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Which book to help you learn Italian is best?

Italian is a rich and diverse language with grammar rules distinct from the patterns English speakers are familiar with. A high-quality Italian language textbook can make a huge difference for students or readers who want to enjoy the process of learning Italian.

Italian Made Simple: Revised and Updated by Cristina Mazzoni is a great resource for beginners who want to learn Italian with modern language teaching methods, while other Italian language books feature different blends of traditional and modern teaching techniques that may better fit a student’s needs.

What to know before you buy a book to help you learn Italian

Challenges of learning Italian

If you’re an English speaker who wants to learn Italian, the biggest challenge you’ll face will probably be the many Italian verb variants you’ll need to memorize. Nearly every Italian verb has multiple conjugations based on who is acting; for example, Leggere is Italian for “to read,” while Leggo is Italian for “I read.” An Italian verb can be further modified when you talk about the past, present or future; to say “I will read,” for instance, you take the present tense Italian verb Leggo and add the “er” sound, creating the future tense verb Leggerò.

Traditional language learning techniques

Traditional foreign language class learning techniques encourage students to memorize lists of vocabulary and grammar from a foreign language so they can translate written texts. Mid-20th century language teaching methods derived from psychological research of the time, focus on using listening, repetition and positive reinforcement to help students internalize speech patterns of a foreign language. 

Contemporary language learning techniques

Newer approaches in language learning try to replicate the process babies use to learn their first language, employing games, images, gestures and conversation exercises that immerse students in the language they’re studying. Most modern Italian textbooks and other foreign language materials try to engage learners with language games, immersion exercises and other cutting-edge learning activities whenever possible, encouraging readers to experiment with Italian in real-life circumstances.

What to look for in a quality book to help you learn Italian

Tabletop of contents and glossary

As a language learner tries to improve their grasp of spoken and written Italian, they’ll frequently use their Italian language textbooks as an impromptu dictionary when they come across an unfamiliar Italian word or need to express a new concept in Italian. To facilitate this “learning on the fly” process, Italian textbooks should have detailed glossaries that let readers quickly look up common words plus intuitively organized chapters that start out covering basic Italian then progress toward more complex words and phrases.

Vocabulary, grammar and written examples true to real life

Many learners improve their understanding of a foreign language when they talk to native speakers, correcting their grammar and pronunciation on the fly as they ask for directions or order food from a restaurant. For this reason, Italian language learning books should always strive to teach readers words and sentence patterns they can use in their day-to-day lives, particularly during predictable interactions such as greeting a stranger or purchasing goods from a store.

Supplemental audio and/or online resources

If you only study Italian through words on a page, you’ll have trouble improving your pronunciation skills and ability to recognize Italian words in a conversation. To this end, try to find Italian language books that come with audio track CDs, links to learning websites or codes for downloading phone apps. These digital resources supplement the written materials of language textbooks with pronunciation guides and activities that encourage more creative use of a foreign language.

How much you can expect to spend on a book to help you learn Italian

Most beginner-level Italian language books cost somewhere between $15-$20. Pocket-size phrase books or dictionaries can cost $12 or less, while thick volumes of vocabulary and grammar can cost $30 or more.

Book to help you learn Italian FAQ

Why are European languages like Italian called Romance languages?

A. Italian, French, Spanish, Romanian and other similar European languages evolved and diverged hundreds of years ago from the Vulgar Latin spoken by citizens of the Roman Empire. For this reason, linguists collectively refer to these distinct dialects as “Romance languages.”

How far removed is Italian from Vulgar Latin?

A. Of all the “Romance” languages in modern Europe, Italian is closest to the Vulgar Latin commoners in the Roman Empire used for conversation. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire, Italy fragmented over time into a series of independent kingdoms, principalities and city-state republics, each speaking dialects of Italian that evolved from Vulgar Latin.

What’s the best book to help you learn Italian to buy?

Top Italian language book

Italian Made Simple: Revised and Updated

Italian Made Simple: Revised and Updated

What you need to know: This beginner-friendly book by Cristina Mazzoni is designed to help readers study Italian on their own.

What you’ll love: Within this book is a series of learning exercises, anecdotes on Italian culture, dictionaries for translating between Italian and English, pronunciation aids and language games designed to teach fundamental Italian grammar and vocabulary.

What you should consider: Some readers have reported seeing typos in this book’s text.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top Italian language book for the money

Barron’s Pocket Italian Grammar Fourth Edition

Barron’s Pocket Italian Grammar Fourth Edition

What you need to know: This compact, affordable grammar book is a great reference for Italian language learners on the go.

What you’ll love: This grammar book is full of charts, chapters and example phrases that let readers quickly look up the fundamental rules of the Italian language. Barron also publishes complementary books on Italian verbs and vocabulary.

What you should consider: This book contains example Italian sentences but doesn’t contain language exercises.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Short Stories in Italian For Beginners Volume 1

Short Stories in Italian For Beginners Volume 1

What you need to know: This collection of accessible Italian short stories gives language learners an entertaining new way to learn the Italian language.

What you’ll love: This book contains eight Italian-language stories in several different genres ranging from mystery to science fiction. Each story demonstrates essential words and phrases for learners at a beginning or intermediate level.

What you should consider: According to readers, some of the scenarios in the stories feel implausible and unrealistic.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon


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