by Dave Kellam used
under terms of Creative Commons license.)
Our free Italian lessons are an online adaptation of the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center's Italian Headstart.
You are about to begin a course designed to enable you to communicate in situations which you are likely to encounter in Italy. The emphasis of the course is on speaking and understanding Italian, and you will be working extensively with audio files.
1. We discourage you from trying to read the Italian without listening to the audio files. If you attempt to read first and then listen to the audio files, you will quickly discover that in many cases what you hear doesn't sound anything like what you see, and you will have wasted valuable time.
You will notice that when some words are pronounced by themselves, they will sound different from the way they sound in a sentence. Look at the English sentence "Did you eat yet?" which usually comes out sounding something like "Jeetjet?" Italian is no different, so pay careful attention to the way words combine with each other in sentences.
2. You should never repeat anything you don't understand. This does not mean that you must be able to translate everything word for word; it simply means that you should be able to attach a meaning to what you hear and repeat.
A good technique is to try to form pictures of what you are repeating. In certain kinds of exercises you will find yourself becoming very adept at making the correct responses without being aware of what you're saying. Guard against this! Always think about what you're saying. When you begin to think in Italian, you'll find it much easier to monitor what you're saying. It won't matter if there is no word-for-word correspondence between the Italian and English, because you won't be thinking in English and translating words, you'll be translating thoughts.
3. At first it will seem as if you are never going to be able to make some of the sounds you hear. Remember, you are overcoming 20, 30, 40, or more years of speech habit and your muscles will need some retraining. It's almost as though you suddenly had to start writing with your other hand; it can be done, but it will take some practice.
4. Lastly, and most importantly, practice speaking Italian at every opportunity. Use what you have learned. Don't be afraid to experiment with the words and structures you learn.
language! Make new sentences, even if you
have to use
word. Express your
thoughts. that's what
language is all about.