How Much Italian Can You Learn In One Month?

Okay, so what if you still don't think it's possible to be fluent in a new language in one year? Or, maybe you believe it's possible, but just not possible for you. Or, maybe a year sounds fine, but you think anyone who claims to do it in three months is either some kind of genious... or just a crazy person. Right?

It's been about a month since I started this site. How much have I learned so far? Is it useful? Can I have a conversation? Or should I just hide out and keep studying?

So let's see what I've learned. The following is all vocabulary that I have learned from LiveMocha, from my phrasebook, from YouTube, or from searching for basic grammar for a recent post here, and I am spending only about an hour each day studying.

Buongiorno. Mi chiamo Randy. Lei come si chiama? Come sta? Io sto bene. Io sono un americano che sta studiando l'italiano e scrivendo un sito web. È questo sito, che sta leggendo adesso! Mi piace l'italiano. Lei, che lingua si piache? Come lo studi?

Cosa fa dopo il lavoro? Quando viagge a casa, Lei prende l'autobus? La metropolitana? Guida la sua macchina? Cosa fa dopo il lavoro, in casa? Si piace guardare la televisione? Lei vuole ascoltare di musica? Che musica si piace? Mi piace Andrea Bocelli. Lui canta molto bene! Io ho già più di venti di suoi canti nel computer. Io ho anche più di cinquanta canti di Domenico Modugno! Lui anche canta bene. Ecco è uno dei suoi canti. Si chiama Volare. Questo mi piace molto.

Sto per andare al centro commerciale. Vado a comprare una nuova camicia. Ho bisogno di una nuova. Questa camicia non mi piace con questi pantaloni. Devo indossare questi pantaloni per il lavoro, e questi scarpi anche. Si piacciono le mie scarpe?

Ha l'acqua? Io ho mangiata il pranzo già, e di solito bevono birra dopo il pranzo, ma oggi io non ho di soldi. Io ho una tazza per l'acqua. È nel mio zaino. Nel mio zaino, ho anche una mela. Posso darte la mia mela per l'acqua. Non vuole? C'è una banca vicina? Posso prelevare dei soldi e comprare l'acqua. Ho bisogno di soldi. Penso che la piove viene oggi, e devo comprare un ombrello. Devo avere di soldi anche per la camicia che sto per comprare.

O, ecco l'autobus. Grazie per ascoltare. Arrivederci.

Now I'm pretty certain that I've made some grammatical errors in there, but that's a pretty decent one-sided conversation that could be struck up at a bus stop, or anywhere. And in spite of the small mistakes, any Italian-speaking person will understand me.

I know the text sounds a little nonsensical, but that's because I'm stretching out my vocabulary a bit. In actuality, a casual conversation with a stranger will probably stick to one topic longer. In fact, it's easy to spend several minutes just asking and answering "do you like this singer? did you hear his recent song on the radio?", etc.

I have doubt that next month I will have a much larger vocabulary, as well as an understanding of the past tense, after which I can have even more meaningful conversations. There is no reason why a person can't be making friends and practicing their new language after only one month (or even less!) of study. And coming soon, we'll find ways to do exactly that!


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Author: Yearlyglot
I'll lead you through a 12 month journey from knowing absolutely nothing about a language to having professional fluency.

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  • I have yet to study a European language (kind of looking forward to it) I don't actually think that Asian languages are harder (or languages that you have no prior exposure to) but I do think you have a boost learning a language that you have passive familiarity to, to the extent that the first couple of months of a completely strange language are about getting you to the same point you would be at in a language you have passive familiarity to.For example (and I know this is sketchy) Your first paragraph. Buongiorno. Mi chiamo Randy. Lei come si chiama? Come sta? Io sto bene. Io sono un americano che sta studiando l’italiano e scrivendo un sito web. È questo sito, che sta leggendo adesso! Mi piace l’italiano. Lei, che lingua si piache? Come lo studi?
    Hello I am called Randy, what is your name? How are you? I am good. I am an American studying Italian and writing a website. <sketchy>The site ???, I ???? Italian, language you ??? how do you study?</sketchy>If I look up about three to four words (starting with piace) I could improve that a lot more. I had to guess come = how, via just know roughly form exposure what come sta means.If you were studying Korean and wrote similar I would not have a single clue. Interestingly I bet if it was spoken clearly and steadily and I could re-run the recording a few times I could do the same in Italian, but nothing at all for Korean, and I would wager that I could read this out in a way that an Italian could understand (poorly but I have heard Italians speak, I can make a hacky first guess at the pronunciation).If I have this massive start before I even (formally) begin, do you think that timing estimates should be heavily qualified by how much exposure you have had, how close the language is to yours and where the writing system is similar?

