One of the first things you may be curious about when you are considering learning a new language, like Italian, is how long it will take to learn.
Of course, technically you never truly stop learning anything really and there are probably still words and rules in your native language that you do not know.
However, it is obvious that there are some languages that are easier to learn than others and therefore the time it will take to learn them will vary.
Luckily, Italian is an easy and fast language to learn especially for English speakers due to the similarities between the two languages.
Of course, a specific number is hard to reach when working out how long it takes to learn a language, especially since there are multiple factors that influence this which will vary from person to person.
However, reputable language companies have given estimations and this guide will break down these estimations as well as all the other factors that will influence how fast it will take you to learn Italian.
By the end of this guide, you should have an idea of how long it will take you to learn Italian and understand the different aspects that may accelerate your learning.
Once you have factored these into your language learning plan you will be able to set targets and goals for your Italian learning journey.
Estimated Hours of Practice
The Foreign Service Institute (FSI) is a U.S based institution that provides English speakers who want to learn a foreign language with useful references on estimated classroom hours needed for beginners.
The FSI categorized various languages and divided them up based on the difficulty of them to learn as well as how long it would take someone to learn to a proficient level.
Luckily, Italian falls into the very first category, along with French, Portuguese, Spanish and others, which are deemed “languages closely related to English”.
The FSI estimates that the time required for learning Italian is 23-24 weeks or up to 600 hours. This is based on a classroom of students dedicating 25 hours per week to studying the language.
Although 600 hours may seem a bit intimidating, languages in category 5 like Japanese or Arabic, which are the most difficult for English speakers to learn, are estimated to take 88 weeks or 2200 hours to learn!
Therefore, when you look at the FSI rankings, Italian is actually one of the easiest and fastest languages to learn for English speakers.
Variables That Can Influence How Much Time It Takes To Learn Italian
Of course, there are numerous variables that will impact how long it actually takes an individual to learn Italian and we have listed some below.
- Level of fluency you want to reach
- Prior knowledge of other foreign languages
- Learning Strategy
- Perseverance and Regularity
- Language Aptitude
- Personal circumstances
Below we will discuss each variable in more detail so you can try to limit the impact of them on your learning journey or gain a more realistic expectation for yourself.
What Level Of Fluency Do You Want To Reach In Italian?
A big factor determining how fast you will learn Italian is how fluent you want to become. The higher the level of fluency the longer it will take.
There is a massive difference between wanting to get by in Italian when on a trip to the country and wanting to speak and comprehend like a native.
There are three main levels of fluency presented by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) which you may already be familiar with.
Levels A, B and C describe a “Basic User”, “Independent User” and “Proficient User” and, along with sub-levels (1 and 2), indicate someone’s level of speaking, reading and understanding of written and spoken language.
A “Basic User” of Italian (levels A1 and A2) describes someone who would be able to talk about topics relevant to their life using a simple structure with a limited vocabulary.
To be considered a “Basic User”, it would only take 50 – 60 hours of study for A1 level and 100 – 120 hours for level A2.
An “Independent User”, (levels B1 and B2) would be able to hold more complex conversations with natives without too much of a struggle.
For the B1 level, it is suggested you study between 240 and 300 hours, and for B2 it’s 320 – 400 hours.
If you are really ambitious with your Italian and want to reach the level of “Proficient User” (level C1 and C2) you will need 450 – 500 hours for C1 and 600-650 hours for C2.
After up to 650 hours of studying you will be able to talk fluently and precisely on any topic, so it will be worth it in the end!
What Is Your Motivation?
Motivation is a major factor that can speed up or slow down your language-learning process.
Speakers of English don’t necessarily need to learn another language to communicate with people across the world since most non-English speakers learn to speak English.
Therefore, motivation can often be a struggle for English speakers when learning another language and so it is even more important to have a solid reason that can drive you forward in your learning journey.
A good idea is to write down the reasons why you want to learn Italian so you fully understand your motivation and can refer back to it when things start getting tough.
Some examples of motivations to learn Italian are: interest in Italian culture, plans for studying or working in Italy, a requirement of school or work, travel plans for Italy and communication with relatives, a partner or friends.
