What’s The Best Way to Learn Italian? A Structured Plan

11th June 2024

There are lots of ways to learn Italian, but which is best? This roadmap will help you avoid wasting time and start chatting to Italians sooner than you think!


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By Katie Harris

So you’ve decided to learn Italian… Congratulazioni!  

What’s the best way to approach it? 

It’s important to ask yourself this because without a clear plan, you'll end up bouncing between countless apps and courses.

A few months (or years) from now, you might find you’ve accumulated a mishmash of Italian words with little progress to show for your efforts. 

That happened to me! I wasted a lot of time in the beginning, but when I finally found ways that worked, I made more progress in 2 months than in the previous 2 years. 

Here you’ll find a roadmap with the best ways to learn Italian. It’ll help you avoid my mistakes so you can progress faster. 

Because there’s no time to waste… you’ve got caffè to order and tassisti (taxi drivers) to chat with in Italy!

There’s no single best way to learn Italian, but…

Some work much better than others! If you want to learn Italian effectively, here are some general principles you should follow: 

If you’re not seeing progress at the moment, could it be that you’re missing one, two or maybe all three? Without them, no matter how diligently you study, you’ll lack the knowledge and skills you need to communicate in everyday situations. 

So in the next few sections, we’ll share some great ways to learn Italian – you can mix and match to make sure you’re covering all three principles. 

Psst! We know It’s not always easy to learn a foreign language, especially if you’re on your own or you’re learning for the first time. So if you prefer a done-for-you option, check out our Online Italian School

Best Way To Get Started With Italian (for Free!)

If you’re just starting, you might want to learn the basics before you try to speak, perhaps with an app or audio course. It also makes sense to experiment to see how much you like learning Italian before investing in a course. 

But wait!

Don’t just jump into just any free course which teaches you numbers, the alphabet and animal names. To make the fastest progress, focus on phrases you’ll use in your everyday conversations in Italy. 

Here are a few recommendations: 

Coffee Break Italian

Coffee break Italian is great because it’s based on everyday situations, like shopping, ordering food and booking into a hotel. It layers on useful vocabulary and grammar in a structured and simple way so you can dip your toe in without feeling overwhelmed. 


The BBC has a series called italianissimo which focuses on practical language you might need when you arrive in Italy, such as ordering coffee and buying tickets. It’s very cheesy (and very 90s!) but it’s a nice relaxing way to pick up the basics. 

Learn Italian with Joy of Languages

In our free podcast , you’ll hear everyday conversations from our lives in Italy. We focus on the words, phrases and grammar you’ll need to have similar conversations yourself, from saying hello like an Italian to buying food at the market and ordering the perfect gelato

We’ve also started a new youtube channel where you’ll be able to learn Italian with videos, click here to subscribe

Best Way to Learn Italian Vocabulary and Grammar 

As your Italian level progresses, you’ll probably find yourself wanting to learn more vocabulary and grammar. 

But attenzione! (be careful). 

Avoid learning words and rules in isolation otherwise you’ll end up with a random assortment of things you don’t know how to use in conversation. 

To make progress at this level, focus on learning how to build and understand real sentences you’ll want to say in Italy. 

Italian Courses to Learn Basic Vocabulary and Grammar

I really like the Michel Thomas courses because they draw on similarities between English and Italian to help you build sentences from the first lesson. The free language transfer courses also follow a similar technique. 

I also like Assimil because the course is built around fun little dialogues so you learn everything in the context of real conversations. Keep in mind that the grammar can move quite fast at times so don’t worry if some of it goes over your head at first!

Other Ways to Learn Italian Vocabulary

When it comes to learning il vocabolario , I prefer the good old fashioned way of looking up new words when you need them. This way they’re not random, they’re things you need in real situations, when trying to understand or speak Italian. 

Wordreference and reverso are great because they show you examples of the words in real sentences. For bonus points, write them in your notebook and review them from time to time! 

You can also use a flashcard app, like quizlet to store the vocabulary you learn and review it  on your phone. 

If you’re looking to build your vocabulary quickly, memrise has some nice courses linked to everyday situations in Italian, like learning how to order coffee. 

And clozemaster has some handy courses for learning the most common words in Italian and seeing how to use them in sentences.  

Check out more handy apps for learning Italian here

Other Ways to Learn Italian Grammar

At some point you might find it helpful to have a reference book for la grammatica . There’s no right or wrong choice here – you can explore different options at the bookstore to find one you like. Just remember to use it as a reference: if you work through it cover to cover, you’ll get distracted from the most important thing… having conversations! 

Verb conjugators like this one on wordreference.com are also handy so you can look up different forms when you need them. 

Tailor everything to your life

It’s important to constantly think about how you’ll use what you learn in real situations and conversations in Italian... otherwise, what’s the point in learning it?

Try taking new words and grammar and creating example sentences you might hear or say in Italian, either aloud or in your notebook. This will prepare you well for what you really want to do, which we’ll talk about next… 

Best Ways to Learn How to Speak Italian 

Time to focus on what you came here for: learning to have conversations in Italian. 

