Italian Cooking & Language Blog

Fare La Scarpetta means to wipe your plate clean with a piece of bread.

What else could you ask for?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Learning Italian: Resources & Tips


I receive many emails from travelers who are interested in learning Italian before a trip. Here are some suggestions about how to make that happen. Remember, always have fun while you're studying. (Yes, I promise that's possible.)

You’re welcome to set up Italian language learning sessions with me in person in the Washington, D.C., area or via Skype. 

If you are interested in working on your own or supplementing a course’s materials, I recommend some books in my Amazon store. I’ve assigned the Living Language series’ books and cds, as well as the Schuam’s Grammar and Vocabulary books. Many people like the Rosetta Stone series, but it is quite expensive and, from what I’ve seen of it, it doesn’t offer culturally specific lessons. In New York City, Rizzoli bookstore has an amazing collection of Italian language and Italian language learning books. 

In the New York City area, I strongly recommend New York University’s continuing education courses. I’ve taught for the Means Language Center and really appreciated Tom Means’ approach to language acquisition. 

Try to find folks with whom you can practice your language skills. You can do an exchange (perhaps by posting an announcement at schools or on craigslist) or attend Italian language events. In New York City, you can attend events through NYU’s Casa Italiana, Columbia University’s Italian Academy and CUNY Queens College’s Calandra Institute. also has language groups where folks practice language skills, watch movies, go to soccer games and more. As you advance, you might decide to do things like renting the Italian audio guide at museums. You’ll have good luck continuing to study and practice if you do things you already like to do … but in Italian. That is to say, limit your boredom as you learn the grammar and vocabulary.

It is also helpful to listen to as much Italian as possible. You can link through many stations, most of which have some streaming or recorded videos through this Wikipedia page. Through RCN cable in D.C., we have access to RAI stations and can watch the news, movies and other programs. Netflix and your local public library, or university library, should have Italian movies you can rent with subtitles (try watching the movie in Italian with Italian subtitles to better practice listening and reading at once.)

Listening to Italian radio stations, while a little harder without the visuals, is also helpful. Pandora oddly doesn’t have very much Italian music (many contemporary, popular Italian musicians also sing in Spanish and they have those versions.)

If you get stuck, Google translate is very helpful and Garzanti Linguistica offers a great online dictionary, offers regular emails with tips and great online resources, as does Fodors. There are free foreign language online classes linked through this page.

For more resources, scroll through the links on the right side of this blog. Do you have additional resources to recommend? I hope you'll share with me in the comments section below.

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