Of course, having a strong motivation will mean you will learn Italian faster since you will dedicate more hours more frequently to learning.
Do You Already Speak Other Foreign Languages?
Another factor to consider when trying to work out how fast you will learn Italian is if you already speak another foreign language and what type of language it is.
If you have already gone through the process of learning a language you will likely know what works best for you and the most effective methods for you to learn.
Having previous language learning experience will also give you more confidence that you can do it again, especially if the language you previously learnt was a Romance language.
Romance languages include Italian, Spanish, French, Portuguese and Romanian and all come from Latin so have very similar grammar structures and vocabulary.
Only knowing English will mean not only having to learn brand new vocabulary and grammar rules as well as learning the best way to learn a language, but you will also have to understand the language structure of English too.
Knowing and understanding what articles, participles, conjugations and pronouns are in English will help you when learning Italian and if you have already learnt a language you will most likely know this already.
Therefore, not knowing another language will most likely slow you down in the beginning when learning Italian as you will be starting from square one.
What Is Your Learning Strategy?
A good learning strategy can accelerate your learning process and so it is important to take some time to find the right method of learning that works for you.
As mentioned above, if you have already learnt a language you will hopefully already have a strategy that you know works.
Therefore it is especially important to take the time to figure out a good learning strategy if it is your first time learning a foreign language.
There are many different strategies that you can adopt when learning a new language and some will work better than others depending on your cognitive style and learning preferences.
Using a combination of different styles will help accelerate your learning and prevent your learning journey from becoming monotonous.
Some ideas of methods that you might want to adopt when learning Italian are listed below.
- Create flashcards for learning vocabulary
- Listen, read, write, and talk in Italian as much as you can
- Change your keyboard settings on your phone to Italian
- Hire an Italian native-speaker teacher
- Meet up with Italian speakers for a language exchange
- Listen and watch Italian music, radio, tv and films
- Use a good quality textbook with a clear structure
Perseverance And Regularity
Understandably, the regularity at which you study Italian will dictate how long it takes you to learn the language.
Getting into a language-learning habit and spending time each day learning Italian is key to speeding up your language-learning process.
The less often you study Italian in a week or month, the slower you will be at reaching the estimated 600 hours of learning time that the FSI calculates is required to learn Italian.
If you only spend one hour per week, you will not build up any momentum and will have to recap your learning each time instead of making progress.
Spreading your time in twenty-minute to hour blocks over each day is a much more effective way to learn than cramming lots of hours in one day each month.
The brain is a muscle and so strengthening the language learning part of it takes consistent continual effort just like you would if you wanted to strengthen muscles at the gym.
Since language learning is all about how much time you put in, the more often you study the quicker you will progress.
What Is Your Personality Like?
Knowing what type of personality you have is useful when figuring out how long it is likely to take you to learn a language.
Different personality types can speed up or slow down the time it takes you to learn Italian as they can influence your confidence and the likelihood that you will practice in the real world
For example, if you are an extroverted person you will likely have no trouble putting yourself out there and speaking to others meaning you will be able to practice your speaking more often.
Someone with low-self esteem or someone who is shy may not have the confidence to speak to people or may not trust their own abilities and so will be hesitant to practice the language.
Having a negative mindset and thinking your personality type means you will not be able to learn a language is of course not the way to think.
Regardless of your personality type, it is simply important to recognise what might hold you back so you can either try to work on it or try other methods that suit you best.
Since speaking is a big part of languages and interacting with others in Italian is the main reason people want to learn the language, if you do not practice speaking often you will not reach your goals as fast but you will still reach your goals eventually.
Your attitude when learning as well as your attitude about the language, culture and people of Italy will certainly impact how quickly you will learn the language.
If you start to get annoyed by all the complexities of the language or are frustrated when you get confused with the different gendered words, your motivation will drop and you may start studying less.
Making mistakes is part of the learning process and having a negative or disappointed mindset when you make mistakes can really slow down your progress.
Feeling lost when talking to Italian native speakers is bound to happen during your learning journey but it is important to not let situations, where you feel clueless, get you down and make you overly frustrated.
