Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

How should I learn (very basic!) Italian?

How should I learn (very basic!) Italian?

Nov 3rd, 2010, 02:54 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 91,386
I have some "work arounds"... like rather than asking for directions in Italian and trying to understand a spoken answer... I'd have a street map with me, and be able to show the person where I was trying to get to, or even get them to show ME where I am right now if I am lost!
suze is online now  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 02:58 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 4,248
My interpretation was that zeppole was telling me she wasn't giving me a freebie on "in ritardo."

Directional words are on the list, no worries! And hamlet, Italian movies are a fun idea! I have a couple of friends who I'm sure would be happy to help me practice (a very good friend who spent two and a half years in Italy, and her Italian boyfriend!) so I should have ample opportunity to practice, likely while providing them some entertainment in the beginning.
jent103 is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 03:01 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 4,248
suze, we were posting at the same time - the street map is a good call! I'm sure I'll have one with me anyway. I LOVE maps.
jent103 is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 03:09 PM
Join Date: Dec 2005
Posts: 5,735
I haven't read all the responses. But...

Check your local library. I found out that my library offered free online language courses as long as I had a library card!

I also bought a "Rosetta Stone" knockoff at Costco for $27.99 called "Instant Immersion". Like it a lot! Couldn't go wrong for that price. And they do compare themselves to Rosetta Stone.

Buon viaggio!!!
sarge56 is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 03:18 PM
Join Date: Oct 2003
Posts: 32,523
Many libraries also have language cd's you can check out. Also check such places as Half-Price Books if there is one in your area.

You can download some free Italian lessons on your Ipod from Itunes.
kybourbon is online now  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 03:21 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 91,386
Actually keeping a street map with me is one of my best tricks I've picked up traveling. I like the freebie paper ones you get in hotel lobbies (not laminated), then I write on them as I go along. For example I see a shop or restaurant that looks interesting, I write it on the map, so I can find my way back. Even marking your own hotel is helpful to keep yourself oriented.
suze is online now  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 04:05 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 52,444
hi jent,

I started off wanting to learn Italian for exactly the same reason as you - i wanted to be able to do more than point and say "grazie".

By chance I came across the "Michel Thomas" beginner's Italian course, and I've never looked back. His method differs from most in that he teaches you the language, NOT phrases, so that from the very beginning, you understand what you are saying and why you are saying it.

if you have done spanish, you will find Italian a breeze - the vocab is very similar as is a lot of the grammar. I know this because I've done the Michel Thomas Spanish too [it's addictive].

you can get the course on cassette or CD and there are a lot on E-bay. you should be able to get the beginner's italian quite easily. make sure you get the one with the 8 CDs/cassettes, not just two, which is the introduction only. Once I'd done the beginner's course i found that i could cope easily with the GCSE course I enroled in, and I went on to do "AS" level with a little help from the advanced course.

I listen to mine in the car, which works for me.

good luck!
annhig is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 04:07 PM
Join Date: Jun 2008
Posts: 9,422

My response about "giving answers" was to jent, saying I wasn't going to teach her Italian online.

Street maps are fine, but in many situations you need directions to things not on the map -- the ticket office in the train station, the bus stop, the machine to buy your ticket so you can park legally on the street.

There are many situations in Italy where not knowing "basic" italian will either get you very flustered (like how much money you should give the fruit seller for your peach) or you will end up with something you didn't want (like the wrong train ticket, or a pound of proscuitto when all you wanted was a few ounces).

The language tapes that endlessly review how to greet a friend or say "how beautiful!" when looking at a campanille really aren't as useful as mastering the vocabulary for practical transactions. You say you want to get beyond "gelato" -- but do you know how to ask for a cup instead of cone? If you are confused about whether two flavors cost more than three, do you know how to ask for an explanation? If the gelati are labeled pompelo or cannella in the case, do you know what flavors those are? When you are told the price for 2 cones, can you recognize it?
zeppole is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 04:16 PM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Posts: 332
This page from Slow Travel has vocabulary for a number of practical situations that may be of interest:


And this page gives some additional vocabulary for gelato: http://www.slowtrav.com/italy/caffes/gelato.htm (I agree with zeppole and others that an extended gelato vocabulary is key!)
MoonGirl is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 04:17 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 91,386
zeppole~ OK I understand now.

