5 tips for speaking like an Italian, even if you don’t know any Italian person

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Do you want to sound like an Italian? Or as close to one as possible? Then I’m afraid you really need to open your mouth… you need to practice speaking. And if you are thinking “…but I don’t know anyone who speaks Italian”, then read on. I have some tips for both  extroverts and introverts.

Rest assured that yes, you can actually improve on your spoken Italian by working by yourself.

And while some of these tips might appeal to you more than the others, try them all for best results. Adjust them according to your personality, environment and taste and stick to the ones that feel most comfortable. For me music was it.

The first recommendation, though, is to:

  • Get native: when you access videos or recorded content in Italian, make sure it is from a native speaker. Yes, I know that they might speak a bit faster, but a correct pronunciation is definitely a good start. Good pronunciation is what you are aiming for and you don’t want to travel too far down the wrong path. Take the word capello (hair) and cappello (hat). These words not only spell differently, but they sound different. A non-native might struggle to fully grasp that subtle and yet massive difference.

Next, surround yourself with the language. You can do this in many ways:

  • Get repetitive: Repeat, or read, out loud. Why? Because once your brain hears the words coming out of your mouth, it will start thinking: ”yea, that sounds just like in the video” or “nope, I really can’t say this one, try again”. When you hear yourself repeating sentences after someone just said them in a video or cd, you will strangely know if you are saying them correctly. Fine tune it, because what you are doing is training your brain to control the mouth (lips, tongues, etc.…) correctly, so that you can become more precise.
  • Get silly: Practice your new words in the shower, in the car, with your patient friend (or partner). The other advantage of having your brain hearing these foreign words coming out of your mouth is that it will stop resisting saying them when faced with a real Italian speaker. All that practice in the car will encourage you to give it a go next time. No more freezing when it's your turn to reply back in Italian.
  • Get musical: Sing along. Buy or download some Italian songs. Use YouTube to find out which ones are within your genre, then go for it! For best results, stick with a song or two for a period of time, say a couple of weeks. This way you can become more and more familiar with it until you memorise parts of it and rely less and less on the written lyrics. Try Eros Ramazzotti or Zero Assoluto or Vasco Rossi.
  • Get out there: Go to local Italian places. Authentic Italian restaurants are a good start. The first time, bring along your notebook with your learnt sentences and try only those. For example, try greeting, asking for the bill, saying thank you. The next time, try without your notes or add new sentences. Ask your friends if they know of an Italian place where at least someone speaks Italian (usually the owner). Italian film festivals, Italian food festivals...get all those dates in your calendar. You could also make it a goal to attend them and speak some Italian on the day.

Most of all, make sure you are enjoying the process, ask for more tips, and prova! (give it a go!)

What did you find works for you?


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