How long does it take to learn Italian?

August 25, 2022

One of the most common questions that interests our students concerns the language learning process: how long does it take to learn Italian? And what’s your CEFR level? There's no one-size-fits-all answer to this question, but there are indicators that provide an approximate overview, helping you plan your Italian learning progress effectively.

So, how much time will it take you to learn Italian?

A stay abroad experience, coupled with contact with native speakers, stands out as one of the most effective methods to quickly enhance your language skills. Optimal learning of Italian involves indeed both the attending of a language course and the immersion in extracurricular interactions with Italians, being "exposed" to everyday Italian life.

This approach will help you learn the language theoretically, understand structures and speech elements, and apply them directly in various situations. What’s more, in language courses, you can share experiences from everyday situations with classmates, finding a perfect balance between theory and practice.

However, the pace of progress and achieving fluency depends on various factors. Let’s take a closer look at some of these critical aspects.

Students of Italian language talking to each other

Factors that could speed up or slow down Italian learning

In the journey of language acquisition, various factors play a pivotal role in shaping the pace and effectiveness of the learning process. Whether accelerating the path to proficiency or presenting challenges that may impede progress, these elements influence the overall language learning experience.

  • Nationality and mother tongue: students' backgrounds significantly impact the speed of progress. Those with Romance mother tongues like French, Spanish, and Portuguese experience a quicker learning curve because of the similarities to their native languages. On the contrary, learners of Oriental languages (Japanese, Korean, Chinese) face more challenges due to linguistic differences. English-speaking individuals (UK, USA, Australia) may encounter obstacles, often relying on English as a lingua franca and thus being less motivated to learn a foreign language. Last but not least, German speakers often learn Italian quickly because of their knowledge of more than one foreign language and their passion for Italy as a holiday destination.
  • Knowledge of other languages: proficiency in languages such as French or Spanish acts as a catalyst for Italian learning. Linguistic structures are indeed very similar, helping those that have advanced language skills in these languages comprehend texts and speech more easily. 
  • Previous knowledge: familiarity with Italian culture, be it through music, art, history, or architecture, proves to be a valuable asset in speeding up the learning process. A musician acquainted with Italian operas and songs will surely have a simpler life understanding sounds and pronunciation as much as a receptionist who’s used to dealing with Italian tourists will find it easier to get in touch with them. The same goes for art lovers, as they probably know and can derive many terms, and for soccer fans that are interested in vocabulary and history.
  • Age: age plays a significant role, with younger students showcasing a quicker internalization of Italian, while older learners often display heightened motivation that compensate for any potential challenges.
  • Will, motivation, joy of learning: motivation is a driving force, significantly influencing the trajectory of progress. Learning driven by personal or professional motives, coupled with genuine joy, becomes a powerful catalyst for rapid improvement. Be it traveling or contacting friends and family members, it’s important to not lose the joy of learning and to find new and stimulating ways to improve the language. Movies, books, music, texts, apps and meetings… There are countless ways to keep learning outside the classroom!
  • Self-study: a language course covers a large part of language acquisition but independent study, be it through textbooks, listening exercises, videos, or conversation lessons, complements formal courses providing a more holistic and immersive learning experience. And, since you’re enrolled in a course, you always have a teacher you can refer to for any question and doubt.
  • Duration of the course: the intensity and nature of the language course have a direct impact on the learning progress. The more class hours invested, the better and quicker the result! If you're in the pursuit of Italian language mastery, understanding these dynamics will set the stage for an effective learning journey.

In conclusion

Faster progress is often perceived at the initial level compared to higher levels (B2 level upwards). You’ll be surprised how quickly you can improve your Italian level at the beginning!

A student engaging in a standard course (2 hours of grammar class and 2 hours of conversation class) and continuous language use outside the classroom (eg. conversing with friends and host families) may advance by one level in about a month. However, you should note that these are general guidelines and the actual progress depends on individual factors.

So, to answer your question, how long does it take to learn Italian? The journey is subjective and depends on many external factors. Learning a language is not just a CEFR certification but a lifelong project, so take your time and enjoy your progress. It may not be the most efficient path, but it’s certainly the most fulfilling way!

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