When people ask: ‘how long does it take to learn Italian?’, a lot of them look to the US Foreign Service Institute for guidance.
The FSI estimates how many classroom hours you need to become proficient in a language. Italian is what the FSI calls a ‘Group One’ language. This means you would achieve basic fluency with about 600 hour of classroom time. Group One languages are the easiest to learn. So you’ll need a lot less time to learn a Group One language than let’s say Russian, which is Group Three or Chinese, which is Group Four.
According to the FSI, if you studied Italian in a classroom 50 weeks for twelve hours weekly, you could achieve a basic level of fluency. It also means that you’d only need half that time if you decided to go to Italy to attend a 24-hour-a-week intensive course. Basic fluency means you know what’s going on when you are surrounded by the language, in conversations, TV news, and radio. So you can communicate with desirable results based on what’s going on around you.
We think the FSI estimates are helpful, but they also oversimplify the time you need to learn a language, because there are still more variables that you need to consider when estimating how long you need to learn a language. Here are four other things to consider to determine how long it takes to learn Italian.
How Long Does It Take to Learn Italian?
How much time do you spend using Italian every day? Do you balance between listening, speaking, reading and writing? Do you only study in the classroom or with your teacher? Or do you spend time using the language during your free time?
Some people will learn faster than others. It’s just a fact we have to live with. But if you feel that you aren’t learning Italian fast enough, there are few things you can do to help you make the most of your time. To help you learn Italian faster, make sure you’re not distracted when you dedicate time to studying Italian, as that could also slow you down. Turn off your cell phone and social media when you study Italian to ensure that you can concentrate free of distractions.
In addition, it’s a good idea to go full-force into learning Italian for the first three months to really give yourself a solid boost. The faster you can stop being a beginner and enter the intermediate Italian stage, the better. This is because once you are an intermediate Italian speaker, you’ll probably never forget the language. Once you achieve intermediate ability in Italian and slow down, you will likely forget a word here and there, but at least you won’t forget how to hold a conversation.
To keep yourself accountable as you start to learn Italian, a language challenge support group can be helpful. There are groups such as the Add One Challenge, or LingQ language challenge that can help boost you beyond the basic level as fast as possible. The Add One Challenge aims for you to hold a 15-minute conversation with a native speaker after three months of studying Italian.
LingQ keeps track of the Italian vocabulary and expressions that you learn and makes it easy for you to review them. On LingQ there is an icon of an apple that goes from a wormy apple to a golden apple and different levels in between, based on your consistency with studying Italian on the LingQ platform. This can serve to motivate you as well, since you want to keep learning Italian so you will see the apple turn gold and not let the worm get to your apple.
Listening Skills in Italian
Make sure to listen to Italian outside of your lesson time. Mix it up to make it interesting. Listen to news, podcasts, and YouTube videos. Look for material that interests you. Hang out with native Italians and listen and observe their conversational styles, vocabulary, and expressions. When you have a chance, write down notes to remember new Italian words and expressions.
Spend some time getting in some speaking practice. If you are having a hard time finding people to practice speaking with, you could arrange a language exchange via applications like Amikumu, HelloTalk or Tandem. Make a recording of your voice and listen to the recording to see what to improve on by comparing it to native speakers. Work on your pronunciation with site such as Forvo and Rhinospike.
Be on the lookout for things to read that match your reading level. LingQ is a good source for Italian reading materials with all levels represented. As a bonus, a lot of the material on LingQ lets you listen to a native speaker as they read out loud while you silently read the text in Italian. This is great to improve not just your reading skills, but your listening and pronunciation abilities, too.
You’ll also need to practice Italian writing. You will probably have written homework if you’re taking an Italian class. If not, then you’ll have to push yourself to practice writing. You can submit short texts for correction on HiNative.com and longer texts on yozzi.com.
Can you speak French, Portuguese, Romanian or Spanish?
These languages are all of Latin origin and have a lot in common in terms of grammar and vocabulary. You’re going to learn Italian a lot faster if you have experience with any of these languages.
What are you reasons to learn Italian?
Why do you want to learn Italian? If you’re not motivated, it’s going to slow you down. If you’re having trouble getting motivated, spend some time understanding why you want to learn Italian. Imagine what it will feel like when you can speak Italian fluently. If you’re looking for some ways to get motivated, check out Rype’s post on motivation.
How often do you get a chance to use your Italian?
For many people, immersion is the fastest way to become fluent in Italian. If you’re not in an immersed environment, you’ll need more time to reach conversational level Italian. If you are really in a hurry, you’ll want to surround yourself with an Italian-only environment as much as possible.
Take a look at your schedule and look for ways where you can add some exposure to Italian. For example, you can listen to an Italian podcast while you workout or commute to work. Take note of your daily and weekly routines and see where it will be easy for you to slip in some Italian. It’s important to keep up consistency to build lasting habits that will make a difference.
So how long does it take to learn Italian?
The most important thing to remember is that the amount of time it takes depends on you. The guidelines from the FSI don’t consider the factors such as your individual motivation, your experience with other Romance languages, and the extent to which you are exposed to Italian outside of classroom time.
Remember, you’ll need confidence and motivation to learn Italian. If you are lacking in motivation and confidence, then you’ll need to spend some time looking to improve in this area. In addition, you will need to good learning habits and spend time with Italian material that interests you. Most of all, regular Italian practice is essential in order to learn Italian.
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