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What’s the best way to learn Italian without breaking the bank?

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What’s the best way to learn Italian without breaking the bank?

On March 17, 2016, Posted by , In Learning Italian, By , With 21 Comments

breaking-the-bankSo knowing that we were moving it Italy I did initially have a rush of blood to the head and went on a spending spree and bought as many phrase books, grammar books and dictionaries without really doing my homework beforehand. Once I got over the initial excitement I realised that there was a whole load of resources out there where I could learn Italian for next to nothing. Is this the best way to learn Italian? Not necessarily but for those on a tight budget the following is available to you for next to nothing or, in fact, for free.


1. Free Language Courses


Duolingo_logoEveryone loves a good language course, don’t they? It keeps the mind focused  and generally you can track your progress particularly against your peers. A great little course is Duolingo which is good fun and will give you some structure. This is great for beginners but will undoubtedly be limiting for those who are at an intermediate level and above.


2. Free books, newspapers and magazines


The web provides access to a lot of Italian reading matter. I particularly enjoyed the dual  language articles at Italy magazine and reading Italian newspapers at Online Newspapers. Free books can be found at BookRix and although not free,  some of my favourite ‘not too expensive’ books were:


First Italian Reader: A Beginner’s Dual-Language Book (Dover Dual Language Italian)


Easy Italian Reader, Premium 2nd Edition: A Three-Part Text for Beginning Students


Read and Think Italian with Audio CD (Read & Think)


3. Free Italian movies


I made use of You Tube quite a lot and still do. Whether its to watch a classic Italian movieil postino movie or something more recent like ‘X Factor Italia’ or ‘Italia’s Got Talent’ this can be a great source of material and facilitates the tuning of your ears to the sound of the Italian language.



4. Free Italian Radio stations


My favourite is RDS (I still listen to this while living in Italy now). I was able to stream this live and listen to it while still living in the UK. Most of the popular stations are available online. A large list of Italian radio stations can be found here.


5. Free Italian Immersion


Hearing and speaking the Italian language in your own country can be achieved by seeking out Italians and their hang-outs in the UK, US or wherever you call home. Find an Italian market, a cultural event or online hangouts to get the best Italian language learning experience – conversing in Italian.


If you know of any other free resources that can help with learning the Italian lingo then please leave a comment below or if you have anything else to add, I’d love to hear it and I’ll get back to you as soon as I can.

21 Comments so far:

  1. Chuka says:

    Hey Brendan,

    I was rolling in laughter as I was reading the first part of your article because it felt like you were telling my story! My house is full or French and Spanish books, old cassettes, CDs and the truth is that I never used them. All that money down the plughole.

    You’ve given some great ideas here to make learning fun. Naturally the fun element adds motivation into any learning process.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Chuka,

      I’m glad I put a smile on your face. Maybe we can open a ‘disused language learning material’ store; we’ll probably make a fortune. Any others out there with a similar story?

  2. Good work says:

    Definitely an interesting website. I use the Duolingo app myself. It has helped me improve my Spanish so much. I am currently looking into other languages as well. I would love to learn Italian. I am a big fan of Italian movies and Italian food joints. Not too many people speak Italian where I am from though. I still might give it a go!

    • Brendan says:

      I’d be interested to know what level of Spanish you believe that Duolingo got you to. I didn’t think it helped me once I got to Intermediate.

  3. Paula says:

    Hey Brendan,
    I decided to learn Spanish a few years ago – way before I was using and relying on the internet on a daily basis.
    I too have many Spanish books and phrase books hanging around the house and not very worn.
    You’re absolutely right in saying that the resources that are available are plentiful and free. My little girl was doing her homework the other day and couldn’t think of a word so she just said ‘I’ll google it’.
    Listening to kids speaking another language is another way of learning the basic lingo.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Paula, you are right there are lots of resources ‘plentiful and free’, its finding the correct useful resources and that is what I’m trying to achieve here.

  4. Lee says:

    My first thought was I wish there was a similar site for about the dozen languages I wound up speaking many languages very poorly during my working career traveling to Asia, Europe and South America. That said, your niche is very competitive with all the resources you mention so I think you should stress the “shoestring” angle more as I think you could be on to something by providing ways to get through the basic language learning curve on the cheap.

    Best regards,


  5. Cathy says:

    Hi Brendan,

    This reminds me of the time when I learned Japanese some 15 years ago. I would spend on phrasebooks and 3 months of introduction classes. But once I was in Japan, everything just flew out of my head because daily slang is again very different from what you learn in the book.

