Three Secrets to learning Italian

I'm tempted to say 'what', 'really', you saw a link talking about hidden secrets to learning a language and you clicked it.

There are no real secrets. The only way to learn Italian is through time and effort. There are no quick fixes which isn't what many people want to hear.

That doesn't mean that some methods of learning are more or less efficient than others, but the following suggestions or secrets;) should not be forgotten.

Read on, and discover why I've put a picture of my dog on this page.

1. Remember you don't need to learn everything

I have friends who I only talk to in Italian, and I most definitely don't know everything. I will never know everything. I don't aspire to know everything. I don't know the word for 'ladybird' in Italian.

I know it in Polish 'biedronka', a language which I most definitely don't speak.

One of the reasons for my lack of success with learning Polish was that I forgot this cardinal rule or secret. I spent time learning and forgetting useless words.

The words for vegetables, a list of animals, five hundred words for cheese? It is such an easy mistake to make, and such a waste of time. If you want to talk to people, there are far more useful words to learn.

Of course, no word is completely useless but as a beginner learning lists of insects isn't helpful.

2. Learn the phrases that you will use

It is most effective to pick the phrases that you are going to find useful, or that are interesting to you personally. You can't learn everything. Well, maybe you can but I can't.

And if you can learn evrything, it will take you forever, imagine counting every leaf of every tree in a large forest, or every star in the sky ...

I have a dog, the cute hound in the picture, and I talk about him (too much probably).

And so I have learnt phrases like Paseo al perro todos lod dias (I walk the dog every day) and "Devo portare il cane (I must walk the dog) in Spanish and Italian respectively.

I don't talk about physics or philosphy and while I might recognise this vocabulary passively I'm never going to learn the associated vocabulary.

Secrets one and two are obvious, powerful and easily forgotten.

3. You don't have to pay to learn Italian

This really is secret, and the purveyors of courses and books really don't want you to know it, but many of the most useful Italian language resources are free.

You can start with the Italian phrases, sentences and common words on Surface Languages.

As you progress you can use Italiano automatico (designed for intermediate language learners and above) and try the Italian Crosswords and on Surface languages.

These Italian resources are all free.

There are times when you might prefer a more structured approach, and I always recommend three paid resources.

Firstly, which is one of the best audio based language learning courses around, and particularly useful for beginners and intermediates.

Secondly, I like the Teach yourself series, although as mentioned in my first secret, I only learn what is useful and relevant to me.

Thirdly despite a tempestuous relationship, I rate the Assimil products extremely highly and recommend Assimil Italian. By the way, if you buy any of the Assimil courses, make sure that you buy the English version, as Assimil is a French company and there are French versions of all the products.

I have a love hate relationship with the Assimil courses, and write about them periodically on my blog. (I'm currently using Assimil German to obtain a working knowledge of German for a planned trip), and later in the year intend to use Assimil Romanian.