how to reach fluency in Italian?

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how to reach fluency in Italian?

Postby Vegemighty » Mon Aug 01, 2016 1:25 am

I intend to travel to Italy next year. What resources are out there to bringing oneself to high fluency in Italian. I have Pimsleur. But that will only get me to low intermediate. Where do I step off at my language learning journey after Pimsleur? Thanks for all your help.
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Re: how to reach fluency in Italian?

Postby rdearman » Mon Aug 01, 2016 10:40 am

A year to learn Italian. A mountain to climb, that is for sure! OK, Well I will try to help you a little. You don't mention a budget for your learning, so I'll assume unlimited funds. :) And I'll give some free resources too.

I recommend you get Ankifor your phone/computer. This will give you the ability to create flashcards for vocabulary you're learning. I would recommnd you get a book in Italian (preferably 2-3) and start reading. Every word you don't know, lookup and put in the anki vocabulary flashcard deck. Keep doing this intensive reading until your holiday in Italian.

You should find a tutor to help you, and people who will speak to you. You can pay for people to talk to you and tutor you at iTalki. You can get an "audio phrsebook" here: this will give you basic phrases you'd need on holiday and you could memorise them all with anki.

You can chat with Italians using HelloTalk app on a phone, or you can use online sites like this one: which will allow you to practice typing in Italian & they have audio for chatting also. This has chat rooms so you can speak to more than one person. Here are some links for Italian resources: ... tes-a-day/ ... exercises/ ... ento/epub/ ... _BmjL5axtg ... fault.aspx

I'd also recommend you participate in this forum a lot, and start a log so people can make other recommendations or help you when you have questions.
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Re: how to reach fluency in Italian?

Postby blaurebell » Mon Aug 01, 2016 1:56 pm

High fluency? I think you need to specify exactly what you mean by that. Do you mean primarily speaking and understanding or also reading and writing? I myself live in Spain and have my Spanish at a rather comfortable B2 production, C1 understanding, which I would call high fluency myself. This kind of level wouldn't be necessary for travel though. I understand pretty much everything, from TV series, lectures, novels, up to books about philosophy. What is needed for travel is substantially less - even TV series are harder to understand than people talking directly to you. Getting by in every day situations and even having not so bad conversations can be done comfortably with B1 already. For university level education my production would still be a little low even at B2, especially my writing skills, and it sometimes tends to be a little frustrating for me too, because I still make mistakes, but it's more than enough to live here. Be clear about your goals and then work towards them accordingly. B1 which is still intermediate is enough for travel. It's comfortably reachable within a year. If you want to reach B2 and high intermediate borderline advanced you will have to study much harder. High fluency, as in B2, would likely take some 600h, which would be a bit more of 1 1/2h of focused work each day. That's a lot to keep up for a year!

A good method for your goals is also necessary. To reach my level of Italian of A2 (certified, actually) I needed 3 months of 3h+ a day working through a whole university level textbook and workbook heavy on grammar. The method was all wrong for actual conversation though. It was mainly grammar torture and didn't prepare me for speaking at all, well, at least not beyond "Where is the train station?" and "A coffee please" or "I like dogs, but I don't like ice-cream". And usually I wouldn't understand the directions given when asking for them. However, after the course I read the first Harry Potter book in Italian without a dictionary, although the literary past tense wasn't covered in the course. A few years later after I had abandoned Italian mid-stride before becoming functional (too much grammar torture), I realised that I could somehow understand everyday conversations of my Italian flatmate who was from the north. However, I usually can't understand movies, people from the south and I could never speak. Lessons you should take from that is to forget about grammar and focus on the skills you actually need, understanding and speaking. Also prepare specifically for the region which you will be visiting - in the south you will need the literary past tense a lot, so focus more on reading and audiobooks. In the north you might only need to read in the beginning, unless of course you enjoy reading.

If I were to start Italian from scratch now with a focus on actually using the language, I would start like this: Assimil - Italian with Ease, while doing Duolingo and watching a cartoon with 20min episodes I know from very early on, after like 5 lessons of Assimil. Simpsons is good. Don't worry if you don't get it at first, usually you don't need the dialog to understand what's happening in cartoons and you will quickly start to understand words and then full sentences here and there. As soon as I'd be able to understand children's stories with a dictionary I'd also start reading books to expand my vocabulary. I like Harry Potter for that and it's usually the first book I read in any new language I learn. You might think that reading isn't really necessary if you have a focus on speaking, but it's actually the only way to pick up new vocabulary fast as long as you're still not understanding the spoken language well. As soon as you do understand spoken language and if you're not visiting the south, you might want to drop the reading and binge watch series instead, because it's better preparation for the kind of language you'll encounter in everyday situations. Start with dubbed series that you know already, first with subtitles, then without, finally move on to series and movies produced in Italy to pick up on slang and a more natural way of speaking. All of this will get your understanding up to speed. Speaking is another issue altogether. I know people who can understand everything and don't speak a word, so it will need additional work. It doesn't come "automatically" or from doing a little Pimsleur (in fact, I don't like Pimsleur myself, too slow in comparison to other methods). Once I'd finish the passive wave of Assimil I'd do the Michel Thomas course myself and then start speaking on skype with italki, 2 or 3 times a week. After MT and the active wave of Assimil I'd also start with the Advanced Assimil, but for Italian it seems to be only available in French. Lacking that you will have to consume a lot of native material, speak, read, watch series, have fun (oh, how terrible ;) ). Also, you might need some grammar books to fill in some of the gaps at this point, unless you don't mind making a ton of mistakes. Being fluent doesn't necessarily mean that you have to speak well. You can skip grammar and writing entirely and will get by splendidly. People will treat you differently though if all your mistakes make you sound like a 5 year old.
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Re: how to reach fluency in Italian?

