Best Italian Online Courses
What are the best available online courses to learn Italian?
What makes a good Italian course?
Before we jump into the course reviews, we should discuss what makes a good Italian course and what you should be looking for in one specifically for Italian. Language courses come in all shapes and forms and try to appeal to the different type of learners out there. Despite the different approaches, a good Italian language course should have a good balance of:
- Comprehension (Listening & Reading)
Mastering these four aspects will allow you to be able to reach an advanced level in Italian. However, for some learners, for example, being able to understand and communicate verbally will be more important than writing and vice versa.
Above all, the most important aspect of all is for a course to help you prepare for real life conversations. Grammar is very important when learning Italian, but often times classical courses focus on outdated vocabulary and forms that are simply too formal to use in real life.
A top program will offer a good balance between understanding the important grammar, as well as teaching you how to communicate effectively in the real world.
These are the top courses we believe offer the best value to students. If you’re starting to learn Italian and need to find a solid course to get you started, then the following are the ones we recommend. As you will see, no one course ticks all the boxes and provides a comprehensive solution for beginners, but they represent the best resources to learn the basics of Italian effectively available today.
Best to Get Conversational Fast
Pimsleur’s method focuses on learning a new language orally. The entire course revolves around 30-min audio lessons designed to engage the student and get them to speak entire sentences right from the first lessons. This approach is completely different from other courses where you barely repeat isolated words.
The reason we recommend Pimsleur is because the course cuts to the chase and jumps right into the useful stuff – introducing you to sentences you will most likely use in Italy without the fluff. The lessons are also structured in such a way that the material is reinforced regularly throughout the entire course, which aids retention and allows students to speak without having to think too much – which is what we want!
The only drawback is that there is little focus on grammar or the written form. If your ultimate goal is to be able to converse effectively, then this might not be an issue. If you want to be able to read and write properly, then you’ll need to include additional resources to balance the non-verbal components of Italian.
Cost: Starts at $14.95/month or $119.95 per level.
Grown-up version of Duolingo
Babbel is a language learning tool that offers a lot of information and can be of great help to those beginning to learn Italian and also for lower intermediate students. It is somewhat similar to Duolingo but it is more thorough and goes into more depth in each lesson. The lessons are structured well, providing explanations and a lot of vocabulary for the students. Material is easy to go through and pretty engaging. It’s definitely a good value for the price.
The nice thing about it is that the learning plan is flexible and it allows students to choose the learning path they want to pursue, making the entire course very versatile. On the other side, the nature of the course does not allow for a full development of the necessary conversational skills required to communicate effectively with natives.
Cost: $6.95/month for a 12-month subscription (Prices vary depending on subscription length).
News in Slow Italian
Best novel approach
News in Slow Italian is a new concept that is developed around three language levels: Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced. The Beginner level is actually the only level structured as a real course, covering the grammar basics. The other levels are not exactly courses, they are essentially additional tools for more advanced students to follow and expand their knowledge with weekly news audio clips that are narrated and commented at a slower pace.
The interesting thing about the course is that it is developed as a theatrical play, where each lesson is defined as an act and multiple characters are present. The students follows the stories of each character that unfold in each act as they learn about Italian grammar, which makes the whole course overall more interesting and engaging.
The things we thought was missing was the lack of active verbal sessions. A student could easily complete the entire course without really having practiced enough spoken Italian.
These are courses that would not be our first picks, but that are nonetheless worthy to be mentioned as possible options. The reason they are just okay is because they lack in one or more major aspects and alone would not be sufficient to provide adequate level of learning.
It does its job, but could be better for the price
Rocket Languages provides a good, comprehensive and easy to use course. It is designed for beginners and lower-intermediate students. The learning method is that of an independent learning resource which is able to teach how to speak and write Italian.
It is similar to Babbel, however it does not focus enough on grammar. The course also features a good amount of activities and exercises which allow you to practice listening, reading, writing, and speaking in Italian.
We decided to include it in the Okay Courses due to the high price point – you could definitely achieve good results with other courses without having to spend this much.
Cost: Level 1 costs $99.95, Levels 1+2 cost $249.90, while all three courses purchased together are $259.90.
Paid community-based approach
Busuu is a digital language-learning app that offers vocabulary and grammar practice through short, self-paced study exercises. A distinctive feature from other courses is that it has a social aspect which allows users to get writing and pronunciation feedback from native speakers.
It is similar to Babbel and Duolingo but it is not completely free to use, although cheaper than Babbel. The look of the course is really nice and it offers some good explanations but doesn’t often go into too much detail when it comes to grammar.
It would have scored better with more review opportunities for practicing grammar and some exercises just weren’t that effective at teaching the material.
Cost: Premium version – $5.41/month for a 12-month subscription. Premium Plus version – $5.74/month (Prices vary depending on subscription length).
