Learning Italian for dummies (like me)

Marina's new contact lenses

Since meeting cart, I’ve been trying for some while to learn the Italian language. It not so bad when Cart is around since we both could communicate in English. But it was kind of awkward when trying to communicate to his friends.

Most of them were as fluent in English as I was in Italian. So while they were deep in their animated conversation, I had to poke cartcart, “Psst .. what are they talking about?”

I think one of the more perplexing moment was the time when I met Cart’s family. When we arrived, all I could manage was, ‘Buona Sera’ (Good Evening). I greeted everyone, till I heard a chuckle and Cart conveyed to me, “She’s asking if that’s the only phrase that you know.”

I was a bit embarrassed.

Cart’s mom started asked questions about me. I had so much to tell them! But I couldn’t. My grasp of the language was extremely rudimentary. After a while, it became a little cumbersome to let Cart play the role of the translator. I think he got dizzy at our incessant questions.

So I just sat there quietly, smiled, nodded my head and pretended to be silent and wise.

Later on, I thought I’d be clever and use some gestures. Sign language are universal, after all. But after a while, I realise that the gestures that we commonly use, might not have the same meaning overseas.

I remember or Oh no?
In Singapore this will mean, ‘Oh no!’, while over there it would be, ‘Ah I remember!’

Beat up or lets do it?
Here, this is a sign that you want to beat up that person, while there, it would mean, ‘Lets do it!’

Not to say that I havent been trying to learn the language. So far I’ve been using several language software which I borrowed from the library.

I like the Rosetta Stone as it is immersive:

pic of rosetta stone software

The entire lesson is in Italian, it will ask you a phrase and you pick the right frame. I think its great for beginners because it is very easy to understand and pick up visually.

I also like the flash cards for Italian before you know it:

pic of before you know it software

Its abit of rote learning which forces you to type in the right answer. It can get frustrating at times, but its a tried and true method which will improve the vocabulary.

I’m not too fond of the I can speak Italian by Transparent:

Is not newbie friendly

It’s not very newbie friendly. When I started the lesson, the words used were way over my head. I didn’t have the motivation to continue with the lessons. I think its more suitable for more advanced students.

Using software is definitely useful but I think there is something lacking. For me, human interaction where one can do actual conversation with another person is very important.

Initially, my friend Narima and me contemplated registering with the Italian Cultural Institute where we will be taught by qualified native Italian speakers.

But I balked when I calculated the total cost – it was nearly $500! I am sure that the teachers there are fantastic, but the price was abit much.

Then one day, I surfed the People’s Association website. I don’t quite remember when I signed up for their online newsletter, but each month, I’d have updates about interesting courses that they were conducting. Having attended one of their course, I was quite impressed at the quality workshops that they had for a discounted price.

I did a search for Italian and to my rapture, I saw that there actually was an Italian Language course. The only center that conducted the lessons was at Tampines, which is quite far since I live on the other side of Singapore. Thank goodness for my scooter! It didn’t take more than 30 mins to ride there.

My first lesson there was great. Though the teacher isnt a native Italian, having lived, worked and attained a diploma in Italy, she was more than competent in teaching us.

pic of a lesson

I am in a very lively class with friendly classmates. We’d make mistakes sometimes, but we laugh at our mistakes. The teacher is cheerful that it was such joy learning in the lessons. I can interact and practise with my classmates and the teacher – something that I dont think softwares can replace.

I’ve been to my fifth lesson so far. I wouldn’t say that my Italian is that great, but I feel a bit more confident as compared to that time when I met Cart’s family. Now I don’t have to pretend to be silent and wise anymore πŸ˜›

If you’re keen on learning, I’d urge you to try the community centers. The next Italian course is coming up. I’m definitely signing up for level 2 at the end of my current one πŸ™‚

By the way, here are some great supplementary sites which I highly recommend:

And before I go, there is a segment in the Italian phasebook that I was reading earlier where there some suggestive phrases that you could use.

The idea of whipping out the book when one is heavily making out is particularly funny to me.

13 Replies to “Learning Italian for dummies (like me)”

  1. Wow you’re really doing your homework! My knowledge of Italian is limited to musical terms, food, football and some Roman history πŸ™‚ Been to Italy twice, and am thinking of going back in the next few years.

    Am forwarding this post to my best friend. She speaks Italian and lived in Italy for a while…

  2. Vantan

    Italy is a facinating country isnt it? I’m looking forward to the day when we can just wear something and be able to understand each other in any different language. There is so much to learn and know from one another πŸ™‚

    I think your knowledge is much more compared to me. Before I met cart, my knowledge of Italian is limited to only uh … pizza.

    You friend speaks Italian? I’d love to know where and how she learnt the language plus where and your thoughts about Italy πŸ™‚

  3. hi! found your blog cos I’m searching for a centre that offers italian courses for reasonable courses. i can’t click onto your links, would you mind suggesting which community centres have italian courses available? or any place that offers reasonable italian courses?

    thanks! πŸ™‚

  4. Hello, how are your Italian studies going? Thanks for sharing your experience with learning the Italian language.
    Check out this website with a free learn Italian podcast at:
    and there are also free Italian videos with transcript as subtitles and some are Italian songs:
    I suppose you could have reached the intermediate or advanced level by now! F.

  5. Hello signora,

    Is that really how your eyes looked after you put in the acuvue define contacts?? The reason I asked is coz I just ordered some online and I’m hoping that my eyes dont look that big…

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