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How to Learn Italian: Introduction

Welcome to CORE Languages, where we’re thrilled to offer you an immersive journey into the Italian language, tailored specifically for our dedicated students. Our Italian series comprises ten engaging lessons that introduce you to the pivotal words and phrases essential for basic communication and beyond. Our goal is to simplify the learning process, providing you with a plethora of resources to enhance your understanding of Italian.

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Learn Italian with Antonia

If you’re interested in learning Italian and enhancing your language skills and cultural understanding, you can easily request to work with our professional and fun foreign language instructors and tutors. To request Antonia, simply visit the instructor profile by clicking below. Then, fill out our short request form with your language level, learning goals, and preferred schedule. Our team will reach out to answer questions and get you started right away.

Lesson 1: Kickstarting Your Italian Adventure

Let’s dive right in with some fundamental phrases that will serve as the building blocks for your Italian language skills:

  • Ciao – “Hello”The perfect word to start any Italian conversation with a warm greeting.
  • Come stai? – “How are you?”This question is key to showing interest in the person you’re talking to.
  • Sto bene, grazie. – “I’m fine, thank you.”A positive response that keeps the conversational ball rolling.
  • Mi chiamo [Your Name]. – “My name is [Your Name].”Introducing yourself is the first step towards making meaningful connections.
  • Piacere. – “Nice to meet you.”An essential phrase to express your pleasure in making new acquaintances.
  • Arrivederci. – “Goodbye”A polite way to conclude your interactions.
  • Parli inglese? – “Do you speak English?”An invaluable question for navigating conversations when you’re just starting out.
  • Sì, parlo inglese. / No, non parlo inglese. – “Yes, I speak English. / No, I don’t speak English.”These phrases are crucial for managing language barriers effectively.

Enhancing Your Italian Learning Journey

  • Invest in an Italian Phrasebook and create flashcards with simple phrases and words for regular practice.
  • Grasp the fundamentals of Italian grammar, noting its complexity compared to English but also its similarities that can ease the learning curve.
  • Leverage your knowledge of other Romance languages, like Spanish or Portuguese, to accelerate your Italian learning.
  • Engage with a proficient Italian instructor or join language classes for interactive learning, and consider immersing yourself in Italian culture for a more holistic experience.
  • Utilize spaced repetition systems for efficient vocabulary retention.

A Primer on Italian Grammar

Italian grammar might seem formidable with its gender and number agreements, the extensive use of articles, and intricate verb conjugations, including the subjunctive mood. However, many learners find comfort in the similarities Italian shares with English, particularly in sentence structures.

Pronunciation: The Melody of Italian

Italian is celebrated for its phonetic clarity, meaning that words are generally pronounced as they are written. This aspect of the language significantly aids in mastering pronunciation. From the importance of double consonants to the pronunciation rules for letters like ‘c’ and ‘g’, and the nuances of sounds like ‘gl’ and ‘gn’, we’ll cover all you need to know to speak with confidence.

Here are some basic rules about Italian pronunciation:

Double consonants are always pronounced as two (long), not as one (short);
Vowels at the end of words are always pronounced: therefore, a word like nave has two syllables;

  • the letter h is always silent;
  • the letter c is pronounced as in the English word cat when followed by a, o or u; it is pronounced as in chat when followed by e or i;
  • the letter g is pronounced as in game when followed by a, o or u; it is pronounced as in joke when followed by e or i;
  • ch is always pronounced as in cat;
  • gh is always pronounced as in game;
  • sch is always pronounced as in skate;
  • sc is pronounced as in skate when followed by a, o or u; it is pronounced as in shine when followed by e or i;
  • qu is always pronounced as in the English words quite and quarter;
  • gl and gn are probably among the trickiest sounds for learners of Italian to master. However, if you know some French, Spanish or Portuguese, you will be familiar with these sounds, which are found in words like lluvia and niño;

As a general rule, the primary accent (word stress) tends to fall on the second but last syllable of a word; when it falls on the last syllable, it is always marked.

Nouns, Articles, and Beyond

Diving into nouns, you’ll learn about their gender and number distinctions, marked by the endings of words. We’ll explore the use of indefinite articles ‘un’ (masculine) and ‘una’ (feminine), along with pluralization rules, setting a solid foundation for your grammatical growth.

Have a look at these examples:

un uomo
a man

una donna
a woman

un ragazzo
a boy

una nave
a ship

ince un(o)/una also means “one”, it is only used with singular nouns. In the following lessons we will learn about definite articles.

Finally, we will learn the Italian equivalent of ‘and’ / e. Please note that ‘e’ becomes ‘ed’ before a word beginning with a vowel, such as the indefinite article un(o)/una:

uomo e donna
man and woman

un uomo ed una donna
a man and a woman

Plural Forms of Nouns

We will introduce the plural forms of nouns. Generally speaking, masculine nouns in -o take the ending -i, and feminine nouns in -a take the ending -e:

ragazzi ragazze uomo donna
boys girls uomini donne

As you can see, the plural of uomo, uomini, is irregular.

