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Uno Minuto - Italian Language Tips
February 24, 2015
How much Italian language knowledge should one be prepared with when visiting Italy? My advice is to focus on gaining the simple vocabulary and phrases you need in two categories: enough language to be polite, and to understand the practical info you may need. You should set out to gain enough knowledge of the Italian language so that you can be polite in communicating from a place of cultural respect and sensitivity. Secondly, try to gain a practical understanding of Italian needed to identify essential information related to your journey.
Many travelers go out and with the best intentions in mind purchase language software or books and, in the absence of a plan, these resources go largely unused except for perhaps a glance on the plane! I suggest a slightly more focused approach, and then take your learning to whatever heights you achieve beyond the basics.
To be Polite: Identify the top 10 conversational phrases or words needed to inquire or respond politely, such as please (per favore), thank you (grazie), good day (buongiorno), may I (posso), and so on.
For the Practical info you need: Make a list of the top 20 most practical words or phrases you may need for your trip, and work on memorizing them. For example, vocabulary related to transportation (treno (train), biglietteria (ticket office), partenza (departure), autostrada (highway), uscita (exit), where is the bathroom (dove il bano), or lodging vocabulary such as keys (chiave), door (la porta), etc.
Then go ahead and purchase a quality language learning app, a translation app, and perhaps a fun read. We’ve made some suggestions on our website, and have the following tip from our amico in Rome, Rick Zullo.
"Without a doubt, the most efficient way to learn a language these days is with a good software program. First, because it's interactive...you don't just read a book like in the old days. You listen, speak, read, and write, all in the course of one lesson. It's highly visual, so it makes a deeper impression. And you don't even have to download anything; most programs are also available as web apps so that you can take them with you on your tablet or smart phone. The one I recommend on my website is Rocket Languages, but there are several out there that do basically the same thing."
"That said, you also need other inputs, and I like to supplement lessons with music and movies (turn on the ITALIAN subtitles to follow along). But finally, you need to practice actually chatting with a native speaker. There's a website called SharedTalk that pairs language partners so that you can practice your Italian while helping an Italian person practice their English."