Find out how hard it is to learn Italian from our international students
We asked our international students to tell us how hard it is to learn Italian. And of course, beginners drew up the longest list! Indeed, at the very beginning, learning Italian can make you struggle a little bit, but then, it gets easier and easier. Learning a new language is like going on an adventurous journey: It is always worth to do a bit of training to prepare ourselves for the adventure, but it’s also normal to have sometimes unexpected challenges to face. A bit of frustration is common: accept it, but remember that enthusiasm, motivation and a bit of lightness are always the right solutions to all problems… Never give up! And remember: you always learn by mistake!
Pronunciation and handwriting
Don’t worry, we write as we pronounce. There are only a few things to take into account: especially the pronunciation of sounds such as “c” and “g”, which become strong if followed by the letters a, h, o, u or sweet if followed by the vowels e and i. Few other syllables require attention to pronunciation, but you’ll learn them in a day!
Yes, strangely enough, we have 7 definite articles! Hey, you: I saw that scared expression on your face. Don’t worry, 7 is a magic number! Therefore, you simply have to remember which ones to use according to gender (male and female), number (singular and plural), and the initial letters of the nouns they refer to. Furthermore, we have precise rules to use them correctly (and it’s not at all obvious to have “very precise” rules in Italian). So, even if at the beginning you won’t use them in the most natural and fluent way, once you’ll learn their rules, it’ll be a piece of cake!
Variable parts of speech: articles, nouns, pronouns, adjectives and verbs
In Italian these words change their ending according to gender and number! For example, if you applaud a male musician and say to him”Bravo!”, you’ll be right. But, if you want to address to a female musician, you must say “Brava!” or if it’s a group of women, you need to say “Brave!“. And finally, if it’s a mixed group of men and women or just of men, you’ll say “Bravi!“. Articles, nouns, pronouns, verbs undergo these alterations as well. It’s like changing shoes depending on the occasion, and I am sure that at the end you’ll know which pair suits the circumstances better!
For the conjugations of irregular verbs there is a very practical remedy: Learning them by heart! Choose the storage learning system that works better for you: write their conjugations with a lipstick on the mirror of your bathroom, tattoo them on your forearm or sing them to your boss. In a nutshell, every method that works is allowed!
Combine prepositions and articles into one word as you were playing with Lego bricks. It’s all about saving time! Do you want to learn how to merge prepositions and articles together? It’s enough to follow a scheme similar to math tables! But, I’ve good news for you: The number of possibilities is not infinite! Sounds good? Let’s study and try!
Construction of verbs as to like
Do you have to conjugate it using the singular or the plural form? It depends on the noun the verbs refer to! For example, we say Mi piace il gelato, but also mi piacciono gli spaghetti. See? It’s all about the number of the noun. It’s pretty easy!
And even if it doesn’t convince you, we can’t rewrite grammars unfortunately! So, give up, learn this easy rule, and relax: these constructions are not illogical, but differently logical!
Reflexive and reciprocal verbs
They refer to actions that a person performs on himself (like lavarsi: to wash oneself) or that involve two or more people (like sposarsi: to get married). Since they convey personal, relational, and affective feelings, we use them a lot because dont’t forget that the Italians are also deep, emotional, and passionate!
The choice of the auxiliary in compound tenses
To be or not to be? That’s the problem! The solution is: sometimes to be, sometimes to have. A compound tense is made up of two words: an auxiliary (to be or to have conjugated in the correct tense and person) and the past participle of the verb. Let’s say that with reflexive verbs we always use the auxiliary to be, with transitive verbs we use to have, and with intransitive verbs sometimes we use to be and sometimes to have. For example: mi sono svegliato alle sette, ho bevuto il caffè e sono andato al lavoro. So, take a deep breath, and try to answer this question: “Is this verb transitive or intransitive?” If the answer does not come, you can look it up in the dictionary, your trusted companion!
ci and ne particles
Yes, these two are powerful and multifunctional pronouns: they can replace a couple of words in one fell swoop! Therefore, our advice is to learn their functions: read a few sentences, and do exercises on this specific subject. In the beginning, you’ll probably avoid them like the plague, until one day they’ll nonchalantly come out of your mouth!
Articles, prepositions, pronouns
Short words, tricky words! These two-three letters words will always cause you some trouble even if you are proficient. At first, when you hear them from the natives, you’ll hardly recognize them. We call it “word jam”: An incomprehensible and difficult to digest conglomerate of phonemes. Unfortunately, their rules are not always defined. Our little tip: When you learn a new verb, learn also the preposition it goes with. And, don’t give up! It’s all about listening to practice.
The difference between the near and imperfect past
Let’s admit it: The management of these 2 tenses is often a tough nut to crack for our students! Indeed, if we use the near past for events which took place in a definite time of the past, on the other hand, we use the imperfect past for repeated, habitual or lasting events which instead took place in an indefinite time of the past. In the first case, temporal boundaries are very clear and specific while in the second case they’re blurred and unclear.
If it wasn’t for the 3rd persons which are all different, the reflexive, indirect and direct pronouns would be like homozygous twins separated at birth. If two pronouns, one indirect (such as mi, ti, le, etc.) and the other one direct and referring to the 3rd person (la, lo, li, le), bump into each other in the same sentence, the indirect one undergoes a little change. As a result, the ending “a” of the indirect pronouns becomes “e”. Does it mean that I can’t say mi lo presti, quel libro? , but I need to say me lo presti quel libro? I know it sounds like science fiction, but let’s say it’s just… a little “surgery”!
Such verbs contain 1 or 2 pronouns that sometimes completely change the meaning of the original verb. Pronominal verbs may look like U.F.O. verbs: they rarely have a counterpart in other languages, but in Italian they are widely used! So, our tip is to learn their meaning immediately and then, their conjugation. If you practice enough, it becomes a child’s play!
Always a bit problematic for students, it’s the most elegant mode of our beautiful language. If you want to use it, let’s wear a suit firstly! Just kidding (flip-flops allowed!), but using subjunctive will lend you a more sophisticated air. So, when do you have to use it? It depends, but we normally use it after verbs that convey subjective opinions, doubts or personal will. Try it out, and don’t be scared!
The hypothetical period of the 2nd and 3rd type
These abovementioned 2 are not aliens, but simply sentences introduced by “if” that refer to hypotheses or conditions. They only require a mechanical combination of modes (subjunctive and conditional) and tenses (simple or compound). Once you learn this perfect mechanism, everything will get pretty much easier. Don’t worry, though: Here we are to teach you everything. You’ll finally learn Italian!
The concordance of times
When sentences are rather long and articulate, it’s easier to make a mistake in using verbal tenses! You just have to keep in mind what the main sentence is, and what is its temporal relationship with its dependent sentences. Once this relationship of subordination has been established, these rules will be clearer. Just apply them mechanically, and learn Italian!
From direct to indirect speech
An excellent way to practice your skills in the concordance of Italian tenses, and not only! Indeed, changing someone’s speech from the direct to the indirect form will force you to do a series of space and time adjustments that your neurons will find amusing (maybe!)
As you can see, nothing is impossible with a little practice and a strong motivation! Above all, the greater the exposure to the language, the easier it would be for you to use even the most complex grammatical structures and to finally learn Italian. Immerse yourself in this beautiful language without thinking twice: a great journey is waiting for you!
To learn more, discover our 10 top tips on how to learn Italian faster!