnazzy (379 points ) June 12th, 2011

I have the amazing opportunity to travel to Italy next year and I really want to learn the language so I can at least speak the basics to the people that live there. The trip is in March if this helps. What is the best way I can learn Italian?

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27 Answers

El_Cadejo's avatar

I hear pimsleur is an amazing program and its pretty cheap too.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

The fastest is to live in Italy, but that’s probably not the least expensive. Check your local community colleges for classes.

cookieman's avatar

Move in with my mother-in-law. She’ll speak to you only in Italian and feed you ‘till you burst.

An immersion education if there ever was one.

WasCy's avatar

Be born in Italy.

Well, you asked.

JLeslie's avatar

For simple phrases buy a Berlitz CD with “pocket” book included. Probably $15. That way you can travel with the book when you go. Northern and Southern Italy will have slightly different accents and dialect.

Italy is fantastic! You’re going to love it. Many people will speak some English, especially in tourist areas.

creative1's avatar

For $39.99 Berlitz offers a premier 8 cd pack that gives you 3 ways to learn, 1 via computer, 2 via cd to listen or 3 downloadable to your ipod to listen to, I just purchased the one to learn French and I am liking it so far nova link Good luck what every option you choose and I hope you have fun in Italy.

sliceswiththings's avatar

My local library has this thing called Mango, through which I’m currently learning French. I just started so I don’t have a strong review, but the first lesson’s been great! It’s free with my library card, maybe you can find a local library with something llike that.

zenvelo's avatar

Rosetta gets praise too.

There are a lot of free “learn Italian” podcasts too.

lifeflame's avatar

An Italian lover who doesn’t speak English.

Stinley's avatar

look for someone who wants to learn english and get together for conversation practice. Just spend half your time speaking english and the other half speaking italian to each other. You both gain and neither has to pay. Put a notice up in a language school or local college or the library. Get someone (google) to translate it into italian as well. Use newspapers or look for language games on the internet to find things to talk about.

Thammuz's avatar

As an italian i can tell you straight on: Don’t do it.

There is no way to learn italian in a year to a point where you don’t sound incredibly awkward.

Italian has a completely different sentence structure from english, every noun is either feminine or masculine with no apparent logical reason for each (door is feminine, knife is masculine, death is feminine, videogame is masculine), we have several different verb tenses and they change for each and every person, and they’re so many that a lot of people use them in the wrong context routinely.

If you want the fastest and easiest way, that’s probably a mothertongue private tutor but, i assure you, one year is not going to be enough.

Stinley's avatar

@Thammuz Do you disagree that when in Italy @mcsnazzy will have a better time if s/he know at least a little of the language? I don’t think any of us are saying that there will be fluency but for me I think it is rude not to try to speak the language of a country I am visiting.

Thammuz's avatar

@Stinley depends on where @mcsnazzy is going. Tourist destinations like Milan, Florence and Rome are used to foreigners and will treat him good regardless, towns and other smaller settlements are generally xenophobic as fuck and knowing a little italian is not going to change the general mindset. Still it’s good to know some lexicon, what i’m saying is that there is no real point in learning the language, since he’s going to have a hard enough time learning the lexicon correctly.

Stinley's avatar

@Thammuz I didn’t know that – I’ve only been to touristy places in Italy. Still, @mcsnazzy may be a linguistic genius and learn it just like that.

Thammuz's avatar

@Stinley I doubt that, it’s simply a matter of mental habits.

If he’s used to english he’s starting at a disadvantage, because english has a much more flexible and simple structure (which to me is a good thing) while italian has a strict and highly contingence based structure.

English, for instance, has no clear distinction between nouns adjectives and verbs, italian has a very marked distinction and some of the related terms don’t even sound alike. And then there is the whole problem of nouns always having a gender.

To me, english looks easy, because i can just dispense with most of my mental habits, english speakers on the other hand need to pick those habits up to speak italian, which is way harder.

That said nobody’s preventing him from trying, though he would be much better off learning a language that has actual use, like french, german, spanish, japanese, chinese, whatever and not italian which is only used in italy where there is very little to do aside for sightseeing.

