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My Guide to 3/4 Italian
« on: December 19, 2019, 10:28:15 am »
Hey AN!

I went from a D student (the worst student in my class) last year to A+ on every SAC and the dux of Italian for my cohort this year with a raw 44 SS. Basically I immersed myself in everything Italian, everything I did revolved around the language. Even everyday activities I would constantly be constructing sentences in my head in Italian instead of English. It’s really all about practice when it comes to a language and the best part is that you can practice anytime, anywhere, in your head.

I was horrible at Italian last year, knew only the basic tenses and basically no grammar/proper sentence forming. For whatever reason I actually put effort into my Italian study when it came to the end of year exam and discovered that I really loved the language and was genuinely interested. So the first thing you need to have is a genuine interest. This will allow you to practice every day, which is absolutely necessary to improve at a new language. Without an interest and desire to learn by yourself, instead of relying on a teacher, you’ll never really improve that much. This is one thing that I found - that teachers by themselves can’t really help you if you’re not willing to practice every day in your free time when you’re not doing other subjects.

So basically there are three areas to learn: listening, speaking and writing. They all contain obvious sub-areas such as tenses, grammar and sentence structure that you will incorporate into all three.

This is perhaps the easiest/most productive area as writing gives you time to think and allows you to consolidate new tenses and practice vocab and sentence structure which will, in turn, improve your listening and speaking skills.

Firstly, writing also involves reading. Reading is crucial as it allows you to improve by basically copying the sentence structure and grammar used by Italian writers. I have an excellent resource for this, it’s called “L’italiano secondo il metodo natura". It's comprised of many short stories, that start off with basic Italian and progressively get more advanced, teaching you grammar, an absolute ton of vocabulary and new tenses along the way - as well as how to use them specifically! It is quite long but I started about a quarter through the book and this book has been extremely, extremely helpful at teaching new words and grammar. Really I couldn’t recommend it enough. It also uses a lot of passato remoto, which albeit unnecessary for 3/4 Italian, can really impress your teacher/examiner. Your learning should basically revolve around this book, as you will progressively become a more advanced Italian speaker as the book itself becomes progressively more advanced.

This is basically the only Italian thing I read, for me it was interesting enough. However you can also go through some other Italian books. The key to Italian is interest. This is why the classroom is a horrible place to learn a language - it’s boring. My teacher made it extremely boring by just handing out random Italian articles that I really couldn’t care less about. This is why you need interesting content to learn and improve.

Also with reading, it can be beneficial to read out aloud to practice your pronounciation and general flow/fluency when actually speaking in Italian.

So, writing. I kept a journal that I would write in Italian every day. I just wrote random things that happened during the day and if my day was boring then I would make up stories and try to make them as visceral as possible to really exploit and hone in on my skills. The more graphic and in-depth you can make your writing, the more it will improve. You will make mistakes but this is a good thing. In my journal I’d make heaps of mistakes at the start, but then see them slowly disappear as I kept writing and learning.

An excellent resource for writing is a website called “context.reverso.net”. This site is absolutely amazing. Just chuck in an English phrase/sentence and it will give you an exact Italian translation (the translations are pulled from movies/books, that way you know it’s accurate). When using this resource I’d always highlight what I had to translate so I could learn from the example, as well as learn how to integrate that example into a sentence. This website can also give you new words and teach you exactly when to use certain tenses. Many students find it difficult to determine when to use the passato prossimo or the imperfetto. This website will tell you when to use it based on context. Just throw in an English phrase in the past tense and then you can learn from example, and from the context around the translated statement, when to use what tense in Italian.

In your journal, always be sure to read over what you have written all the time. This way you can pick up on mistakes and consolidate newly learnt phrases, words and grammar (that you should highlight).

In my journal I also made a list of all the new words I had learnt, then defining them using Italian. This way you can completely eliminate English from the equation. Many teachers focus on English to Italian translation rather than learning the actual language. I really disagree with this. Italian and English are different in so many ways, so write a list of all the words and phrases you have learnt, and write the definitions of the words and phrases, but keep them in Italian - even if this means using very simple expressions to define other words.

