To improve your reading comprehension in any language, your best bet is to develop a regular practise.
While it might not seem significant at the time, a 5-10 minute reading session every day goes a long way. Perhaps even more so than two or three 45 minutes sessions in a week.
Because you want to train your brain to recognise Italian words and phrases by immersing yourself as often as possible.
Just like with developing any new habit, whether it’s going to the gym or drinking more water, the key is consistency.
Start with small steps, and the results will come.
Immerse Yourself In the Language
There are some great ways to immerse yourself in Italian, which require little to no effort on your part.
Simply by doing your everyday activities you can improve your reading comprehension.
It sounds too good to be true, but it’s surprisingly effective.
Change Your Phone to Italian
The first thing you should try is changing your phone’s language to Italian.
Think about it, the more times you see that ‘turn off’ is ‘spegnere’ the more likely you are to know how to tell someone to turn off the TV, or light.
While a lot of the words and phrases you regularly see in your phone are technical, they can have many applications in everyday conversation.
Learning words like this in context is a highly effective way to ensure they stay in your mind, especially if you are drilling it into your mind that ‘spegnere’ means ‘turn off’ everytime you switch your phone off.
One of the best ways you can learn words in a foreign language is by learning what the word actually means, rather than what it’s English translation is.
For example, if I learn the word ‘gatto’, I’m much more likely to remember it if I see a picture of a cat when I look at the word.
So if you see that an Italian word has a direct connection to an action you take on your phone, you’re more likely to remember its meaning.
If you combine this with flashcards that have the Italian word on one side and an image that represents the meaning on the other, then you’ll boost your vocab retention tenfold.
Check for the different Italian courses on Superprof.
Browse Social Media
While this might not be for everyone, another thing you can do to boost your Italian immersion without booking a flight to Italy, is creating some new social media accounts.
There’s a catch though.
These accounts should be exclusively for following Italian influencers, speakers, and other public figures you admire.
To read in a foreign language you need to be in the right headspace, so adding a few Italian accounts that will pop up in your English-dominated feed won’t cut it.
You need to flick the switch in your brain from English to Italian to get the most out of your reading practise, so that means having an account on a social media platform where you only follow Italian speakers.
This should help you pick up some new vocabulary and interesting colloquial phrases, as well as helping you with your writing skills.
Read What You Love
Of course, it’d be remiss of us to talk about reading comprehension without bringing up the most important medium for reading: books.
Yet, books are just one way you can get the reading practise you need.
In fact, if you’re just starting out, you may even prefer other mediums like online articles, magazines, or newspapers since they can appeal to your interests and don’t take up much of your time.
The idea of jumping in just to read a short article or two should make it easy to create a consistent reading habit, especially if the content interests you.
The key is to find reading material that covers the topics you would read about in your native language.
Why read about politics and current events if those topics don’t interest you?
It’s a lot more fun to read about issues that excite you in a foreign language, as that way it’s a lot easier to maintain the habit and the motivation you need to stay interested.
You can also work on your speaking fluency too by reading the Italian text aloud.
Magazines & Online Articles
Articles, whether online or in print, are a fantastic way to boost your reading comprehension in any language.
The great thing about articles, is that you can find exactly what you’re looking for, however specific the niche.
Unlike a book which will often cover one or two broad themes, an article can be about literally anything.
This means you can find an article in your target language (Italian) about a specific area of interest to you, which should make it an enjoyable read.
The other big plus of reading articles in Italian is brevity.
If you want to progress from being a beginner language learner to an intermediate one, you’re going to want to take small steps.
Taking on long novels or Dante’s Inferno is a surefire way to burn out quickly as a beginner, since you will be heavily reliant on a dictionary and your motivation will burn out just as quickly as it sparked up.
Articles on the other hand are short enough that you can tackle one a day, and make a fun challenge out of it.
In his groundbreaking book on the subject, Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi claims that to access a state of flow you need to find an activity that’s sufficiently challenging, but not overwhelmingly so. Studying an article in Italian could be just that for you.
Another way to improve your reading comprehension is to find an Italian newspaper.
If reading the newspaper every day is a habit you currently adhere to, then this is a fantastic way to make your Italian reading practise a seamless part of your daily routine.
Of course, it has to be said that attempting to read the newspaper can be overwhelming with all the jargon and formal vocabulary, but it can be rewarding too.
Seek out the shorter articles in the newspaper, and try and stick to your interests.
If you enjoy reading about sports results from the previous day, then find the sports section and see what new vocabulary you can pick up on.
As for books, they are a great resource for improving your reading comprehension, but can be intimidating unless you take a calculated approach.
Textbooks will likely be the type of book you’ll become most familiar with on your language learning journey, but fiction books aren’t out of the question.
If you have the patience to go slowly, you can take on a fiction book and chip away at it in short bursts.
A great book to start with, albeit a significant challenge, is one of the Harry Potter series of books.
All of them have been translated into Italian, and if it’s a franchise you’re familiar with, you won’t need to understand every single word as you can infer from the context.
This applies to other books you might be interested in reading, if you know the story inside and out then reading it will seem less intimidating.
Watch and Listen
While it might seem unconventional, you can actually boost your reading comprehension through watching and listening.
If you fancy something a little more casual and entertaining than sitting down with a newspaper or textbook, then here’s some ideas you might enjoy.
Listen Your Way to Reading Comprehension
You can incorporate both listening practice and reading practice at the same time through various mediums.
Beelingual is a fantastic app for language learners, which gives you access to a wide variety of texts that are available as audiobooks too.
This will allow you to read a text in Italian while you hear it being read aloud.
That way you can connect the words with the sounds associated with them, which is a fun holistic way to improve your Italian.
Lyricstraining is a website that’s all about music and lyrics.
This one is just about as fun as it gets if you enjoy music and filling in the blanks.
All you have to do is listen to your favourite Italian songs and attempt to guess the missing lyrics.
This can be a form of listening, reading, and writing practice all at the same time.
Many foreign language teachers use this as a resource in the classroom as it’s a welcome break from book study.
Watch TV With Subtitles
While this might seem too good to be true, it’s possible to watch TV and film while getting your Italian reading practice in.
All you have to do is find some great Italian films or TV shows and watch them with subtitles.
This will help you link up the words being said with the ones being shown, which should strengthen the connection in your mind and aid with your recall going forward.
You could also give ‘Language Learning with Netflix’ a go, a chrome extension made for language learners.
This handy extension will let you watch your favourite Italian TV with both English and Italian subtitles at the same time, which can be invaluable for deciphering some of the more common words and phrases in Italian.