JLeslie's avatar

I agree with @Thammuz to a large extent. Although, Italian is a beautiful language to know and speak, knowing some can be fun. The OP can certaily learn where is the bathroom, where is the train, and where is the hotel. Straight, left, right. Help. Numbers menu items, although that can easily be looked up in that handy Berlitz book I mentioned, and Americans are familiar with many Italian dishes, but not ingredients. Italian is going to be much difficult to learn because you have to know more concerning the verbs and nouns. Unless the OP already speaks Spanish, or one of the other romance language (I would assume the masculine and feminine is fairly consistent from Italian to Spanish and others) and is accustomed to conjugating every verb to mean a different person, but I doubt the OP speaks a second language since he asked this question. Indirect pronouns are a nightmare for me in Spanish, and I am pretty fluent. I wind up talking about the wrong person. But, certainy simple sentences, things tourists ask for frequently, even if said poorly will be understood.

Thammuz's avatar

@JLeslie (I would assume the masculine and feminine is fairly consistent from Italian to Spanish and others)
In my experience it’s 50/50, then again my experience with spanish and french is very limited so i might be wrong.

JLeslie's avatar

@Thammuz But really, if I put a masculine article with a feminine noun, someone will know what I mean.

Thammuz's avatar

@JLeslie Sure, that’s why i’m saying learning the lexicon with no emphasis on the language itself would make more sense.

lifeflame's avatar

I disagree with @Thammuz and the naysayers.
A year is ample time to learn the basics of a language.

And certainly compared to language systems like Chinese or even Polish, I would say that English speakers have the advantage of (a) not needing to master a different writing system (b) being able to pronounce words as they are written© Having certain words/word stems in the language that are Latin based, and therefore more recognizable.

As someone who has lived in China, Poland, France and had learned enough of each language to converse, I will say actually it is not too hard to get the language to the point of communication. If you are just travelling, even being able to hear keywords and understand the gist of the conversation will enhance your experience immensely. So I say: go for it! Find an Italian buddy to teach you.

Thammuz's avatar

@lifeflame (b) being able to pronounce words as they are written
Like fuck they do. Italian pronounciation is completely different from english, it’s almost the same as the japanese way of reading the roman alphabet, though. There’s only some contextual exception but aside for that it’s identical.

The only things that happen whenever english people try to pronounce italian without any previous knowledge of the alphabet are failure and confusion.

Stinley's avatar

In summary, most of us agree that you can learn a language in the time that OP has to the extent that you can be understood and can understand the basics. Most think that it is a good thing and should be encouraged. We suggest attending a class, buying a langage programme (and recommend several), and speaking Italian with a native speaker. One person suggests that learning italian is not necessary because it is too hard, no-one will speak to you unless they are in a tourist area and those in tourist areas will speak English anyway.

Thammuz's avatar

@Stinley no-one will speak to you unless they are in a tourist area and those in tourist areas will speak English anyway.

Woah, woah, wait. I never said no-one will speak to him. whatsoever. It’s not that they won’t try to help you, they will try, afterall you’re probably going to be customer to at least some of them, but they’ll most likely have a highly dialectal way of speaking, and probably no english knowledge whatsoever. (I mean, i would be stumped if i ended up in a deep south italy sort of setting, and i’m italian (from the north, though). I can only imagine what nightmares strict sicilian or stict naepolitan would be for a foreigner.) The xenophobia part comes in play because that’s why they mostly will not know english. That aside, they won’t be rude or ignore you. That they do to immigrants, not tourists.

lifeflame's avatar

@Thammuz – I meant, that Italian pronunciation tends to be phonetically consistent. As opposed to a language like English, which is much more riddled with exceptions.

Stinley's avatar

@Thammuz Ok I was just trying to summarise, sorry if i misrepresented what you said

Thammuz's avatar

@lifeflame Ok, in that case yes, aside for a couple minor things, it is.

@Stinley Don’t worry, i didn’t clarify it myself, so it’s all good.

mattbrowne's avatar

There is no fast way.

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