Although live learning experience is always the preferrable route to be taken in the path of learning a new language, Internet can be a useful ally, at least to improve some of the basic skills in language proficiency. Here’s a list of 10 tips (with references and links) you might find useful if you want to start (or continue) learning Italian online.
1. Join a Skype lesson
This is the most traditional way to approach a new language on the Internet, as this is the closer you can get to a live class while surfing online. Both group courses and individual lessons are widely availabe on the Internet, but you definitely need to be careful: an online lesson is not a session of language exchange, and not everyone is suitable for giving such classes, wich are considerably different from live ones and require very specific teaching methods and skills. Therefore, before choosing you might want to collect some info on the school or the teacher you’re planning to learn from.
2. Read online blogs and newspapers \ listen to webradios
This can be a very naive and inconsistent method to approach a new language, if practiced without the proper perseverance and tools. First of all, you need to choose what to read and to listen: major online newspapers (Repubblica, Corriere) can be useful but also tricky, especially for beginners, for they might present a variety of registers and communicative intents that can be an overwhelming input for a student when they are not accompained by some exercises and activities; blogs are ok, especially when belonging to professionals in language teaching (such as IlearnItalian or Blogghiamo); as for webradios, stay away from amateurs and try to listen once or twice per day to news radios such as Radio 24, in which a standard Italian is spoken by professionals.
3. Find friends online!
Social media are packed with fora and groups of Italian language enthusiasts (Imparare Italiano, Io amo la lingua italiana, Lingua Italiana per Stranieri, Accademia della Crusca Facebook page, Let’s learn Italian forum): join one of those groups and get involved in their activities. Be careful though! This might lead one day to face-to-face conversations and interactions if the online group is based in your same city or region! 😉
4. Find a best friend online!
Tandem is a good way to improve your conversational skills, especially for intermediate and advanced students. The University of Bochum offers this free eTandem programme which is accessible just by filling an online form.
5. Watch Italian movies
Italy is renowned for its great actors and directors: if you want to improve your Italian while enjoying a good movie you have plenty of choices. Of course, you should avoid movies in which dialect is used (no neorealism, I’m sorry) and try to approach, at least at the beginning, films with a very simple storyline and easily intelligible interactions. It is reccomended to use italian subtitles, since other languages’ subs can improve your understanding of particular scenes but, on the other hand, distract you from your goal, which is of course being exposed to the global text which is the movie itself and learning new words and expressions in Italian. Romantic comedies such as Manuale d’Amore or masterpieces like La vita è bella are a wonderful choice, but you might have to pay to watch them online on platforms like Chili (yes, we know you don’t necessarily have to pay to get movies from the web, ma a buon intenditor poche parole). An alternative to mainstream movies could be watching youtube series or videos, but be careful when choosing, keeping in mind that Italian has a lot of different accents and inflections that can make your understanding more and more difficult and that are widely used in amateur products.
6. Learn from experienced polyglots
There are, as you might know, people that succeeded in learning more than a language and have perfectioned their own method. You might find useful to have a chat with them, or at least to read what they write on their blogs or websites (Lingholic, Benny Lewis, Luca Lampariello) in order to get inspired by their success.
7. Use online softwares
From Babbel to Livemocha, online language learning softwares are hundreds. Just keep in mind that they can be more useful in the early stages of your learning experience, and that the improvement of some skills (speaking above all) can be slower than the one you could get with a standard lesson.
8. Install Google Chrome plugins
For ones using Google Chome, there are some interesing plugins than can be helpful:
• Language Immersion for Chrome: this software translates words randomly from the website you are reading. You are allowed to set an immersion level in order to control the number of translated words.
• Instant Translate: online dictionary and live translation of any word on a window without moving away from that webpage.
• Lingua.ly: useful for improving your vocabulary while reading online. The plugin collects the words that you don’t understand in order to let you review them later. Furthermore, it gives you a list of contents for reading practice.
9. Take online tests and exercises
Usually exercises and tests are tailored on live classes, and their presence on the web doesn’t guarantees that they are good online materials. Anyway, you can always use them to reinforce your grammar and your vocabulary, particularly in addition to the other strategies presented above. We have our own collection of Italian Language tests and exercises, but here you can find a comprehensive list of online materials that you might find useful.
10. Keep track of events in your city or region
Make it live! Italian cultural institutes periodically organize events all around the world to promote Italian language and culture. Keep track of those event by joining your city’s ICC’s newsletter and turn your online experience in a full Italian experience (you might also get the opportunity to find scholarships for studying Italian in Italy!).