Postby garyb » Mon Aug 01, 2016 2:10 pm

Some more info on your goals, background, language learning experience, and available time and budget would be helpful, otherwise it's hard to give advice.

One year is quite a short time in language learning, and whatever you mean by "high fluency" might not be realistic unless you are able to dedicate yourself full-time to studying the language. Not that you shouldn't aim high, I'm not wanting to discourage you, but it's important to be realistic. Personally it's taken me about four and a half years to reach a level in Italian where I'm quite proficient and fluent, but this is studying it part-time and alongside other languages and hobbies. With more free time and focus, I'm sure it's possible in a shorter period.

For courses, Assimil is popular here and it's good for bridging the gap from the beginner level (Pimsleur etc.) to a point where you can understand and use more of the language for conversations, TV, films, books, etc.

If you want to practise speaking then the best site I've found for finding language exchanges with Italians is Conversation Exchange. But finding a reliable partner can take a lot of time and effort, and iTalki tutors can be a quicker and easier option if you have the money.

I just saw blaurebell's post as I was about to post this. Good advice about focusing on what you actually need for travel. I think that listening comprehension is quite critical, and understanding people face-to-face can be more difficult than watching a TV show, because you're under pressure and there's less context. I always struggle when someone on the street comes and asks me a question. And of course it's not very useful being able to ask something if you won't understand the answer.
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Re: how to reach fluency in Italian?

Postby desitrader » Mon Aug 01, 2016 3:51 pm

I am assuming this is the first foreign language you are going to learn.

The main problem with deadlines is that you'll need a certain amount of time (which could be up to a few years) before you stumble upon a method that actually works for *you*. It's quite possible that you'll spend 3-4 months on a variety of methods each and before you know it, your one year is gone.

It's entirely possible that the first method you try clicks for you and you gain a good level of understanding of Italian by the end of the one year using just that method --- but it's highly unlikely.

Having said that, no knowledge is wasted. Even if you switch your methods every three months, you'll still learn --- but maybe not at the pace you could have.
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Re: how to reach fluency in Italian?

Postby dampingwire » Mon Aug 01, 2016 11:39 pm

Vegemighty wrote:I intend to travel to Italy next year. What resources are out there to bringing oneself to high fluency in Italian. I have Pimsleur. But that will only get me to low intermediate. Where do I step off at my language learning journey after Pimsleur? Thanks for all your help.

Pimsleur I claims to get you "a near-native accent using essential grammar and vocabulary" with a 16 hour course. The almost five times as expensive full course (5 levels) gets you "start with basics and progress to near fluent, advanced-intermediate level of speaking and understanding" in just 81 hours.

I find both of those to be stunningly optimistic claims. and so I'd seriously question the "low intermediate" that you think you'll get with Pimsleur. I don't dislike the courses, in fact I found it quite useful for Japanese as it got me to speak more than I otherwise would have done at the start. Just don't believe the ridiculous claims: it'll just disappoint you when you try to put the language to use.

If you are learning for a trip in the near future (like next year) then you probably want to concentrate on listening comprehension and conversation.

There are plenty of online courses like this or this one for people who move to Italy and even lists of courses like this one. I'd suggest you try one or more of these and stick with whichever one(s) you like.
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Re: how to reach fluency in Italian?

Postby lingua » Tue Aug 02, 2016 1:30 am

I recommend edX. They have three courses Beginning, Intermediate & Advanced from Wellesley. All free. I think they are well done, including lots of sound, grammar explanations, exercises, quizzes, etc.

If you can afford it, try to find a pro to have a weekly skype lesson thru iTalki or similar type site. They can help answer any doubts you have and with your pronunciation.
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Re: how to reach fluency in Italian?

Postby Stefan » Tue Aug 02, 2016 9:54 am

More Italian resources: viewtopic.php?t=2912

Personally I would skip the Pimsleur course and go for something more comprehensive such as Assimil or FSI. I went through the German Pimsleur course which is decent for pronunciation but really slow compared with native speaking and contain very little vocabulary (about 500 words). It's 60 hours (4 months recommended) you could spend on something more effective. Although not completely wasted, it's a terrible feeling to go through a course only to find that you lack the foundation and need to start over with a new one.

Then it's all about practicing what you want to be good at:

- Listening comprehension (audio with transcripts and subtitles / Anki)
- Speaking (tutor / language partner / monologs)
- Reading (fun way to expand vocabulary and put words in context)

Consider getting a grammar book to browse and maybe some flashcards/exercises.

Remember that none of this is the only way. As long as you keep working with more advanced or native material, you'll continue to improve your language. Like all learning, the major challenge is to keep at it and not stop learning. Make sure to get your daily 20-30 minutes. If you stop learning for a few months, you'll forget a lot and regret that you didn't take it to a level where you could maintain it.
Last edited by Stefan on Wed Jan 04, 2017 12:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: how to reach fluency in Italian?

Postby tarvos » Tue Aug 02, 2016 5:25 pm

The same way as you would reach fluency in Slovene.
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