learning italian on on your own method learn information

So you want to speak italian ?

Learning languages | Choosing your language | Francois Micheloud

Italian Indo-European:Romance ––
Many people rate this as the most beautiful spoken language in the world, and I'm among them : speaking of opera, painting, design, architecture, cooking, love or god in italian makes you feel you finally understood the topic. 

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Introduction - ©www.micheloud.com


Moderate, unless you live in Italy. Italians abroad speak other languages, and most of the important books are available in other languages. But if you live or travel in Italy, you'll realise that many italians speak foreign languages not very well and are much more talkative in italian - and talkative they can be !
Probably the most beautiful spoken language I know, chanting and colorful and yet every word is clearly pronounced. Every language will chain neighbouring words in speech (je te = chte in french), but which one, like italian, will write stamattina for questa mattina, col for con il ?
Chic factor
Except for french speaking Switzerland, speaking italian fluently is seen as very smart : allying beauty, culture and relative unusefulness makes it an favorite among upper class people from all over the world.
About 65 mio of mother tongue speakers world wide.
Italy, Switzerland and two joke states : San Marino and the Vatican
Regional variations
Wide regional variations, but almost everybody can speak in "national" italian. Italy is a country that unified very late and whose regional identities are still strong. The standard, "national" italian that you hear on the TV actually comes from Tuscany, and people there like to say about Romans : "Lingua toscana in bocca romana", Toscan tongue in roman mouth. 
Travelling in Italy is intensely pleasurable, with about everything you can dream of : the richest historical sites in Europe, with full roman ghost towns you can visit, cathedrals, circuses, monasteries, paintings, sculptures. And for the present, one of the most attractive cooking the world, beautiful and elegant people, world class designers. The main problem when travelling in Italy seems either to be money or that you have to go back.
As outlined above, for roman history Italy can't be beaten, as for Renaissance painting. Litterature is also immense if often overlooked. Many people dismiss italian TV channels like Rai 1 as "bad quality" but if you look at them positively they are stupendous : italian blond matronas prepare regional specialties in live competions, bearded cardinals in talk shows, helicopters tour the most beautiful historical towns with a guide during Sunday afternoon, you really get the feel of the country.


Difficulty - ©www.micheloud.com
Phonemes are very easy with the minor exception of the rolled r. But intonation is quite irregular and must imperatively be learned with audio means (tapes, TV, radio, girlfriend, ...). If you dont' speak with  the right intonation, people won't understand you and you will miss half of the fun.
Similar to other romance languages, a little less difficult than french but definitely more complicated than spanish. 
Not special difficulty, but it helps to speak french or latin.
More difficult than spanish but simpler than french. 
Overall difficulty
I rate this language as ––, that is, easy to learn, at least for speakers of other romance languages. The language has all the dificulties of romance languages, especially the subjunctive, but otherwise is pretty easy.
Time needed
6 months to a year for normal people studying less than one hours a day is a maximum. Speakers of french should aim for 3 to 6 months, which is entirely possible. I emphasize the trap of speaking at once without caring too much for the differences with french : too easy and people won't like talking to you.


Learning material - ©www.micheloud.com
Books and tapes
The only package with enough tapes I found was Pimsleur Read and Speak Essential Italian, which I then lent to half a dozen of my friends here in Switzerland with great success.

You can buy them from Simon and Schuster who bought Dr Pimsleur's business (about 800$) , but it's cheaper from Amazon :


For grammar books, these old but excellent books are the best I have found :

Katerinov, La lingua italiana per stranieri, 1985, Guerra : Perugia, Italy, 3 vol.

Chiuchiý, Le preposizioni, 1982, Guerra : Perugia, Italy

(no, I neither work for Pimsleur nor for Guerra)

Take a school in Italy, and beware of the place where you're going to learn that language : I first wanted to go to Napoli, but they really have a strong accent, even if the lessons were much cheaper. Of course, everybody has an accent, but some are better than others for foreigners to have.


Learning languages | Choosing your language | Francois Micheloud