Having a positive attitude and understanding that going through difficult experiences and making mistakes is how you improve.
If you think that Italian is hard to learn or if you start acting like it is a hard language, then it will be. You will start to focus on the negatives and start to feel like it is impossible to progress which will only slow down your learning process.
Having a positive attitude towards Italian will certainly help you get over difficult moments and progress at a fast pace.
Learning a foreign language can be done by anyone at any age but having a high language aptitude will obviously help you to learn at a faster rate.
Language aptitude is the inner potential that someone has for learning a language and is not related to education or intelligence levels but considers specific cognitive abilities.
Factors that can indicate a high level of language aptitude are:
- The phonetic ability to perceive distinct sounds and retain an association with the sounds
- The ability to recognize the grammatical function of a word or phrase in a sentence
- The ability to associate words in a foreign language with their meanings and retain that association
- The inductive ability to infer rules that govern the structure of a language
You can find out your language aptitude by taking a Modern Language Aptitude Test.
Having one or more of these innate abilities will simply increase the speed at which you learn Italian as you will be able to pick up certain things quicker than others.
Your language learning environments will of course impact how fast you learn Italian since they will dictate how much of the language you are exposed to and in what circumstances.
If your learning environment is more formal, you will probably be in a classroom or learning with a tutor.
A formal teaching environment can be good for your language learning as you will be able to get corrected when you make mistakes and be able to learn the grammar rules and more complex aspects of Italian in a structured way.
If your learning environment is informal you may be learning via conversations with natives on social media or via in-person social situations.
Informal learning environments are a great way to learn the proper pronunciation, any slang words as well as the actual vocabulary you will need for everyday conversations.
Your language learning environment should include all the key aspects of learning a language such as reading, writing, listening and speaking and should be engaging and enjoyable and encourage you to keep learning.
Having a teacher is of course recommended as you will not get the same level of teaching or feedback simply through casual conversations.
The best learning environment for faster learning is to have a mix of formal teaching and informal conversations so you get the most exposure to Italian as possible.
When considering how long it will take you to learn Italian you must take into account your personal circumstances.
Depending on your personal circumstances, you will be able to dedicate more hours in a week to learning Italian and therefore be able to learn quicker.
If you are a student on a study abroad programme in Italy and want to learn Italian, then not only will you have many hours in a week to learn, but you will also have interactions with native speakers daily which will accelerate your learning.
If you have a full-time job and multiple children you will obviously have less time in the day to focus on Italian than someone who is retired.
Therefore, it is important to recognize your personal circumstances and not let your lack of progress get you down if you have limited time to study Italian.
Of course, as the saying goes, “where there is a will there’s a way” and so no matter your circumstances if you are motivated and really want to learn Italian you will find the time.
Age is often a factor that people think is highly important when learning a language.
When you are a child your brain is more susceptible to learning a new language and so it is of course easier to achieve fluency if you start learning at a young age.
However, although children can become fluent and retain the language learning that they learn at a young age, it can take years for a child to reach proficiency.
Since everything children learn at an early age is new, it can take years to solidify basic sentence structures and grammar rules and although everyone wishes they got language learning over with when they were young, it is still perfectly possible as an adult.
Therefore, adults are actually at a speed advantage when learning a new language as they can pick up the basics a lot quicker due to their experience with learning processes throughout their childhood and adult life.
When considering how fast you will learn a language, age is a factor that can speed up the process but of course, the sooner you start the sooner you will learn!
Now you know all the factors that can speed up or slow down your learning process that you should consider when figuring out how long learning Italian might take for you.
With all the information about the estimations of hours along with the various influencing factors, you can create a roadmap for your Italian learning journey and ensure it is as efficient as possible.
Of course, how long it takes to learn Italian is ultimately down to you since it depends on how much time you dedicate per day to achieving your language learning goals.
The truth is though, there is no end to learning a language as you will always be learning new words and having new conversations and experiences.
The most important thing that will ensure you learn Italian as fast as possible is simply starting.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and start your Italian learning adventure today!