Seeing as people seem to be finding these How to Learn Italian Tips useful, here’s another one, and there are plenty more to come. With a little luck by the time this series ends you’ll be speaking Italian with an appropriate Italian accent! I hope so.
This week’s learning Italian tip might not work for everyone, but I found it helped me a lot. Why?
Because I have the kind of memory which tends to find it easier to associate pictures with words. Not everyone is the same in this respect, I know. Many of us learn in different ways; using different techniques and combinations of techniques. Often we rely on what worked when we were at school or university, at other times we discover what works for us and what does not later on in life.
Paradoxically, education systems don’t seem to devote much time towards teaching us how to learn. The focus seems to be on teaching, developing analytical skills, and putting them to the test via exams, but we’re often not even taught how to prepare for exams. Sorry, I’m rambling, as usual. Just don’t get me started on school language classes which focus too heavily on translation… grrrr
On to the tip:
How To Learn Italian Tip Number Four
4. Get a Picture Dictionary
I have a visual dictionary and while I don’t use it much now, when was starting to learn Italian I found my picture dictionary very helpful. This is possibly down to our natural way of learning languages which revolves around observing our environment from the cradle, and then being told what everything is called by our parents. They did not write the words down, at least mine did not, more often than not they pointed at objects and said their names.
A picture dictionary works in much the same way in that you see an item and then discover the word in Italian which refers to it. In my case I found that I could remember vocabulary more easily – after all, we are surrounded by ‘pictures‘ in our everyday lives.
Using a pictorial dictionary fits in well with How to Learn Italian Tip number Two which was all about developing the ability to think in Italian. If you look at something, after using a pictorial dictionary for a while, you should be able to say the Italian word for it without thinking of the word in English, or whatever your first language is, first. In other words, you begin to think in Italian more naturally. And thinking in Italian aids fluency, as I pointed out in Tip Two.
Stop reading, start speaking
Stop translating in your head and start speaking Italian for real with the only audio course that prompt you to speak.
You will also find Italian verbs easier to remember too, as we naturally tend to associate verbs with objects.
Where to Find a Picture Dictionary
Here is one popular Italian English picture dictionary which can be found on Amazon.com: Italian English Bilingual Visual Dictionary (DK Visual Dictionaries) and the same dictionary can also be found on Amazon.co.uk too: Italian English Bilingual Visual Dictionary. There are other visual, picture or pictorial dictionaries too, including one very good picture dictionary which is published by an Italian company, but I do not have it and cannot remember its name. If you know which one I’m on about, do let me know.
Anyway, if you are someone who tends to remember images more easily than words, think about buying a visual dictionary.
Useful for Engineers, Lovers of Italian Classic Cars and Sailors
The better ones can even teach you Italian technical vocabulary which might prove useful if you are going to start a job with an Italian engineering company, or you want to find a part for your beloved Alfa Romeo Montreal while you are at an auto-jumble in Italy. Similarly, those sailing in the Mediterranean might find having a picture dictionary on board handy in the event that something goes wrong while they are at sea and they need to find someone to sort it out. They can point at the pictures!
Others who may well find an English-Italian or vice versa picture dictionary useful are people who have bought a house in Italy to renovate and want to be able to tell the builders what to repair and decorate. Indeed, the uses of good picture dictionaries are virtually without end.
One thing you can do with a picture dictionary to help you absorb Italian vocabulary is to cover the names of the items and see how many of them you can remember. If you cannot, don’t worry – be patient remember, and try again.
Happy learning! And I promise that I will get round to incorporating a few of the interesting suggestions people have been making via comments on the other posts in this series into future How to Learn Italian Tips.
Indeed, if anyone knows of an iPhone, iPad or Android app which is an Italian-English picture dictionary, do let me know.