This can be the hardest part for many people. It requires vigorous and holistic practice to perfect. I was fortunate enough to have Italian speaking parents that I could practice with, however you can practice with your teacher or even just yourself. I spent a lot of time practicing speaking by simply saying stuff in Italian out loud. Many students prefer to memorise their orals. This is simply a shortcut and I do not recommend it. It does not show that you know the language, and come exam oral time, they will definitely throw a curveball to you like they did to me.

Speaking links to thinking, and the goal is to think directly in Italian - no translation from English! Thinking faster in Italian will allow you to speak faster in Italian, and eventually, you’ll be able to say complex phrases and words will come to you easier without you even thinking about it.

The key to this is practice. Think in Italian literally all the time. Anything that you wouldn’t normally say to yourself in your head because it’s obvious, think it in Italian. Many people disregard thinking directly in another language however it is very important. Just think about random things, and if need be, think it in English first and then try your best to think the same thing in Italian. This may be hard at first, but I promise, it gets so much easier. I could barely say anything in Italian at all at the start of the year, now I can speak fast and say complex phrases without even needing to think about it. It also allows you to practice your Italian at any time because its in your head, so you won't have to face the embarrasment and judgement of talking to yourself out aloud :D

This is the fun part because it allows you to spend a lot of your time watching TV and movies, yay! Genuinely, this is the best way to practice listening. What is key though, is that you watch interesting content. Secondly, NEVER put on English subtitles! Ever! Italian subtitles are acceptable, however only when absolutely necessary and you’re really struggling. Otherwise try to watch the content raw. This can be hard at first because many TV shows and movies in Italian speak very fast with complex tenses.
I found this guy on Youtube who runs a series on learning Italian. He creates many videos on various topics in Italian, most importantly speaking SLOWLY in a way that beginners can understand. Here’s a video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gSRGD0J7qFY&list=PLTvJgY2rGJY8c5MzWbfjrPP2E5-I6F_Hd

Once you improve on this, go to the next step. For me this was more Youtube. Personally, I’m into technology so I would look for technology videos in Italian. This is the key, you need to find content that will be interesting to you! Otherwise you will get bored, tune out and the whole process is useless. I found several channels, namely Andrea Galeazzi (tech channel), Marco Montemagno, GioPizzi, AutoMoto.it, Space Valley (very funny channel btw) and a ton more. They’re not hard to find, but they help you improve your listening immensely.

I know many of these channels speak fast. This is why it is imperative that you watch the videos several times until you understand. Never skip out on a video or move on because you don’t understand it. Keep watching, slow it down, put on subtitles (in Italian) if necessary, but the key will always be understanding. Just keep watching the same video over and over until you get everything!

These videos are also good ways to pick up on new words and sentence structures.

You need to be able to distinguish between different words and tenses when listening. This is where reading and listening link. If you can recognise tenses and different words when reading, this will facilitate an improvement to your listening ability. To further improve this, read out aloud (when you can). This will train your brain and ears to recognise the differences between words and tenses through the sound of your own voice.

 It can be especially hard to process and understand what has been said when listening to an italian speaker. This is why, in your early stages, it is acceptable to pause and think about what has been said. This is imperative, if you simply keep listening without actually understanding what the speaker is talking about, you will never improve.

