Study Italian language for free

(photo by  Dave Kellam used under terms of Creative Commons license.)
italian flagOur free Italian lessons are an online adaptation of the Defense Language Institute, Foreign Language Center's Italian Headstart.

This Free online Italian language program includes 5 themes, 33 lessons, 45 dialogues, over 300 exercises & quizzes & around 12h of audio (MP3 format). 

Student Guide:

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.

Play  with  the  language! Make  new  sentences, even  if you  have  to  use  an  English word.  Express  your  thoughts. that's what  language  is  all about.

Course Content

(photo by  Bruno Cordioli used under terms of Creative Commons license.)

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The program is divided in 4 themes:

Course Design

(photo by  j.labrado used under terms of Creative Commons license.)
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1. Sentence patterns and Vocabulary.

For the conversations and the exercises of this course, we have selected the most frequently used sentence patterns, words and expressions, and the least complicated phrases and sentences. 

 2. Grammar.

Grammar explanations in the Headstart program are minimal. Unless specifically requested by the students, instructors should avoid grammar explanations. 

 3. Instructional modes.

One of the advantages of the Italian Headstart program is that the materials can be used in a completely self-instructional mode without an instructor. The students work on their own with the website and take the Self-evaluation Quiz at the end of each lesson whenever they are ready.