Real progress in speaking requires lots and lots of practice, even if it feels awkward at first. But don’t worry, we’ve got a few tips to ease you in! 

Listening Helps you Speak Italian

If the idea of speaking Italian feels daunting, there's a very effective way to improve your speaking skills without uttering a word! 

By immersing yourself in natural Italian conversations, you'll become familiar with common sounds and vocabulary, making speaking easier over time. 

For lower levels, you can listen to our podcast or any dialogues in learner courses. 

For intermediate levels and beyond, you can explore resources like the Easy Italian YouTube channel and podcast

You can also try watching these Italian TV shows and Italian movies that are ideal for learners

Ah, and don’t worry about understanding everything – it’s normal if a lot goes over your head at first. The important thing is to do lots and lots (and lots and lots!) of it. 

Keep listening and over time you’ll gradually find yourself understanding more. 

Talk to Yourself (or Your Friends)

Another gentle way to ease yourself in is to talk to yourself in Italian! It’s a great way to practise turning the words and rules you know into useful sentences.

And if you have friends learning Italian, chatting to them can be a low-pressure way to start expressing yourself in conversation. 

Language Exchanges and Online Lessons 

Time for the real thing… talking to Italians! The more hours you spend talking to Italians, the better you’ll get at speaking. It’s simple, but not always easy.  

To find Italians to practise with, you can try language exchange tools like HelloTalk or Tandem . In return you help them learn your native language, so this can be a great free way to get started (and make some Italian friends). 

You can also try conversation lessons on platforms like italki or Preply . These tend to be more productive than language exchanges because you spend the whole time talking in Italian. 

Keep in mind that with both language exchanges and online conversation lessons, it can take time to find the right people. You’ll need to adopt a trial and error approach until  you find someone who makes you feel comfortable and helps you learn in a way that feels productive. 

If you’re still struggling to pluck up the courage to speak Italian (don’t worry, it’s normal!) you can check out these tips on how to overcome your nerves and how to start speaking quickly

Learn More About Our Online Italian School

When you’re piecing together lots of separate resources, your learning can feel a bit hodgepodge. If you prefer to find everything you need in one place, with a structured learning plan and lots of speaking practice, you might really like our Online Italian School

We have learning paths suited to your level and friendly, experienced teachers who gently help you start speaking. You’ll: 

  • Pick up the practical language you’ll actually use in Italy

  • Learn vocabulary and grammar from real stories and conversations 

  • Practice speaking in a friendly environment and grow with confidence

  • Always know where you are on your Italian language journey, and where you’re headed! 

Click here to find out more

K: Ciao a tutti e benvenuti! Hi everyone and welcome to “Learn Italian with Joy of Languages”. 

M: If you’re listening to this on your podcast app could we ask you a quick favour? If you haven’t done so already, can you hit the subscribe or follow button? This way you’ll get notified when we release a new episode and you’ll help our podcast grow so that we can keep making free lessons like this. Grazie! 

K: So what’s the best way to learn Italian? I feel like I’m quite a good person to answer this, because I really struggled with learning Italian in the beginning. I spent two years learning in traditional classroom settings. Then I went to Italy, I started trying to speak Italian and I realised that I couldn’t! In the classroom I had spent 2 years accumulating bits of information about the Italian language, but I didn’t have the skills I needed to do the things I wanted to do in Italy, practical stuff like ordering pizza but also chatting to Italians. That was an important moment I think. 

M: Yes, not being able to order a pizza in Italy might be a problem! What did you do after that? 

K: I started focusing very narrowly on the skills I needed for real situations in Italy. Instead of memorising individual words in themed lists like ‘jobs’ and ‘items in the home’ I prioritised everyday phrases I knew I would hear and use. And I started practising real communication, listening a lot and finding opportunities to practise speaking. 

M: This approach can feel really difficult sometimes, but the same thing was true for me learning English. Even though I felt awkward and shy, pushing through and trying to communicate was what actually helped me learn. 

K: Yes!  In the beginning, I couldn’t understand what I was listening to and I had very long embarrassing pauses while I was trying to speak. It makes you sweat and I think that’s why most people avoid it. But it’s what works in the end. 

M: Yes, it’s more comfortable to keep memorising lists and rules! 

K: But if I had kept doing that, just  accumulating information, eventually I would have assumed I was terrible at languages and given up at some point. Once I started focusing on communication, and seeing some progress, I realised that the struggle was actually good, a sign that I was learning. So I was more motivated to persevere.  

M: Yes. I think the willingness to embrace feeling awkward and keep practising was what helped you  become fluent in the end. So for Italian learners who want to do the same thing, what advice would you give them? 

K: Well I think it’s ok if you don’t want to practise speaking right from day 1. It’s normal to want to build up some vocabulary at first, to get a bit of a base. 

M: But attenzione! Be careful, that doesn’t mean you should just jump into any course that teaches you the alphabet and animal names. You should focus on phrases you’ll use in real conversations in Italy. 