You need to know these tenses, their conjugations, and when to use them:
1. Presente (easiest)
2. Passato prossimo
3. Trapassato prossimo
3. Imperfetto (often confused with the passato prossimo - make sure you know the difference)
4. Congiuntivo
5. Conditional
6. Past conditional
7. Futuro
8. Gerundio

Grammar and general language structures
Some advanced ways to use tenses that will definitely come in handy.
1. Futuro anteriore - this is basically the equivalent of “I will have done“ in English. Usage: futuro of avere/essere + passato prossimo of a verb. For example,
    1. I will have done (to do = avere verb) - avrò finito
    2. I will have arrived (to arrive = essere verb) - sarò arrivato
2. Conditional + past imperfect - always used the past conditional when pairing with the past imperfect. For example, instead of saying “I thought you would give me the food“ (pensavo che mi daresti il cibo), you’d say “I thought you would have given me the food“ (pensavo che mi avresti dato il cibo)

For those who have done 1/2, you’ve probably already done this, but there’s an easy way to know the conjugation for most congiuntivo verbs in the present.
1. Present - the first, second and third person singular conjugations will be the same for each individual verb. Think of it like this: cut off the last three letters of the infinitive verb, then add another letter (let’s call this the adaptive letter), which will either be “a” or “i”, depending on the verb. It will never be “e”. If the infinitive is an -are verb, then this letter will be “i”. If the infinitive is an -ire or -ere verb, this letter will be “a”. This is your conjugation for the first, second and third person singular of the verb.
    1. For example, pensare (-are) becomes io pensi, tu pensi, lui/lei pensi.
    2. Mentire (-ire) becomes io menta, tu menta, lui/lei menta.
2. Then first person plural (noi) is regular, and stays as -iamo for every verb. Same goes for second person plural (voi) which stays as -iate.
3. Then for third person plural (loro), the same rules apply as for the first, second and third person singular. For example, pensare becomes loro pensino, due to the adaptive letter being “i”.
4. Exceptions - there are some exceptions to this rule, for verbs such as “tradire” which becomes “lui/lei tradisce”. It is an -ire verb, so the adaptive letter is “a”. However, in this case, since the third person singular ends in “isce”, you replace the “e” on the end to an “a” (the adaptive letter), becoming “tradisca”: io tradisca, tu tradisca, lui/lei tradisca. Or, another example, "io riesco" becomes "io riesca"

Know when the congiuntivo is necessary! And unnecessary for that matter (more on that later).
Common subjective verbs: pensare, credere, sperare, avere paura di.
It's usually used for opinions, however, there are other cases when it's necessary.

Here are some (usually) non-taught rules for when to use it:
1. Non + verb + che —> congiuntivo (e.g non sapevo che fosse il tuo (I didn't know that it was yours))

2. Cercare/Trovare/Bisognare + che —> congiuntivo (e.g bisogna una persona che sia intelligente (we need someone who is smart); non trovavo che fosse utile (I didn't find it to be useful))

3. Impedire + che —> congiuntivo (e.g non puoi impedire che succeda! (you can't stop it from happening!))

4. È il più (adjective) che io abbia mai (verb) (e.g è la più bella cosa che io abbia mai visto! (that's the most beautiful thing that I've ever seen!))

5. Aspettarsi + che —> congiuntivo (e.g mi aspettavo che tu lo facessi (I expected you to do it)).

6. Mi chiedo (i wonder) --> congiuntivo (e.g mi chiedo se gli abbia gia parlato, I wonder if he has already spoken to him)

Verb Prepositions
Many teachers completely disregard this for whatever reason, however the language is literally built on verb prepositions. Almost every Italian verb has a preposition that follows the verb when paired with another verb, and this preposition is different for every verb. You just need to learn and remember them, it’s not too hard. Use this link: https://www.thoughtco.com/italian-verbs-and-prepositions-2011671 it tells you the preposition for basically every verb you will come across in daily Italian language, and they are absolutely essential to the language. For example, you can’t say “non riesco usare il telefono”. You must say “non riesco a usare il telefono”.

The use of “ci”

Many teachers go over the basic use of ci, but there are several useful expressions that use ci. Usually ci has no literal meaning but is simply used to signify an expression. Otherwise, it can simply mean "us" or "to us" as a direct/indirect object pronoun.