Nouns in -e, such as nave / ship and piede / foot, generally take the ending -i:

navi
ships

piedi
feet

As regards to the plural of definite articles, ‘I’ corresponds to ‘il’, and ‘gli’ to ‘lo’, while the plural of ‘la’ is always ‘le’:

il ragazzo
the boy

i ragazzi
the boys

l’uomo
the man

gli uomini
the men

la donna
the woman

le donne
the women

Note that apostrophes are never used with the plural forms of definite articles.

Unlike in English, plural nouns in Italian are usually preceded by a definite article, or by adjectives that indicate either a definite quantity (numbers) or an indefinite one.

Verbs: The Core of Communication

Verbs in Italian are pivotal for expressing actions and states of being. We’ll start with the essentials, like the auxiliary verbs ‘essere’ (to be) and ‘avere’ (to have), and guide you through their conjugations. Understanding these basics will open the door to forming complete and meaningful sentences.

Auxiliary Verbs

Unlike in English or French, in Italian it is not mandatory to use a personal pronoun before a verb, because the subject can be identified from the verb’s ending. There are two main auxiliary verbs:

essere
to be

avere
to have

Now we will learn the present tense of essere, together with the personal subject pronouns:

io sono – I am
tu sei – you are (singular)
egli/ella/esso è – he/she/it is
noi siamo – we are
voi siete – you are (plural)
essi/esse sono – they are

Note that in colloquial Italian, the third-person pronouns egli, ella and essi/esse are generally replaced wit tu is used as an informal address; while Lei (capitalized) is used as a formal address, like the German Sie or the Spanish Ustedi.

Conjugations

There are three conjugations in Italian, each identifiable by the ending of the infinitive form: -are (1st), -ere (2nd), -ire (3rd).

Here are the infinitive forms of three commonly used verbs:
camminare – to walk
correre – to run
partire – to leave

Simple Present Tense

To form the simple present tense of a verb, you remove the –are/-ere/-ire ending from the infinitive form in order to get the stem, then you add the ending that identifies the person:

cammin-o
corr-i
part-e

However, there are many irregular verbs in Italian, whose behavior is not as predictable. For the time being, we will concentrate on regular forms.

Present Progressive Tense

For the Italian counterpart of the present progressive tense in English. Have a look at the following examples:

L’uomo sta camminando.
The man is walking.

L’uomo sta correndo.
The man is running.

When you want to refer to an action that is taking place at the moment of speaking and that lasts over a period of time, you can use the present tense of the verb stare + the gerund (-ing form) of the main verb. Literally, the verb ‘stare’ means ‘to stay’, but it is often used as a synonym for ‘essere’, as in ‘stare in piedi’ / to stand.

The gerund is formed by adding the ending -ando (1st conjugation)/-endo (2nd/3rd conjugation) to the verb stem:

camminare > camminando
correre > correndo
dormire > dormendo

Here is the present progressive conjugation of camminare, which we will use as a template for this very common verb form:

io sto camminando – I am walking
tu stai camminando – you are walking
lui/lei/esso sta camminando – he/she/it is walking
noi stiamo camminando – we are walking
voi state camminando – you are walking (plural)
loro stanno camminando – they are walking

Adjectives, Prepositions, and Crafting Sentences

Learn how adjectives align with the nouns they describe in gender and number, and how prepositions frame your sentences, providing clarity and context. We’ll also delve into forming negative statements, a straightforward but vital aspect of Italian grammar.

Adjectives

Unlike in English and other Germanic languages, in Italian adjectives normally follow the noun they refer to.

una camicia bianca
a white shirt

una maglietta blu
a blue T-shirt

pantaloni neri
black pants

These are singular forms, now we will have a look at plurals.

I pantaloni blu sono vecchi
The blue pants are old.

Le palle rosse sono piccole
The red balls are small.

As shown, adjectives that follow the verb ‘essere’ always agree in gender and number with the subject of the sentence

Adjectives such as those denoting color, size or other similar characteristics can also be placed before the noun for emphasis, though this use is not as common as the one illustrated above. On the other hand, some categories of adjectives – such as numbers are always placed before the noun.

Lui sta tenendo in mano due palle grandi e una palla piccola
He is holding two big balls and one small ball

Prepositions

Some prepositions in Italian that are used to express place:

in – in, at
su – on
sotto – under

Prepositions in Italian are used before a noun, generally (but not always) preceded by an article:

Un bam Un uomo a una fermata d’autobus
A man at a bus stop

una bicicletta su una macchina
A bike on a car

Negative Statements in Italian

To give a sentence a negative meaning, the word ‘non’/ not is used before the verb:

Il telefono non è rosso, è nero
The telephone is not red, it is black.

L’uomo non è seduto, è in piedi
The man is not sitting, he is standing.

Embark on Your Italian Learning Adventure with CORE Languages

At CORE Languages, we’re committed to making your Italian learning experience as engaging and enriching as possible. Through a blend of traditional and innovative teaching methods, we’re here to guide you every step of the way on your journey to Italian fluency. Join us and unlock a new world of linguistic and cultural discoveries.

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