Tips to help you start speaking Italian

In my guide to learning Italian, I describe how I reached a B2 level of Italian (conversational ability) but don't dwell particularly on the beginning of the journey.

The beginning is the most rewarding and most difficult step in learning a language. Rewarding because you can make fast progress. Difficult because everything is new and it is easy to feel discouraged.

If Italian is your first foreign language, you may also struggle to find your learning style, a style that works for you.

There are many language learning gurus each with a different (and the best) method of language learning.

There is a lot of marketing and advertising of products, all promising fluency and fast results.

Three things:

There is no perfect method of learning Italian. We are all different.

Choose the course the suits your learning style.

Language learning takes time and commitment. There are no shortcuts.

If you take the time to look around Surface Languages, you will see many free resources to help you learn Italian: most frequently used words, basic phrases, 500 sentences and more.

You can use these and other free resources and it is possible to learn Italian without buying any course, book or paying for lessons.

Teach Yourself

It is more efficient to combine free and paid resources especially when you are staring with a language. Books and courses have the advantage of a structure, and this is extremely useful at the beginning.

I like the Teach yourself series, and like having a structure to follow, so I bought and used Teach yourself Italian at the outset.

I followed the structure of the book but only loosely. The series isn't perfect. I ignore grammar and vocabulary that I can't' see myself using, and focus on the grammar and vocabulary that will be useful to me.

If you want a loose structure to follow, you could try FSI-Italian which be downloaded for free from It isn't one of the best FSI courses and I wouldn't recommend it.

Italianpod 101 is a way of learning Italian using podcasts.

It is good.

I'm not going to say more as there is a free trial, so you can see for yourself.


I think that the Assimil courses are great, and periodically write about them on my blog.

They are perhaps like marmite. If you are from the UK, you will understand what I mean. If not, well either you will love or hate these type of courses.

I haven't used Assimil Italian, but have enjoyed Assimil Polish and German.

If you do buy Assimil Italian, make sure that you buy the version with the CD's or MP3s.

There is a little B2 sign on the front, indicating that this is the level you will attain when finishing the course.

Ignore it.

I think that the maximum level that you will reach is A2, but that is enough to get you out of the beginner zone, and to start heading towards an intermediate level in the language.

The Assimil courses, although in theory requiring thirty minutes a day, are hard work but as I have already indicated, there is no quick fix.


Everyone has heard of Pimsleur.

Pimsleur language courses are to my mind, easier than Assimil, but with far less depth and Pimsleur Italian is no exception.

This doesn't matter if you are a complete beginner.

If you are a faux beginner, or already speak a romance language (Spanish, Romanian, Portuguese) they probably lack sufficient depth to be a worthwhile investment.


I'm also a big fan of reading as a method of vocabulary aquisition, and reinforcing an understanding of grammar and grammatical structures.

Despite the fact that there are vocabulary lists and common words on Surface languages, I hate learning lists, and find that an ineffective method of learning.

I prefer to ...

... read.

The series (although it didn't exist when I was beginning to learn Italian, Italian Short Stories For Beginners by Olly Richards is extremely good for low intermediates and advanced beginners.