Is Italian Easy or Difficult to Learn?

In general Italian is considered as one of the easiest languages to learn for English speakers. This is especially true when comparing it to more distinct languages like Chinese, Arabic or Russian. According to FSI research, it takes approximately 575-600 hours to learn it for English speakers. This language is considered to be easier to learn for people who already know French, since both languages share similar grammar structure. In addition to that, learners who are familiar with Spanish or Portuguese, will be able to understand quite a lot of vocabulary in Italian. Of course, this also means that by learning Italian, you will be able to learn these mentioned foreign languages significantly easier too.

Pronunciation.

One of the things that make learning Italian pronunciation easy is the fact that it uses Latin alphabet. Since it uses the same alphabet, learning how to read and write in this foreign language is quite an easy task for English speakers. The alphabet contains only 21 letters (16 consonants and 5 vowels), so you will not need to learn how to pronounce any additional letters too. Italian is a phonetic language, which means that it has high correlation between spelling and sounds. Since every letter corresponds to its distinguished sound, it is possible to read what you see written on the paper without too much difficulty. The pronunciation of some letters can be slightly different from one region to another, but speakers can still comprehend each other based on conversation content.

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One of the most challenging part about reading in Italian and its pronunciation is to know where to add the accent position in the word. Some Italian words have accented letters (like caffè), which makes it easier to identify accent position. When you notice these kind of letters, almost always the stress should be added to these syllables. However as with any language, there are also some possible exceptions and the stress can fall on other letters too. So, in order to learn proper accent and how to pronounce Italian words correctly, it is necessary to listen how native speakers pronounce them.

Some other trickier parts about Italian pronunciation are associated with letters –g- and –c-. Pronunciation of these letters depends on vowels that surrounds them in the word. –C- and –g- has a hard sound when they are followed by vowels –a-, -o- and –u-. In case these letters are followed by vowels –i- and –e-, –c- and –g- sounds becomes soft.

Italian language also uses double consonants, so it is important to learn how to pronounce them correctly. It is possible that pronouncing single or double consonant incorrectly can even result in different meaning of Italian word. In most cases double consonants tend to be pronounced more forcefully than compared to single consonants.

Vocabulary.

Vocabulary is one of the things that makes learning Italian easy for English speakers. Since both of these languages share similar roots, vocabulary between them is also quite similar. Around ~50% of English words come from Latin, so it is easier to identify the meaning of some Italian words; however, the pronunciation can be a bit different at times. Also, Italian tends to use quite a lot of loan words from English by slightly Italianizing them (adding endings to English words like –are- and etc.). So even though words might be not completely identical, you should be able to guess their meaning.

Grammar.

Most English learners can find Italian grammar quite challenging and it can be considered as one of the most difficult parts of this foreign language. When it comes to verbs there are a total of 3 classes, 5 moods and 21 tenses that are divided either to simple or compound tenses. Verbs can change based on tense, mood, person, number as well as gender.

All nouns in Italian have a gender – either feminine or masculine. When a noun ends with –o- it is masculine, –a- – feminine and –e- can mean either masculine or feminine. However, there are many exceptions, so it is not enough to follow this rule. It is important to learn these exceptions and determine gender correctly, because it affects adjective terminations and choice of articles.

In Italian language there two types of articles – definite (-the-) and indefinite (-a– or –an-), which are used before nouns. They show a word’s gender and number. For example, to show that a noun is feminine –la- article is being used and to show masculine – –il-. Nouns and adjectives have both gender and number, although there is no neuter gender.

The most common sentence structure in Italian has the following pattern – subject-verb-object. This is the same structure that English language use, so it can make learning Italian significantly easier. Of course, it is important to mention that there are a couple of differences too. Some Italian sentences don’t require to include subject when it is personal pronoun (I, he, she and etc.), because it is possible to tell it from the verb.