What is the best way to start learning Italian language? I googled up and ended on couple of free online resources that help you learn Italian or any other language.

But all those exercises seems like more of memorizing the phrases which are translation of an equivalent phrase in English.

Isn't there a way to learn it from scratch, like learn alphabets, learn to make words, classify them as verbs/nouns etc. and then form sentences?

Any help is appreciated, I am sure I will feel forget in a matter of days what 'Buongiorno' means if I don't memorize it everyday!!

  • 1
    This looks like a very subjective question. I am not sure that it is suitable for the stack exchange format. Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 7:34
  • 1
    It's a soft question, in SE jargon, but it may make sense.
    – mau
    Commented Mar 15, 2016 at 18:06

4 Answers 4


I don't know if it's the best way, but it has worked for me: I've always learned Italian as an autodidact. I started with the Assimil method, based on reading and listening in such a way that you end up memorizing some sentences with the basic structures of Italian.

Then I used the site http://www.busuu.com to do writing exercises (I didn't find very useful the other kind of exercises proposed by this site). It works as a social network of people interested in learning languages. The site proposes you writing exercises that you can submit so that you'll get a correction from a native speaker. Each user of the network is both a student of a foreign language and a "teacher" of its own mother tongue. The interesting fact is that you can make your own circle of reliable Italian friends so as to send them your own written exercises. I'm not sure if this resource is nowadays as good as it was in the past because I haven't been using it very much lately and some people told me that it has changed in worse.

At the same time, I got an Italian grammar book for foreigners that I consulted whenever I had doubts, but not to do grammar exercises. I tried instead to use the language by doing these writing exercises and by communicating with my Italian Busuu friends. And I tried to read a lot (real Italian literature, I hate adapted books for foreigners) and watch some Italian films.

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    Charo, what did it attract your interest for the Italian language and why do you have such a great sensitivity to that? Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 0:47
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    @ElberichSchneider: I've always found Italian language so beautiful and Italian culture so interesting... That's the reason that pushed me to study Italian.
    – Charo
    Commented Dec 18, 2015 at 12:49
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    Very interesting, just want to point out that the success of a path leading to learning a language is heavily dependant on the language one starts from as a native speaker. I can grasp Spanish quicker than German, for instance. Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 22:06


Before start, planning is important. The main question is: do you know how to learn? I didn't, when I started learning italian. I spent 5 years in a class, learning & forgetting, the sad duo that made me think "I wasn't good with languages, my memory is bad", when, in fact, I was studying it all wrong. I didn't review anything. I just went to classes and did only one time the exercises. Sometimes, not even once.

If you truly want to learn and retain the knowledge, you need to understand the The Ebbinghaus Forgetting Curve, essential to grasp how and when we forget.

In terms of the best language method, it is only possible to determine a good learning technique (because "the best" is complex, some may say it is even impossible to determinate) based on your specific needs.

Are you interested more in comprehension? Fluency? Pass some certification? Just talk in a bar? Acquire an superb pronunciation? Each of these objectives could have the same study approach, but it is not recommended to.

Learning how to learn

However, there are some guidelines about learning how to learn (not only languages) that could help you in a meaningful way:

  • Barbara Oakley summarizes a vast study about learning and memorization in her two wonderful coursera courses:
  • Learning how to Learn (also a TEDx)
  • Mindshift
  • Active Recall, also Ali video about it
  • There are some books out there about learning, worth to take a look, if you have some time: Make it Stick and Barbara Oakley books
  • Understand and use summaries, highlights and spaced reviews. These are the gold of learning. spaced repetition + good summaries + well done highlights to revisit important concepts in a large document

Reading passively is very different of active recall on studied material, for example. Learn how to learn and you will unlock a better and easier way to learn, enjoying the ride and stick to your language learning journey.

Tips for language learning

  • it is tiring in the very beginning: one wants to stop, because words are easily forgotten (as you also stated). Frequently, you are not able to even understand the meaning of a sentence.
  • grammar is important, but vocabulary is essential. You can go by with little grammar, but not without vocabulary. It is key to understand what others say to motivate yourself to keep going.
  • vocabulary repetition is needed. anki is a good software to help you to remember. Even more, to help you remember the rare words. Those you see sometimes. Expressions. Modo di dire, slangs...
  • surround yourself with material from the language you want to learn: books, news, youtube videos, forums like these, meet native people online, etc.
  • Do you want to really test if you grasped something? Grab a paper and pencil and write down without any support material. You will be surprised by how hard it is. But that's how we fill the gaps about learning. The hard, slow way. No magic and miracle methods, no "learn a language in six months" 😅

Tips about what to learn

The material depends, if you are going to learn alone or engage in some class. I don't know any material with good quality to self-study, because all textbooks I used, required a teacher to follow using the full potential. A quick search in Google didn't show up anything good to me, so I ask to my colleagues on this forum to give you some advice about it. I can tell you one book I liked was English Grammar in Use, to self-study English. Bite-size grammar rules + exercises. Perfect! Look for something like that in italian :)

Who to watch

If I were to start any language learning today, I will definitely observe two groups of people:

  1. teachers! they already studied and, most important, they advise dozens of students. They know how the path to learning is and how long (in average) will take you to complete it.
  2. who study for languages certifications (like CILS, CELI, TOEFL, CPE...). Of course to ace an exam is not only about learning. On the other hand, it shows you where to focus to learn objectively. I would not copy the learning style, but to understand how someone achieved his goals. An example: a guy who passed italian C2 test and German C2 is a good start.

How to understand your progress

Always test. Learning is not a linear subject. Study, review, do a lot of exercises. Retake what you got wrong until you get it right. Try new methods! Nothing is 100% exact. The brain is too complex...

What I would not to do

  1. Watch anything that mix these words: "easy", "fast", "without effort", "language hack"
  2. ignore the culture of the language I am learning about. Culture and history helps you understand and memorize in a more concise way
  3. focus on quantity over quality. I observe, frequently, people talking how many books they read or how many words they studied. Does it matter? For me, what matters is how you use what you learn, not some random numbers. Keeping in mind the forgetting curve, it is interesting to revisit the books you

I recommend https://www.penpaland.com. Penpaland is the free social networking site for online correspondence, cultural exchange, learning foreign languages, sharing photos, files and videos. Language exchange based website, on penpaland you can learn/teach Italian or any other language. By the way you can post articles about your language or read articles on penpaland.


I recommend sites like www.letspal.com because I learned French and Russian with practicing people there: erybody is really helpful when it comes to learning languages.

  • 2
    Welcome to Italian.SE!
    – Charo
    Commented Jan 6, 2019 at 16:56
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    How does that website work? Would it be suitable for someone who just starts learning a language from scratch, as asked by the OP?
    – DaG
    Commented Jan 6, 2019 at 18:12

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