How to learn Italian on my own efficiently?
Italian, Italiano or lingua Italiana is a Romance language of the Indo-European language family. Italian is, by most measures together with Sardinian, the closest language to Latin, from which it descends via Vulgar Latin. Italian is the national, or de facto national, official language in Italy, Switzerland (Ticino and the Grisons), San Marino, and Vatican City. It has official minority status in western Istria (Croatia and Slovenia). It is the second most widely spoken native language in the European Union with 67 million speakers (15% of the EU population) and it is spoken as a second language by 13.4 million EU citizens (3%). Including Italian speakers in non-EU European countries (such as Switzerland, Albania and the United Kingdom) and on other continents, the total number of speakers is approximately 85 million.
Italian was adopted by the state after the Unification of Italy, having previously been a literary language based on Tuscan as spoken mostly by the upper class of Florentine society. Its development was also influenced by other Italian languages and, to some minor extent, by the Germanic languages of the post-Roman invaders. The incorporation into Italian of learned words from its own ancestor language, Latin, is another form of lexical borrowing through the influence of written language, scientific terminology and the liturgical language of the Church.
Throughout Italy, regional variations of Standard Italian, called Regional Italian, are spoken. Regional differences can be recognized by various factors: the openness of vowels, the length of the consonants, and influence of the local language (for example, in informal situations andà, annà and nare replace the standard Italian and are in the area of Tuscany, Rome and Venice respectively for the infinitive “to go”).
The proliferation of regional dialects in Italy is due to its long history of separation into many small states and colonization by France, Spain and Austria-Hungary between the fall of the Roman Empire and Italian reunification in 1861. During this period, the official language of most Italian states was either Latin or the language of the colonizing power.
During the 14th century, the Tuscan dialect began to predominate because of the central position of Tuscany in Italy, and because of the economic power of its most important city, Florence. It was not until the 19th century, however, that the language spoken by educated Florentines spread to become the standard language of a newly unified Italy. With progressive increases in literacy, standard Italian became gradually accepted as the national language in the 1950s.
There is no definitive date when the various Italian variants of Latin—including varieties that contributed to modern Standard Italian—began to be distinct enough from Latin to be considered separate languages. One criterion for determining that two language variants are to be considered separate languages rather than variants of a single language is that they have evolved so that they are no longer mutually intelligible; this diagnostic is effective if mutual intelligibility is minimal or absent (e.g. in Romance, Romanian and Portuguese), but it fails in cases such as Spanish-Portuguese or Spanish-Italian, as native speakers of either pairing can understand each other well if they choose to do so.
To learn Italian you must love, understand and see through the beauty of the language. I am mentioning under a few pointers, that will make you confident of your choice of Italian, as a good language to pursue!
Assess your need – The first step to learn any language is to be sure, that’s the one for you.
Set realistic goals for your learning timeline so that you progress your learning without burning out or losing interest.
Use the multiple tools available online to aid you in your learning such as Flashcards tools(Memrise, Anki), Conversation Partner Search Tools(Tandem, Italki, Hello talk etc)
Keep the learning light and engaging.
Watch a few movies, learn a few songs, read children’s books, read aloud to yourself in the mirror, to your pet, listen to podcasts while walking your dog, at the gym, on your way back from work, washing the car, read online fashion blogs, food blogs anything, just about anything, that takes you away from the monotonous way of learning.
Take online classes and take your learning to the next level.
Have a consistent schedule.
Follow a strict regime but don’t reach burnout.
Follow the Pomodoro technique to keep interested in the language.
Write the phonetics of the foreign language words in your native language.
Seek feedback and be open to receive it. Don’t get offended if a native speaker corrects you.
Language consists of slang, local dialects, the speed and rhythm with which it is spoken, abbreviations, and idioms that people use. Understanding all these dimensions of a language in addition to learning its vocabulary and speaking the right words is what learning a language means!
Maintain a journal or a diary to capture day to day used phrases, that will help you hold your first conversation.
Listen to as many relevant audio resources as you can hear to train your ear!
Don’t feel embarrassed to make mistakes.
Label objects with their names in the language you are learning.
Practice the basic grammar rules from a grammar book.
Keep a dictionary handy.
Understand what will take you to learn Italian. Condition and prepare your mind with the following facts of the Italian language:
- Italian has 7 vowel phonemes and 24 consonant phonemes.
- Nouns, adjectives, and articles inflect for gender and number (singular and plural).
- Italian nouns are marked for basic classes referred to as gender (feminine and masculine), and number (singular and plural). Gender may be natural (ragazzo ‘boy’, ragazza ‘girl’) or simply grammatical with no possible reference to biological gender (masculine costo ‘cost’, feminine costa ‘coast’).
- Italian verbs are marked for person (1st, 2nd, 3rd) and number (singular, plural). They agree with their subjects in person and number. There are four moods: indicative, imperative, conditional, subjunctive, and imperative.
- Like all Romance languages, Italian has a fairly uncomplicated sound system. All words, with the exception of some borrowings, end in a vowel.
- Italian vocabulary is mainly derived from Latin, with numerous borrowings from Greek, French, German and English. The early texts, reflecting the spoken language of Italy, were written in regional dialects.
- Modern Italian is written with the Latin alphabet. English has borrowed many words from Italian.
- Italian has a shallow orthography, meaning very regular spelling with an almost one-to-one correspondence between letters and sounds. In linguistic terms, the writing system is close to being a phonemic orthography. The most important of the few exceptions
- Italian grammar is typical of the grammar of Romance languages in general. Cases exist for personal pronouns (nominative, oblique, accusative, dative), but not for nouns. Nouns, adjectives, and articles inflect for gender and number (singular and plural).
- Common nouns are capitalized at the beginning of a sentence, but nouns referring to languages (e.g. Italian), speakers of languages, or inhabitants of an area (e.g. Italians) are not capitalized.
- There are three types of adjectives: descriptive, invariable and form-changing.
- Adjectives agree with the nouns they modify in gender and number and can either precede or follow the nouns they modify.
- The normal word order in Italian sentences is Subject-Verb-Object. Although for most usage the order of words in the phrase is relatively free compared to most European languages. The position of the verb in the phrase is highly mobile.
- There are both indefinite and definite articles in Italian, which agree with the noun in gender and number.
- There are numerous contractions of prepositions with subsequent articles.
- Standard Italian distinguishes between 2nd person pronouns, i.e., familiar tu and formal Lei. There are 27 pronouns, grouped in clitic and tonic pronouns.
- There are three regular sets of verbal conjugations, and various verbs are irregularly conjugated. Within each of these sets of conjugations, there are four simple (one-word) verbal conjugations by person/number in the indicative mood (present tense; past tense with imperfective aspect, past tense with perfective aspect, and future tense), two simple conjugations in the subjunctive mood (present tense and past tense), one simple conjugation in the conditional mood, and one simple conjugation in the imperative mood.
To learn Italian efficiently on your own besides understanding and preparing oneself for the aforementioned language basics, a learner must also follow the learning plan strictly. To become a part of another culture and assimilate with people at the other end of the world, you will have to converse in their language. If you have the right motivation, you can learn a language on your own. Don’t leave even a single chance to practice the language you want to learn. And, practice as much as possible, there’s no shortcut to learning.
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