Art & Culture (le cose belle)

Learning Italian

Whether you’ve just moved to Italy or are planning an upcoming visit, learning Italian can seem like a daunting task. Making it harder is the fact that many Italians in Rome speak at least a little bit of English. And, if they don’t, the Italian way of speaking with the hands often can bridge the language barrier. So, it certainly is possible to get by without learning the language.

But what’s the fun in that? Part of la dolce vita is the wonderful passion the Italian language conveys.  The musical ups and downs in each sentence, the crescendo of excitement that even a single word can evoke. Bellissimo!

Depending on how much time you have and how fluent you’d like to become, here are a few options to help you learn to speak like the Romans sans the touristy phrasebook:

Italian Classes in a Classroom Setting
There are many schools in Rome that offer traditional language classes similar to what you might have taken in high school. A few options are Istituto Dante Alighieri Rome (320 – 5500 Euro), Torre di Baboli (163 – 3060 Euro) and Dilit IH Rome ($538-$1,113).

How It Works: Different levels of intensity and are offered. You chose which works best with your schedule and budget, and attend classes on a set schedule for a set duration of time.
Pros: Trained professors, social interaction with other classmates, structured nature of program makes it easier to focus for many, option to attend cultural outings
Cons: School setting may be too much for some (homework, again?!), large time commitment, costs are high beyond introductory courses

Rosetta Stone
If building up your language skills in private is your thing, Rosetta Stone is for you. CNN calls it “the gold standard of computer-based language learning.”

How It Works: Its philosophy is built around its “Dynamic Immersion” system which aims to teach the language by putting students in the midst of every day situations and having them learn naturally from the action depicted on screen. It’s best compared to how a child would learn to speak a language: images appear on screen with no explanation and you’re left to sort out the action. Who’s wearing a yellow shirt? How many plates is he holding? You’ll need to deduce the answers on your own, and nothing is ever translated back into English.
Pros: Works around your schedule, focuses on vocabulary and real-life situations without complicated grammar lessons, can learn Italian before you arrive in Italy
Cons: Somewhat costly, depending on how many levels you buy (prices range from $179 – $499), can take weeks before you feel you’ve moved beyond child-speak, not sharing the English meaning can cause confusion

Italian Classes in a Social Setting
Expats Living in Rome acknowledges that learning another language can be “difficult and also boring.” Their Italian classes are designed to be a fun way to learn Italian while socializing with other English speakers.

How It Works: Courses are available on Tuesday and Thursday nights in locations around the city. After each class, you’re invited to attend an “Expats Living in Rome” social where you can practice your language skills with other expats
Pros: Low cost and social way to learn Italian (40 – 60 Euros), sipping vino during class is encouraged, private lessons are also available (130 – 625 Euros)
Cons: May be too casual for some, instructors in formal schools will have more training

As for me, since my husband is a full-time student (hence the reason we’re in Rome), one tuition bill is enough. After spending a month with just me and my computer Rosetta Stone lessons, it was time to practice my skills with humans. I’m attending the Expats Italian courses and saw improvement right away. I’m by no means fluent, but it’s getting easier every day!

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