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The Most Effective Way of Learning Italian

Mar 22, 2008
Learning a foreign language is not an easy task but, after years of struggling and frustration, I believe I've found the most effective way to do it. I can now speak Italian to quite an advanced level and I'd like to offer you a few suggestions as to how to give yourself the best chance of success.

The main thing is that you really need a teacher. While teach-yourself materials can be useful as back-up, they are no substitute for someone to talk and listen to you, to correct your mistakes and to explain why you should say it this way and not that. I spent a couple of years with a book and CDs but I didn't get to grips with the language until I enrolled on a course (or rather, the right course).

If you want to know about science, maths or the history of art, books and lectures will take you a long way. It's not the same with a language: you learn a language best by speaking it. For this reason, you need a very small class or, even better, one-to-one tuition.

Every Thursday night for 18 months or so, I went to Italian class at my local college. I learnt more than I had at home by myself but most people were coming just for fun, for something sociable to do, and progress was slow.

About a year ago, I found a language school in Manchester, where I live, that specialises in one-to-one training and this is when I really started to learn. When you are the only student, the course moves at your pace, you don't miss anything if you are ill and, because you can't just sit at the back and hope the teacher doesn't notice you, you have to make the most of every lesson.

Apart from the fact that it's the most efficient way to learn, a one-to-one course is also much more convenient because you can arrange the lessons for times that suit you. With my childcare and work commitments, I really like this flexibility.

When I'd mastered the basics and was equipped to cope, we started doing the entire lesson in Italian, which I really like. It's not just an academic exercise any more; I'm using the language to communicate with my teacher. This forces me to be resourceful and I get a huge buzz from making myself understood and from understanding what she says to me.

So this is my advice to you: stop wrestling with books and CDs on your own, bypass the big group and cut straight to one-to-one lessons with an experienced, native-speaking Italian teacher. I honestly wouldn't have imagined I could get this far - and you might just surprise yourself too!
About the Author
If you are in or close to Manchester (UK), contact the JMJ language school and start a one-to-one Italian course any time you like.
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