  • Had to do it just been to a dictionary, three words, for now, reading and like and my translation could be improved somewhat.There is an approach somewhere (I will try to dig it up) where Europeans learn other European language initially just by reading trashy novels in that language without a dictionary or any instruction, some people find it very effective, personally I would have to use a dictionary occasionally and get sound files to listen to.

  • There is no doubt about the massive head start that an English-speaker has when learning a European language. In a way, that was kind of the point of this post, because it shows that with a little study (I used LiveMocha), you can quickly get up to a useful level in a month. Of course it's probably slightly skewed by the fact that I speak fluent Spanish and have at least a basic knowledge of French.With regard to your question about timing estimates, I'm not really sure what you're asking. Do you mean the one month? Or the fluency in one year? Or both?Don't forget, of course, that Italian still has its own spelling and pronunciation, and where that built-in advantage helps quite a lot for comprehension, it has a less dramatic aid to speaking and even less to writing, because of the spelling and grammar involved.

  • Agree that the headstart is mostly going to be comprehension based, I remember quite a lot from my brief translation exercise but i couldn't reproduce a similar paragraph without much more work and exposure.
    Timing estimates wise I am not sure what I was asking, I will come back to that, although I guess I could ask all things being equal how would Italian progress compare to Russian. The problem is of course all things are not equal, for me I know my passive exposure to Russian is considerably less than Italian, but considerably more than Korean (not very scientific) so in starting I have to do something to make up the shortfall and that something takes time (how long is the unknown I am struggling with).

  • There are too many factors to consider. For example...Spanish is (all things considered) quite similar to English. It's also the most accessible foreign language here in the US. Yet as it was my first foreign language, it took me a long time to become fluent.Russian is, on the contrary, considered to be quite difficult and very little like English. It's also much harder to find Russian speakers locally, and very difficult to find materials for learning and practice. Yet after about 18 months (that's where I'm at so far) I'm speaking pretty fluently, writing even more fluently, and with good grammar and spelling, and receiving compliments about how I know Russian better than people who've studied for 6-7 years. In fact, I can have conversations in Russian about topics that are much more complicated than those I can have in Spanish.What's the difference? I think the first difference is that I put an incredible amount of energy into studying Russian. I was very highly motivated (still am). I think if I'd have this level of desire to speak Spanish, I'd probably have mastered it in 3-6 months.Second, I had no foreign language experience when I took on Spanish, so I was a product of whatever methods where preferred by my teachers, or by the authors of the programs I puchased, the books I read, etc. But by the time I'd gotten to Russian, I had already had experience with Spanish, German, French, Phillipino, and Portuguese, to varying degrees. And moreover, I had experience with differen teachers in different classrooms, many programs, many books, many CDs. When I wanted study materials for Russian, I knew what to look for. And when I studied or practiced, I know the most effective ways to use my time.So now, with those two opposite extremes as reference, I can draw some interesting comparisons with my Italian studies this year. First, my language experience in general seems to give a tremendous advantage. And the similarities between Spanish and Italian are even more of an advantage. However, as much as I may enjoy it, I just can't get my interest level in Italian to anything close to what it is for Russian. (Who knows... maybe I just have Slavic blood?) I feel like I should be much farther along than I am right now.I guess trying to quantify these things into numerical data for expected time periods is pretty difficult. Fortunately for me, the "one-year" time frame tends to overcome that, because it seems that familiar language hold my interest less, whereas strange languages keep me fascinated. If I was working on a 3-month or 6-month system, I think I'd easily get burned out.

  • A comprehensive reply that :).Individuality trumps all it seems, I think I should only be thinking about trends in times as averages for groups of people, any individual can buck the trend due to special circumstances or interest for sure. Actually I think it was probably the exotic nature of Chinese that get me going for my first language so I can understand the attraction of Russian.

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