Here’s a list of the uses as expressions:

Volerci = it requires, it needs e.g. per fare un tavolo ci vuole il legno (making a table requires wood, or to make a table you need wood);

Metterci = it takes, e.g. il treno per Milano ci mette due ore (the train to Milano takes two hours)

Starci = to agree, to accept, to join in, e.g. Maria ha detto che se andiamo in pizzeria lei ci sta (Maria said that if we are going to the pizzeria she will join us)

Starci bene = it suits something, it goes well with. We have already seen an example of this redundant ci above in qui ci sto bene (I like it / feel at home here, or literally: here I like it here). Here are some more examples: con la pasta ci sta bene il Parmigiano (Parmigiano cheese goes well with pasta), in Italia ci sto bene (I feel at home / comfortable in Italy, Italy suits me)

Farcela = succeed/be able to do something. Usually an expressive phrase e.g "non ce la faccio!" meaning "I can't do it!".

Riuscirci = to succeed at something/also to be able to do something. Not as expressive as farcela, e.g "se ci riesco, cosa faresti?" meaning "if i'm able to do it, what will you do?"

In the following expressions, ci has the meaning of ‘about it’, ‘of it’, ‘in it / them’, etc.

Crederci = to believe in something, e.g. Giovanni: ci credi nei fantasmi? Anna: No, non ci credo (Giovanni: do you believe in ghosts?Anna: No, I don’t believe in them)

Provarci = to have a go at something, e.g. Giovanni: hai mai sciato? Anna: No, mai. Giovanni: Dai, provaci! (Giovanni: Have you ever skied? Anna: No, never. Giovanni: Come on, have a go at it!)

Capirci = to understand about / of something e.g. non ci capisco nulla (I don’t understand anything about it, or I don’t understand any of it).

Farci = to do something about something, e.g. mi dispiace, ma non ci posso fare nulla (I’m sorry, but I can’t do anything about it)

Starci = to fit in it, e.g. questo parcheggio è un po’ stretto. Pensi che la macchina ci stia? (This parking space is a bit small. Do you think the car would fit in it?), no non ci sta (no it doesn’t fit in it).

Pensarci = to think about it. Don't say pensarne - even though "ne" means "about it", this is incorrect. A simple explanation for this is that, just like ne is a pronoun for di, ci is a pronoun for a, and a is the verb preposition for pensare, so it requires ci. Similarly, the verb preposition for riuscire is a. This is why we say "ci riesco".

Ci penso io = I'll take care of it. Note you must include the "io", otherwise it means "i think about it".
Can also be adapted to suit other views, for example change the conjugation to the "tu" form to be "ci pensi tu", meaning "you take care of it"

Other tips
1. Congiuntivo is not always necessary! Many students say “pensavo che io potessi fare i compiti” (I thought that I could do the homework) or something similar, however this can be replaced with a much more simple phrase. Whenever the conjugation person of the verb before “che” agrees with the conjugation person of the verb after “che”, you can use “di” instead of che, and completely eliminate the need for the congiuntivo, using the infinitive instead (usually when this is used, the last letter of the infinitive after "di" is removed). For example, the above phrase becomes “pensavo di poter fare i compiti” (I thought I could do the homework), note the infinitive after "di", "potere", has the last letter "e" removed to become "poter". Another example, "lui sperava di aver preso un pezzo di carta."

2. Adverbs always go after the verb conjugation if in the present/imperfect/future, or in between the auxiliary verb (avere/essere) and the participle of the verb if passato/trapassato prossimo or gerundio. For example in the passato prossimo, it is always “non l’ho mai fatto” (adverb is mai, between the “ho” and the “fatto”). Technically “non l’ho fatto mai” is incorrect. Basically, when there are two verbs involved, as is the case with passato prossimo, trapassato and gerundio, the adverb goes between the two verbs.

3. Nel + verb = in + verb, for example, you can say “nel fare così”, meaning “in doing so”.

4. Sia + qualcosa + sia + qualcos’altro = both something and something else

5. Research the “modi di dire" They are metaphorical expressions. They’re not necessary but can impress your teacher. I have a list of some complex metaphorical expressions and phrases if anyone would like it.

