The best way to learn Italian: vocabulary

A few weeks ago, we have been talking about speaking & writing. Now we will discover the best way to learn Italian talking about vocabulary and grammar! Do you know that they are the best predictor of the use of language? Are you ready?


Stephen Krashen says: “When people plan a trip to a foreign country, usually they are going to pack a dictionary not a grammar book”. As you know, to understand people and to speak with them, it is very important to know the words. If you are first starting and you have limited time, get caught up in vocabulary. It is the fastest way to progress. The more words you can absorb the more complex the ideas you can convey. At the same time, if you don’t want to speak like a “futurist poem” and you want to construct a coherent and cohesive text, words alone can’t help you, you need grammar. If you want to approach fluency, you are going to have to become competent with grammar. Somebody says: “learning a language by going over grammar rules and studying vocabulary lists is probably the most ineffective and painful way to learn a language. Interestingly enough, this is one of the most commonly used methods in school classes”. Others write: “If I had to choose, I’d go for vocabulary, but only if […] your idea of vocabulary includes chunks and collocations, rather than individual words”.

Improve your vocabulary

To improve in vocabulary we recommend the following books: Le parole italiane, Le parole, Le prime 1000 parole, Le prime 3000 parole, Attiva il lessico, Dizionario per immagini, etc.

The lexical approach

There is also a method called “the lexical approach” created by Michael Lewis. Some of its key principles are: language consists of grammaticalized lexis, not lexicalized grammar; the grammar/vocabulary dichotomy is invalid, much language consists of multi-words “chunks” grammar as the structure is subordinate to lexis. How to acquire language? Listening, listening and more listening, develop your skill in chunking text, you can find some strategies here. Know a word means knowing its meaning and use, its word families, its spelling, its pronunciation, collocation and grammar patterns.

If you like to play with Italian, here a link: Parliamoitaliano. Now it’s late. We’ll speak about grammar next time. See you soon!

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