K: One way you can do this is by listening to the other episodes of this podcast – we always try to prioritise things that you’ll actually use when you come to Italy. 

M: You should also keep this in mind when you’re looking for courses. 

K: Yeah. I like Michel Thomas for this, because it helps you learn how to build sentences, rather than just learning lists of isolated words. And it helps you learn a lot of grammatica (grammar) and vocabolario (vocabulary) in an easy way, by showing you the similarities between English and Italian. 

M: There’s also ‘language transfer’ which follows a similar technique. 

K: The Assimil courses are nice, too. They’re based on fun little dialogues, so you get to see how to use everything in conversation. Keep in mind that the grammar moves quite fast, so don’t worry if you don’t grasp everything at first, that’s normal! 

M: I also think it’s important to tailor everything to your life. So if you learn a new word or grammar point – think, ‘How would I use this in my conversations in Italy?’ If you don’t think you will, you have our permission to skip it! 

K: You can take this a step further by choosing words and grammar points you think you’ll hear and say a lot in Italy and making sentences with them, either aloud or in a notebook. This is a really useful strategy that helps you remember them more easily and it will prepare you for the next and most important stage… speaking Italian! 

M: And if you feel a bit nervous there are ways to ease yourself in. 

K: Did you know that listening actually helps a lot with speaking? You’re hearing the sounds and common phrases over and over again, so they come to you more easily when you’re speaking. For lower levels, you can listen to dialogues like the ones in these podcast episodes or in coursebooks. 

M: As you progress, intermediate learners can challenge themselves with resources like the Easy Italian YouTube channel and the Easy Italian podcasts that I make with our friend Raffaele. 

K: And you can watch Italian TV shows and movies suitable for learners, in the description we’ll include some links to some recommendations we have. 

K: Don’t worry if you don’t understand much at first! As long as you can catch the general gist, it’s fine. The most important thing is to do lots and lots and lots of listening. 

M: And lots! Over time you’ll gradually find yourself understanding more. 

K: You can also practise talking to yourself. 

M: It's not as strange as it sounds! It helps you practise turning the grammar and vocabulary you know into sentences you can use in everyday conversations. 

K: And if you have friends learning Italian, you can chat to them. It's a low-pressure way to practise expressing yourself. 

M: Finally, it’s time to actually speak Italian! With Italians! It’s simple really, the more you practise speaking in Italian, the better you’ll get at speaking Italian. 

K: Yes! It’s one of those things that’s extremely simple, but not easy. And I find that most people don’t make this connection. A lot of people have hardly practised speaking at all, but they’re really critical of themselves for not being able to speak Italian yet. Unless you’ve spent many, many, many (many!) hours practising speaking Italian, it makes sense that you can’t speak it very well yet. 

M: So try not to be so hard on yourself – there’s nothing wrong with you, it doesn’t mean that you’re bad at Italian. You just need a lot of practice. Over on the blog we have a few free and low cost suggestions for how you can get started. 

K: Keep in mind that it can take a lot of trial and error (and be a bit intimidating!) to find speaking opportunities that you feel comfortable with, but it’s worth it because it’s the main thing that will help you do what you really want to do: speak Italian. 

M: So really the main things you need to do to make progress in Italian is to focus on communication, learning the things you will actually say in Italy, in sentences, rather than isolated words and rules. And of course to practise speaking. 

K: It’s possible to do this with the resources we’ve shared in this episode, but this way can feel a bit scattered because you’re not building, reviewing and practising what you learn in a coherent way. 

M: And we couldn’t talk about the best ways to learn Italian without mentioning our Online Italian School, which we basically built to help solve this problem. 

K:If you want to speed things up by following a structured path with everything you need in one place, you might really like it. We guide you through the learning process, using the same strategies that helped me learn Italian. 

M: We have learning paths suited to your level and friendly, experienced teachers who gently help you start speaking. You’ll: 

  • Pick up the practical language you’ll actually use in Italy

  • Learn vocabulary and grammar from real stories and conversations 

  • Practice speaking in a friendly environment and grow with confidence

  • Always know where you are on your Italian language journey, and where you are headed! 

K: To learn more, you can click the link in the description. You’ll also find a blog post with all the other resources we mentioned in this episode, so whether you decide to join us for the school or keep learning solo, you can start making a lot more progress in your Italian. 

M - Buono studio! 

K – Ah yeah, that’s like saying ‘happy learning’ in Italian, or happy studying. Buono studio! 

M – Ciao! 

Time to check your understanding and remember everything you just learned! Below you’ll find a mini-quiz and some vocabulary cards to help it all go in.


How much did you learn? Find out in the quiz!

Click here to take the quiz for this episode: What’s the best way to learn Italian?


Congratulazioni = Congratulations

Il caffè = (the) coffee 

I tassisti = (the) taxi drivers

Attenzione = Beware / be careful (lit. attention)

Il vocabolario = Vocabulary

La grammatica = Grammar

Flashcards: What’s the best way to learn Italian?

Not sure how it works? Click here to watch the tutorial

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