And I'm not disagreeing with you in principle, I'm just saying my Italian will never be good enough to accomplish those tasks you describe.
suze is online now  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 05:05 PM
Join Date: Jan 2010
Posts: 45,113
I really like LiveMocha. It is free online and teaches with many approaches and pairs you with a native speaker to correct your oral and written work.
Also, a good phrasebook is a huge help
jubilada is online now  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 05:40 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 46,071
in ritardo means late, as in il treno é in ritardo (the train is late).

pompelo - grapefruit

canella - cinnamon

A lot of stuff can be figured out on the spot intuitively, even if your Italian is limited. A gelato vendor will almost always have a sign that shows the words for cup and cone, often with pictures, so it's obvious even if you don't speak the language.

I think the hardest thing for a learner of any new language is numbers, especially in Italy, where it's a LOT easier than back in the mille nove cento quaranta due lire days, but it's still daunting to hear cento trent'otto....

So learn basic greetings, basic directions, numbers to the extent that you can, and other practical stuff. It's not a difficult language, at least at the beginner level.
StCirq is online now  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 06:57 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 4,248
Wow - thanks, everyone, for the additional suggestions! I will absolutely look into what my library might offer - I did think about that, but never that they might offer free online courses - and annhig, Michel Thomas sounds great. Right now my biggest concern is that I'll subconsciously revert to saying "hola" and asking for "dos" of something instead of "due"; I'm not sure that would go over well. So these will be very helpful.

And no worries; I'm not asking for free Italian lessons on Fodor's (though thank you, StCirq, for those translations!).
jent103 is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 07:03 PM
Join Date: Jan 2007
Posts: 1,785
When my husband was first learning German we found a book that had stickers which you remove from the book and stick on all the basic vocabulary items in your house (i.e. salt, pepper, wastepaper basket, etc). It was quite good fun. I don't know if they still have those courses available, but it's worth having a look.

lavandula is online now  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 07:16 PM
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 10,169
Take a look at My Daily Phrase Italian which is available as a free download at the iTunes Store. It consists of 100 five-minute lessons that teach you vocabulary for travelers. Since it's free it is a good place to start and see what you think.
ellenem is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 08:12 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 4,248
Stickers would be fantastic. I'm picturing people coming over to my house over the next six months and looking at me like I was insane for having all these stickers on everything. I love it.

ellenem, thanks for the tip! You're right - never hurts to check out free things, and the description sounds good at least!
jent103 is offline  
Nov 3rd, 2010, 08:21 PM
Join Date: Aug 2008
Posts: 26,390
I like the Michel Thomas audios. Really helpful to learn German and he teaches Italian also.

The cds are set up to teach verbs and sentence structure right off the bat and you can add nouns later. Go to your library and get whatever they have and find the one that works best for you. The main thing is practice, practice, practice.

I also found the Italian, Spanish, German in 10 minutes a day helpful. They have flash cards and stickers, plus all the basic words and nouns.
LSky is offline  
Nov 4th, 2010, 07:20 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,959
I second the podcasts on iTunes. They are all FREE and really well done. I've used the Coffee Break, My Daily Phrase, Survival Phrases and One Minute podcasts in various languages. You really can't go wrong with any of them. It's good to hear the language spoken as well as practice it yourself. I'm listening to Coffee Break French now in anticipation of my trip next month.
amyb is offline  
Nov 4th, 2010, 07:25 AM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 91,386
I've had my 'Spanish in 10 Minutes a Day' stickers up around the house for years. My friends are used to it -lol!
suze is online now  
Nov 4th, 2010, 07:45 AM
Original Poster
Join Date: Jun 2006
Posts: 4,248
Thanks, y'all! I'll check out the podcasts for sure. Hopefully my library has the Michel Thomas CDs, but if not I'll look for them on Amazon or something. Exciting!
jent103 is offline  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 02:09 PM.