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Speaking of Italian: How to Be More Conversational

by Sara Lepley

We had the chance to sit down with a native Italian speaker to get his take on making your Italian more conversational. 

Below, find a video and additional tips meant to help you shake off any nerves you have so you can start exploring, making friends, and speaking confidently whenever you find yourself with Italian speakers. 

Tips for Speaking Conversational Italian 

1. First of all, break the ice with an Italian greeting.

When striking up a conversation in Italian, you can’t go wrong with the following phrases. While some phrases are marked as more casual, you can use the formal variations in almost any situation. 

Ciao | A common and casual phrase for “hey” 

Salve | A slightly more polite way of saying “ciao” 

Buongiorno | A formal way of greeting someone 

Come va? | How are you? 

Come vanno le cose? | How are things going? 

2. Incorporate a few gestures into your Italian.

Body language plays a huge role in Italian culture. By incorporating a few emphatic gestures, you can add warmth and meaning to what you’re saying. For example, bring your fingertips together into an upright position and wave them up and down and say Ma che vuoi?

3. With Italian, focus on the meaning, not just the word.

In Italy, questions about your family will frequently come up such as:

La famiglia? | How is your family?
Come stanno i tuoi? | How are your parents?
Come stanno i tuoi ragazzi? | How are your kids?”

While family is an essential component of Italian culture, you won’t hear an elaborate description in response. That’s because the simple statement, bene communicates far more than it leads on. While it means “not bad, not good,” it’s the way you say it—sincerely, in earnest—that matters most.

This is also often only the beginning of the conversation. In Italy, a “how are you” is more than a pleasantry, but instead the beginning of a longer conversation. If you are with family or trusted friends, stop, listen and use this time to talk about family, health and other topics at length. 

4. Immerse yourself in the language.

Hearing phrases said by a variety of different native speakers helps tune your ear, so when you hear a question said with a slightly differently dialect you’ll still know what is being asked. Watching films and listening to music isn’t a bad way to go about doing this. The Rosetta Stone app itself is also built around this idea of Dynamic Immersion®. 

You’ll only hear native speakers in your lessons and TruAccent, our patented speech recognition technology, will provide instant feedback to help you fine-tune your accent. 

5. Find an Italian practice.

To sound more conversational, it helps to have more conversations. Fancy that? Part of why it helps to either find a native speaker to practice with or enlist a friend to learn the language with you is because can get accustomed to situations where you aren’t sure what the other person is saying according to Michigan State University’s Center for Language Teaching Advancement. That way you’ll feel more comfortable in other situations where the conversation goes off track or develops into something new.

6. Do a little Italian every day.

Learning a little bit at a time as opposed to cramming has been proven to help language learners. Rather than designate one day to fit in all of your Italian lessons, opt for a 10-minute lesson here or there. If you download a few lessons in advance, you can even do them places where you don’t necessarily get WiFi, such as on your commute if you get to work by metro.

7. Get out there.

As we mentioned earlier, the best way to become more conversational in Italian is to have more conversations. Find a local Italian eatery near you, join an Italian book or film club, and start testing your new language out. And if you haven’t officially started learning Italian yet, you can get started with Rosetta Stone today

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