    Then I discovered the local library and the children’s corner. Pictured books – they make great resources for learning Japanese in a simple and fun way. Talking about going back to school ~

    I know it sounds childish, but when you are in a foreign land and can’t speak their language well, learning from the basics is the best way to go.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Cathy,

      Great idea about reading children’s book at the beginning when you are learning. Just beceause you are an adult one wouldn’t presume that you should translate an adult book; although as an adult you might crave some ITalian poetry or some other Italian adult subjects, but I do like the idea.

  6. Kathe says:

    Hi there! I read the whole article. I also love hearing the accent of Italian people. It sounds with a full of authority and confidence in it 🙂 . Anyways, can I use this to learn other language as well like French and Chinese? I find those two languages that are too difficult to comprehend.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Kathe,

      Although I’m no expert I don’t see any reason why the same rules and ideas can’t be applied to learning another language.

  7. Alicia says:

    I studied Italian in school, and it didn’t really go well. I think it would have been much better if I had your site to consult. If I had known where to find the movies and the radio stations, my understanding would have been much better. I liked your advice about where to find native speakers. Good work on this post!


    • Brendan says:

      Thanks Alicia for the kind words. Thank God for the internet, I think we would all have done better if this was around in our day. Finding native speakers is really important as it gives you the opportunity to speak the langauage which is key to any successful language learning.

  8. Dave says:

    So using the free stuff, how proficient did you become at Italian. How long did it take you? What about Rosetta stone? I know it’s not free, but what are your thoughts on it. I want to learn French, I’ll try out Duolingo and see how it goes. I’ll check back in 6 mths for an update.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Dave,

      I think it goes without saying that ‘free stuff only gets you so far’ and I think that applies to most things in life. These resources really provided a good grounding and like most people I wanted to see how easy it was and what was involved before investing further. To be fair, the free stuff gave me a good grammar base but in order to communicate properly (using all tenses) I needed to invest in a language course (I used both Rocket Italian and Rosetta Stone) and took an Italian learning course at a nearby college once a week,

  9. Rita A Gaupp says:

    Hi, Hola y Ciao, Brendan!

    Well, that gives you an obvious hint to the two languages I have attempted to learn! I will be honest and say right away that I have mastered neither. Spanish, I began learning a million and one years ago in high school, majored in Spanish education to the point of mastering writing essays in it, but then dropped it cold until I took a trip to both Costa Rica and Belize years later. I actually was able to converse with and understand the native people after being there a week. However, that was the extent of that.
    With Italian, I tried learning some Italian prior to a visit to Rome, and again was able to only slightly use what I learned after a week. I was very limited to common phrases for a traveler though!
    Duolingo is not wonderful. I think taking a real in depth course will only work for me. I need to know all the basic structure before I learn anything! LOL. Kinda like learning how to build a website,huh?
    I love your website, Brendan. It is very informative to me, but I may be a tad biased. Ha.
    I am 100% of Italian descent! My parents and grandparents are all deceased now, and how I regret I do not know so much more about my descendants. I was too young when most of my grandparents were alive.
    My plan is to go back to Italy for a longer time and visit all over the country within the next 5 years or so! I will try to follow you and your website here to gain more insight into what Italy has to offer!
    Thanks so much, Brendan!

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Rita,

      Thanks for the kind words and I’m delighted that you will be using our site to gain more insight while travelling over the next few years.

      Regarding the failed attempts at your languages….don’t beat yourself up about it, this happens very often with individuals and it is just down to lack of motivation, lack of an end goal. If there isn’t a real purpose to learn the language, such as LOVE, then it will never happen. But hey, 3rd time lucky, we hope!!

  10. jeffrey16201 says:

    Very unique content you shared on your website, very friendly and easy to understand. Very good suggestions also, everyone has wanted to learn a new language at some time in their life before.

    well I am happy I had the opportunity to visit your website today, wish you all the luck my new friend.

    • Brendan says:

      Hi Jeffrey,

      Thanks for the kind words, I’m glad you found the suggestions helpful. The question is ‘did you get the urge to study Italian?

  11. Mauricio says:

    Hello Brendan and very nice page you have, I have been interested in learning more about Italy, amazing musicians were born there, Verdi, Puccini, Paganini. For musicians like them I want to know more.
    Like you said Duolingo is a great option and their smartphone app is very good, I always use it when I am going to work.
    Great page, I will visit it more often.

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