Learn Italian step by step (part 1)
How to learn Italian as a beginner? When you learn a new language, there are so many new things to learn that it becomes difficult to even decide where to focus your attention: vocabulary, grammar, sentence constructions, pronunciation… Here are some tips for organizing your program and starting study without getting discouraged.
At first, you need to understand what your personal needs are, what exactly do you need to get started and what is your target. Are you really an absolute principiate or do you already know some Italian? Let’s try to clarify what your starting point is, what is your goal and which are the steps to achieve it.
STEP 1: VOCABULARY AND PRONUNCIATION
Where to start? Grammar, vocabulary or conversation? For an absolute beginner the main need is to be able to be understood in the expression of first necessities. To achieve this goal we recommend starting with vocabulary. When you are abroad the knowledge of keywords is really useful and may be enough to survive in Italy. Just pronouncing the word “mangiare” (eat), someone will help you to find a restaurant, or the word “bagno” to find the nearest toilet… At the beginning, it is not necessary to know everything , the essentials are enough.
Then, the essential for an absolute beginner is the vocabulary. Learning vocabulary is not difficult and can also be a lot of fun. To keep motivation high and quickly learn new vocabulary it is good to start from your passions. It is possible to learn lots of new words even with just songs, games, movies, comics, idioms or proverbs … In doing so, you will learn because you really want to and without realizing it you will want to learn more and more and thus the desire to go beyond simple necessity communications will grow. You will feel the need not only to communicate, but to be able to do it a little better.
Do not forget to memorize the vocabulary with the correct pronunciation. Some students think it is a waste of time to focus on phonetics, but actually knowing how to pronounce correctly sounds will give you great satisfaction. It would be useless to have learned 50 words incomprehensible in Italy, because they were incorrectly pronounced. If you learn Italian in a self-taught way, also help you with online dictionaries that today often offer the possibility of listening to the correct pronunciation of words. Once you have created your essential vocabulary – food, toilet, money, water, sleep, please, thank you, good morning, need, pay – you can go ahead and start your great adventure of learning Italian.
2nd STEP: GRAMMAR
At this point you will have to start to introduce grammar … now you are able to put together a few words to express a need, for example with phrases like “bisogno acqua” (need water). But this is not really a sentence … it is understood, but it is not a sentence … Grammar is really necessary, a bit ‘like the skeleton in the body that keeps everything standing‘, grammar is the backbone of the language to support communication.
You possess the vocabulary but only the grammar is able to hold the sentence together. When you learn grammar you do it to make yourself understood: to get to basic communication, you need grammar. Only through grammar can you talk, communicate an idea, understand and be understood: grammar allows us to distinguish the phrase “mangiare, bisogno” (eat, need) from “Vorrei mangiare ma non ho soldi per pagare il conto” (I would like to eat but I have no money to pay the bill!).
See, words like “mangiare, bisogno, soldi, pagare, conto” (eating, need, money, pay, bill) maybe were already part of your vocabulary but only the grammar (the conjugation of the verb to conditional mode, the adversative conjunction ma, the negation, the preposition per) allows you to structure a meaningful sentence, to pass a structured idea.
Thanks to the grammar you will enrich your language and you will be able to communicate ideas.
STEP 3: SYNTAX
Grammar skills and good vocabulary are at the basis of communication, but a fundamental ingredient is still missing: the syntax, that is the ability to put words together, to build logical thoughts. Each language thinks differently, so the language-to-language syntax can change dramatically. The syntax will help you sort the parts of the sentence so that they make sense to the Italians. It will help you present your ideas so you can be understood. This is a part that students often neglect because they want to talk fast but to reach an advanced level is essential, in particular to be able to write and read. Writing and reading are a precious help to learn to reflect on the logic of language.
STEP 4: ACCENT
Now you speak correctly but you feel that your foreign accent is too strong and this makes you nervous. You can improve it by practicing the spoken language, speaking but above all by listening. It is not so much a problem of pronunciation, but of accents, of melody of the sentence. Listen and repeat, listen and repeat … where are the differences?
To read the second part of the article Learn Italian Step by Step.
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Irene and Alessandra