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How To Learn Italian – Tip Number Two

Piacere Mio

Learning Italian Tip Number One has proven popular, so I’ve brought things forward a little and am publishing How To Learn Italian Tip Number Two today, partially because of the interesting comments left by readers Alan and Laurel.

Both Laurel and Alan are doing the right things and are moving in the right direction, I’d say, and what they are doing, is not at all dissimilar to what I did, and what I try to teach my English language students to do. Yes, I teach English to Italians, and have done so for more than ten years, so I can lay claim to knowing a little about learning, and teaching, languages.

Here then, a little sooner than planned, is the second learning Italian tip to help you get the most out of visiting Italy.

How To Learn Italian Tip Number Two

2. Think in Italian

Those three little words tend to terrify those who are learning Italian, and other foreign languages. After all, it must be impossible to think in another language, right? Wrong! And the funny thing is that training yourself to think in Italian is not really difficult.

Reader and Italian learner Alan has imaginary conversations with himself, and Laurel drives along reading the numbers she can see along the road. I did much the same, and did what I’m about to show you.

This ‘system‘ will help condition that old grey matter into thinking directly in Italian.

“But thinking in another language is something which comes after years of study and practice”, I hear some of you cry. Not true – you can actually start yourself thinking in Italian from day one of your Italian studies. Here’s how:

Stage One

Learning to think in Italian will help you become Fluent
Learning to think in Italian will help you become Fluent

Look around you and try to name as many of the things as you can see – in your head, as if you were reading a book to yourself – ‘read‘ your surroundings.

If you cannot name too many things, grab your Teach Yourself Italian book, or whatever book you have been using, and revise the vocabulary, or use Word Reference to look up the words and hear their pronunciation. Then start again.

Do this daily – but do not think of the word in English first and then ‘translate’ it – this is to be avoided at all costs. What you are doing is training your brain to go directly into Italian. Remember that babies cannot translate, they can only associate. So act like a baby, and associate!

Stage Two

Once you can name many of the things around you, take this mental exercise a step further – name objects in your head and two verbs which go with the objects. For example: finestra (window) – aprire (open), chiudere (close). This is not a test – remember How To Learn Italian Tip Number One: Be patient with Yourself. If you cannot remember – get out that dictionary or make a note of the word or verb in English and head for Word Reference for a fresh dose of vocabulary and pronunciation.

Stage Three

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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.

When you can name objects and verbs, begin forming simple sentences to describe your surroundings. This is good for practicing prepositions too. Again, do this in your head and do not be afraid to look things up in your Italian language course or grammar books. Evolve this activity into asking simple questions, like ‘E’ aperta la finestra?’ – ‘Is the window open?’ – but do not translate – go directly into Italian.

Look at the clock. What’s the time?

Stage Four

It will take you some time to arrive at this fourth level. How long depends on you and what you have been studying.

In your head, think about your day. The things you have to do, the people you have to see, and when. What you are doing after work, whatever. Describe them – in your head, directly in Italian. Ask yourself questions.

Stage Five

Conversation time! If you like, you can resurrect that imaginary friend you had when you were little – call her Maria or call him Mario! Then take a leaf out of Alan’s book and hold an imaginary conversation with yourself. It’s perhaps better to do this in the privacy of your own home – as people might give you funny looks or call the men in white coats!

Talk to yourself about yesterday, today and tomorrow and you will end up practicing past, present and future verb forms.


How will you know if you are ready to move from one step to the next? Easy, when you can do the previous stage more or less easily, and don’t be afraid to go back a step or two  – when you learn new words, verbs or tenses, for example.

To enhance the effect, get hold of texts in Italian. Hop onto the world wide web, find an Italian site which talks about something which interests you and read away – in your head. This too will help persuade your brain to develop its Italian alter ego and reach your goal of being able to think directly in Italian.

The Result

When you come to Italy or when you have an opportunity to talk to someone in Italian, you will find that the words come to mind much more quickly and your Italian will be more spontaneous. You may even end up surprising yourself and impressing the odd Italian or two.

Try it, I don’t think you will regret it!

If you have any other tips for those learning Italian – don’t be shy, tell us via a comment.

Looking for an Italian Course?

The Pimsleaur approach to learning Italian seems to be widely appreciated. Find more on Pimsleaur courses, and read comments on this Italian course by going to Amazon.com here: Pimsleaur Italian I Course

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