Once you've arranged for your first Italian language lesson at home, you may be tempted to think that there is nothing left to do, except maybe buy a notebook and an Italian-English dictionary.
Nothing could be further from the truth!
Let's say you are going to Milan, for fashion week. Would you board the plane without your passport, a change of clothes and a hotel reservation?
If so, you are quite the adventurer!
Embarking on a language learning journey is no simple matter. Before even laying eyes on your language tutor – let alone saying buongiorno, how you prepare for learning will reflect the depth of your commitment.
For all of you who wish to see progress, starting with your very first lesson, we have organised a to-do list that will accelerate your learning this romance language.
Careful planning facilitates any kind of work.
Come on – Dai! Let us now lay out that strategy!
Determine your Objective
The first thing to do, before ripping into textbooks, flashcards and verb conjugation charts, is to determine why you want to learn the language of Dante Alighieri.
Your reasons for studying Italian will determine your course of learning, and should be decided on before you even start Italian lessons.
Other than a unformed desire to be bilingual, reasons for learning Italian are:
- Professional: a job candidate is more likely to be hired with a second language on his resumé.
Speaking more than one language could afford you a higher salary, too!
You plan on relocating to Italy
You need to learn Italian for academic purposes
You want to learn for the sake of learning; you enjoy the pursuit of knowledge
You are gobsmacked by everything Italian: language and culture, the food, the arts, and the people
Theoretically, you will know why you want to learn Italian before you contact any private tutor, but it helps for you to drill down to your root cause before lessons actually begin.
That way, your teacher can quickly adjust his methodology to your needs.
Imagine a chef-in-training, in Italy to learn different regions' cuisine by visiting every part of the country, from Palermo to Bolzano .
The vocabulary that that language learner should master would relate to food and its preparation, as opposed to, let's say: a scientist who is collaborating on a multinational project.
Whereas Italian grammar would remain the same regardless of the discipline, words and phrases, and even teaching methods would vary substantially.
Determining the focus of your Italian study will help your teacher know more about you which, in turn, will help establish an optimal working relationship – and that will lead to greater progress.
You can also go on the Internet and take Italian language courses online.
Determining Your Level of Italian
Before any learning can take place, you should assess how well you can speak Italian.
Here, it is best to be frank: ordering a pizza Margherita and vino blanco at your favorite Italian restaurant does not qualify as basic Italian.
Of course, if you've never had any exposure to anything at all Italian, determining your level would be a simple affair: you are at beginner level.
However, if you are someone who has lived in Italy for three years, or who has done an internship in Rome, or routinely visits friends and family in Sardinia, level becomes a bit harder to specify.
Where should you place yourself on the language learning spectrum if you are neither beginner nor fluent?
Of course, a competent teacher would be able to place your abilities in contrast with what is yet to be learned.
Superprof tutors are especially adept at gaging fluency!
Knowing exactly where you're at in relation to where you want to be, language-wise, is a great time saver, and money saver, too.
To quantify your language skills, you could reference the Common European Framework of Reference for languages, otherwise known as CEFRL:
- A1: novice learner
- A2: low- to mid-intermediate
- B1: mid- to high-intermediate
- B2: high-intermediate to low-advanced
- C1: advanced
- C2: fluent
If you are uncertain of exactly what your level of Italian competence is, you can take a test online that will help you determine how much Italian you can already speak.
Because this exam is formulated according to CEFRL guidelines, your tutor should know what your level is the second you inform him of your rating.
Search Your Memory
Even though you might have had years of foreign language instruction, it seems that, trying to recall anything about it, you draw a complete blank.
Or, you mine the once-favorite Italian phrase out of your memory banks, but uttering it is a completely separate cup of tea... isn't it?
That is perfectly understandable. In fact, that phenomenon is the basis for the idiom: use it or lose it.
No need to panic, though. Your previously learned Italian phrases haven't gone far, and just a bit of work will restore them to you, good as... freshly learned.
To save time and money, it is imperative that you do your best to recall what you already know of Italian speaking, so that you don't cover the same ground with your new teacher.
If you've had previous exposure to formal Italian language courses, in school or even as a flight of fancy, perhaps you could recall:
- basic vocabulary: how to express feelings; greetings, or how to introduce yourself
- molto bene, ti amo, and dispiace
- buongiorno, buonasera, buena notte, and the ever-popular ciao!
- mi chiamo, piacere, come ti chiami?
- The most common verbs: andare, essere, avere
- and how to conjugate them in any of the five tenses
- basic Italian grammar
- gender assignments for nouns, and for suffixes
- proper pluralisation of nouns and pronouns
- syllable stress – generally on the penultimate syllable
This is, at best, only a partial list of what you might have already learned, especially if you are/were particularly talented at speaking Italian.
If you've never in your life taken any Italian language courses, no need to fret: your teacher will instruct you on the best way to learn Italian, probably starting with common phrases like:
Sono Inglese. Potete aiutarme per favore? I am British. Could you help me, please?
Get Familiar with Italian Culture
Language and culture are like tea and crumpets: immutably intertwined – in public perception and in fact.
In signing up for an Italian language course, you are implicitly signing up for lessons on Italian culture.
By that, we mean all of its entrancing facets: history, traditions, food, beliefs...
Learning a language does not consist of learning grammar rules, conjugating verbs, and converting adjectives into adverbs.
Cultivating language skills demands imbuing oneself in the ambiance unique to that country – in this case, the land shaped like a boot.
As far as Italian history and art is concerned, you have plenty to steep yourself in.
Before your in-home tutor even rings your doorbell, reach past DaVinci and Galileo, to those more obscure maestri who swayed the outcome of the Italian Revolution and who painted the Renaissance.
What a treat you are setting yourself up for!
And: how surprised will your tutor be?
You can take special focus on Italian linguistics, such as:
- The Divine Comedy by Dante – the work credited with uniting the various Italian dialects and creating what is now known as Standard Italian
- The Tuscan dialect: not just because we Britons prefer that region above all others, but because its language is the basis for modern Italian
- Don't despair over dialects in the face of Standard Italian! You can still hear any of the 34 actively spoken vernaculars by watching Italian television programmes. Even movie soundtracks are dialect-rich!
- Italian is the third-most spoken language in Europe, used by more than seventy million speakers worldwide!
- Italian is a phonetic language: what you see is how you say it; what you hear is how you write it.
- No silent letters and no vowel combinations
- Letters J, K, W, X, and Y only appear in words borrowed from other languages
This type of information may appear irrelevant to anyone wishing to learn only conversational Italian, but its significance becomes clear the deeper you delve into the language.
Understanding language specifics can help you learn to speak Italian much faster.
However, the fundamental purpose of dissecting the Italian language and understanding it to that degree is to solidify your buy-in: your commitment to total comprehension of the country, the culture, the people, and to the learning experience.
In order to make ready for Italian language learning, you must:
- Know your objectives and be able to clearly define them
- Determine your Italian learning level
- Review any Italian expressions or phrases you have already learned
- Delve into Italian culture, particularly as it relates to the written or spoken lingua di Italia
Imagine yourself, admitting your Italian teacher, possibly a native speaker and expatriate, into your home, with all of that Italian lesson preparation already done.
S/he will see your motivation and match it.
Before anyone can say avanti!, your language lessons are already successful!
Check out Superprof to find your ideal private tutor to help you master the Italian language:
- Italian teacher London
- Italian teacher Manchester
- Italian tutor Glasgow