6. If you want to say "I would be able to do it", don't say "potrei farlo". Instead say "sarei in grado di farlo". "Essere in grado di" is a simple replacement for the verb "potere".

7. Quello che! Many people do not know how to use this, however it is absolutely necessary. Basically, it just means "what" as a substitute of "che cosa", but it is used as a "what" that is absolute and known, whereas "che cosa", or simply, "cosa", is used when something is unknown. I know this sounds confusing, but here's a clear example:
 - "I don't know what you'll do" is obviously an unknown, as it is unknown what the person being talked to will do. Thus, it becomes "non so cosa farai".
- "i know what you will do" is obviously known. Thus it becomes "so quello che farai". Another example would be "mi piace quello che lui mi ha dato". It is known what has been given to the speaker. If it is not known, then you use "cosa". For example, "mi chiedo cosa mi darà". In this phrase, the speaker does not know what he will be given.

8. Take your time! Language learning cannot and will not happen overnight. You need to progress slowly and focus on one piece at a time to really improve. The key to language learning is practice and immersion. Immerse yourself in the language through reading, writing, listening, watching and THINKING in Italian every day for as long as you can, every opportunity, and you will learn and improve no matter what.

9. The language itself is, basically, based on sounding good to the listener. So if it sounds wrong, it probably is.

10. Final Tip - Don’t consider a language as just another subject that requires note taking and answering practice questions. I never specifically studied any tenses or grammar, and I never completed the exercises and homework questions for Italian throughout the whole year. I find it completely useless and filling out questions and exercises that “train” your grammar knowledge is inefficient and boring. The key to language learning is CONTEXT and INTEREST! Think of it like this - babies learn languages with literally no prior knowledge, no other languages to base this off. This is how you should think of your language learning. Italian and English should be mostly separated, and there is absolutely no need to write notes and lists of conjugations for every verb. As you read, listen to and watch interesting content, you will automatically pick up on this and learn from it, just like a baby learns from context and its surroundings.

Thoughtco.com Italian articles.
L’italiano secondo il metodo natura - best book for italian learning and improvement
context.reverso.net - amazing translator based on context.
Netflix, Youtube in italian.
Italiano Automatico (listening practice) - https://www.youtube.com/user/ITALIANOAUTOMATICO

If you have any more questions or need me to expand on any points, please let me know! Hope I could help and good luck with 3/4 Italian! :)
« Last Edit: December 19, 2019, 01:06:57 pm by sk2000 »
2019: English [43], Chemistry [44], Italian [44], Business Management [41], Methods [37]
ATAR: 97.65

2020: Bachelor of Science (Chemical Systems) @ UniMelb
2023: Masters of Engineering @ UniMelb

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Re: My Guide to 3/4 Italian
« Reply #1 on: December 19, 2019, 07:29:56 pm »
Thanks a million for this guide sk2000 :)
Congrats on your fantastic 44 in Italian!!!


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Re: My Guide to 3/4 Italian
« Reply #2 on: December 20, 2019, 08:38:13 am »
What a great guide! I'm sure it will be super useful for heaps of people! And massive congratulations for turning your grades around!


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Re: My Guide to 3/4 Italian
« Reply #3 on: December 20, 2019, 09:51:35 am »
Thanks so much for this awesome guide and congrats on your fantastic achievements in Italian and VCE!


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Re: My Guide to 3/4 Italian
« Reply #4 on: December 20, 2019, 10:30:58 am »
Thanks a million for this guide sk2000 :)
Congrats on your fantastic 44 in Italian!!!

What a great guide! I'm sure it will be super useful for heaps of people! And massive congratulations for turning your grades around!

Thanks so much for this awesome guide and congrats on your fantastic achievements in Italian and VCE!

Thank you everyone!! ;D
2019: English [43], Chemistry [44], Italian [44], Business Management [41], Methods [37]
ATAR: 97.65

2020: Bachelor of Science (Chemical Systems) @ UniMelb
2023: Masters of Engineering @ UniMelb