In this Age of the Internet and the ability to find free information and partake in long distance learning at your own pace, it is an amazing time to be an online student of Italian. There are dictionaries and an videos and classes and even the ability to engage with a native speaker online, from hundreds or even thousands of miles away. What an opportunity!
It is also very important to remember that there are good and bad ways to learn, especially when it comes to learning a foreign language.
This class, Teach Yourself a Foreign Language, introduces lessons on effective ways to learn a foreign language. It features good advice about learning, what to look for when selecting a class and excellent practices to follow while taking those lessons. This can be particularly useful when seeking resources that will boost your online learning of Italian.
When approaching the learning of Italian, be it online or in a traditional setting, there are many things to consider. Italian has the reputation of being easier to pick up if you know or have learned Spanish before. However, some may argue that this is probably not the case, because despite being related languages, there are quite a few differences between them.
On this website by Adam N. Letchford of Lancaster University in the UK, he covers a few of the extensive differences between Spanish and Italian. Just perusing that, it becomes quite clear, that despite their common roots, they are not just variations of the same language in different accents.
So when trying to learn Italian online, make sure to do a bit of research before jumping in. Look at the content and the instructor’s approach to teaching. Do they cover relevant topics? Do they introduce useful things like cultural context for given interactions? Or is it just one dry list after another?
Often, classes and books for Italian and other foreign languages are set up in incremental stages with set lessons that are often structured like this: introduce concepts and vocabulary, present some content using the new concepts and vocab, then activities for review. If it includes a language lab, there may be listening and speaking requirements, like checking in and logging time. Add these up and you may just get through the course.
If that sounds supremely boring, that’s because it is. No one can really learn a foreign language that way unless they are motivated to do so.
This is where a different approach is needed. A teacher should use that basic skeleton of content and process to use many different ways to make sure there will be appropriate understanding and application of the language being learned. The goal of this approach is communication. There will be real world application and real world reinforcement of the knowledge you are learning.
A class like that on Udemy here, is called Survive Italy Without Being Fluent in Italian. This is aimed at folks getting ready to make a trip to Italy, so it covers some quick practicals for learning the language like commonly used phrases. The teacher also has tips on pushing your knowledge while there so you can grasp even more than you think you can. Being in an immersive environment, like traveling to Italy, makes it so that a person is naturally in over their head. A language learner then needs some kind of way to process the new information and make it understandable and their own. These kinds of tips are invaluable for learning a foreign language, and it’s even better it is offered for online learners of Italian.
Language teachers call this being pushed to the next step i+1. This is where the learner is being forced to go a bit beyond their current level of learning. This approach helps motivate the learner to grow into understanding. it can be a bit overwhelming though, so learning how to navigate all the new information and not becoming discouraged is a very real necessity to push through that challenge of feeling just a little out of your league. Practical tips are very valuable in this case.
Another way, besides travel to motivate learning is by learning to do something in that language. Cooking in Italian offers lessons in Italian and English, and given the relationship Italians have with their food, this seems like a natural mix. The recipes are varied, offering much more than mere pasta and sauces! It’s a good way to learn, listening and doing in a practical, real life situation. Plus, in the reviews, there is an extremely positive review in Korean as well as French, proving it has wide international appeal!
Of course, the idea of being pushed a bit beyond the comfort zone is at work here too and should be embraced when taking a hands-on course like this. With all the visual cues it can offer, it is definitely not overly difficult and the payoff is delicious. At least in this case it is.
Again, the traditional way of teaching foreign languages, while not bad, is inherently flawed because it is often a mere repeat of information. You can pick up any Italian textbook and it will contain descriptions of pronunciations and all the necessary information of how to conjugate verbs and different grammar rules. There may even be a CD or mp3s to download that read the lessons to you. The problem though is that there is no feedback. This is very important. It’s possible to memorize phrases and lists of knowledge, but without practical application, it will end up being difficult to use effectively.
Speak Italian Like an Italiano is a class that is highly rated and would be a great as a starting point because the instructor arms the students with the knowledge of how to actually speak like an Italian. He teaches the basics but also goes beyond simple pronunciation and covers cadence. Cadence is how a language actually flows. The idea of an Italian accent is part of that, because cadence is the rhythm and almost musical quality of the language as it is spoken.
No matter the course you choose for learning Italian online, whether here or elsewhere, it is important to know that the motivation for learning online lies solely with the learner. From logging in and hearing those lessons to participating in online forums where appropriate, you need to remember an online setting has no dedicated physical space to really get engaged in or a teacher you can interact with face-to-face for feedback, like a in a traditional classroom. That may be a bug or it could be a feature, depending on your learning style. But the pressure for learning is laid squarely on the learner in an online context.
If you do need some practical pointers for tackling Italian online, Foreign Language Learning: Faster, Smarter, Cheaper, Forever, is an in depth course designed to help self-motivated learners get the most from their online education. Practical applications for learning a second language. How to make it stick and be motivated to learn.
Remember, if you are going to make a go of it and learn Italian by tackling an online course, not only is there a lot of personal motivation required, but there are several things to look out for as well to make sure you are getting the best input possible. From content to instructors to whether or not any feedback is involved, make sure you’re getting the best Italian instruction you can.
In bocca al lupo!