Not bad for a free program
Duolingo is a free app that offers lessons in many different languages, including Italian. The lessons are pretty simple and also not the most in-depth. They sometimes lack explanations, and have often strange translations, however it still offers a good way to get you started with the language.
Casual learners might like this method as it’s free and can be fun. Students get motivated to come back and study a bit each day. Do not expect to go beyond beginner level with Duolingo as it does not have the substance of much more structured and comprehensive courses.
We put it in the Okay Courses because it is free and it’s a good way to get started, but it has obvious limitations and it will not get you to intermediate.
These are courses that we would not recommend because they lack in one or more major aspects and alone would not be sufficient to provide adequate level of learning. They are not terrible resources but for the same amount of money you could find more complete alternatives.
Famous but not worth the price
Rosetta Stone is one of the most famous language learning programs available. Its method is based on immersive teaching, so students are only exposed to material in the language they’re learning. It begins with the basics, with the units increasing in complexity, eventually covering a vast range of subjects. It is suitable for beginner and intermediate learners.
The price tag is higher compared to others, and the exercises get repetitive after some time and it just takes a long time to make even minimal progress. There is no explanation for grammar rules and it lacks on the conversational side. It does not prepare you for real-life Italian.
Overall, it isn’t an extremely bad resource, and it could help young kids learn a language, but there’s definitely better courses out there in that price range that can give you results a lot faster.
Cost: $14.92/month for 12-month subscription.
Italian Pod 101
Not ideal for beginners
ItalianPod101 is an online tool useful for people who already have a foundation in Italian. It can be a useful tool to improve vocabulary and pronunciation, but beginner students might want to look for some other course when it comes to learning grammar and the basics.
The portal is easy to use and well designed, but the structure of the modules is not the ideal. Vocabulary and pronunciation are covered in depth, while grammar not so much. One thing that is truly missing are exercises – the closest thing to them are small quizzes.
It is a useful course, but if you’re planning on spending money, there are better resources out there.
Cost: Premium – $10/month for 24 months; Premium Plus $23/month.
Best outdated method
Michel Thomas is of the historically famous language courses out there. Back in the days Michel Thomas was a staple in language-learning and the audio lessons try to teach you Italian in a natural, intuitive way, without much memorization involved. The material is designed for absolute beginners and by the end students should be capable of understanding and speaking at a beginner level.
It is easy to use and the audio clips are good quality, however, students are never praised throughout the course. At times the method is disruptive and creates a difficult learning environment. The pace of the lessons feels hurried at times and they are all pretty similar so it becomes monotonous after a while. Not worth the price tag.
Cost: Depending on the course – prices range from $11.99 to $100. Full bundle is $273.
What Italian Online recommends
As you can see from the above list, there are many valid courses available out there to get you started on your Italian learning journey. Needless to say the list is not exhaustive, but it represents the main options available online today. Despite the list and reviews, we still get a lot of questions regarding the best mix to achieve optimal results. In our experience, the best way to learn is to combine multiple resources into a perfectly balanced approach to match your needs – just like making a perfect tasting cocktail!
Below is a mix that we have seen yield very good results in the shortest period of time for beginners – let’s think of it as well balanced meal:
- Appetizer – Duolingo
- Use Duolingo just as a fun starter to make things fun and light – NOT as your main way of learning.
- Main Course – Pimsleur Italian (Levels 1-5).
- The Pimsleur course should be your main resource as you get started. Complete all the lessons and levels and by the end you will already be able to speak full sentences.
- Sides – Italian Short Stories + Grammar Resources + Blog Posts
- The sides allow you to integrate more learning into your routine. Start using these resources as you are completing your Main Course. They offer some novelty and make the whole process less monotonous and more fun! After the Main Course is complete, you can begin expanding this section even further and tailor it to your taste and needs – Youtube videos | Instagram | Grammar Exercise Books etc.
- Dessert – One-on-one tutoring
- This is left at the end for a reason – jumping to this section too early can ruin your appetite, as you might not be ready yet to get the full benefits of a tutoring session, therefore, wasting money and feeling discouraged. To get the most out of an Italian Tutor you need to have a foundation in Italian first (If none of our one-on-one tutors are available, another great resource is iTalki).
- Caffè – Travel to Italy
- Once you have completed all the steps above it is time to reward yourself! If you have the means, why not plan the perfect trip to Italy to reap all the benefits of the hard work you have put in so far? It’s time to walk inside that bar and order your caffè in Italian with confidence. You have earned it!
Looking for a proven study method to learn Italian?
You know what material and what courses to get, but you still don’t know how to make it all work for you? Then take a look at our proven Learning Method. It is the most in-depth and honest language learning guide for Italian learners online – oh, and it’s 100% free for you to use and follow!
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