Italian 101: il grande finale

I’ve seen the last few months trying to learn Italian using online resources and technology. I definitely learned some of the language, but more importantly, I learned A LOT about learning online. Here’s what I learned.

  1.  You simply cannot expect to learn online without doing some work offline. You would think this should be a no brainer, and for you maybe it is. But for myself, I had some weird thought that I would be able to learn everything I needed to learn online without using a pen a paper for example. I thought I would be able to learn it without practicing the language away from the computer. I was wrong. Yes you can find a lot of information online and yes a lot of it is helpful in teaching you something. However, you cannot forget about other methods that help us learn such as writing, underlining text, labelling pictures and reading. You need to use the offline learning skills you have to enhance your online learning experience. For my project I found that if I was struggling to remember a term that it helped to write the term down a few times so that I actually learned the spelling and what the term meant. I know other classmates have used post-it notes to label items around their house to help them learn. These are great examples of how offline strategies can help reinforce your online learning.
  2. There are hundreds of resources available online. Which ones work best? Well, that’s up to you to decide. I would recommend doing some simple searches online to try and find some resources that others recommend. Search for things like “best way to learn a language online for free“, “learn a language online” or “best apps to learn foreign language”. In order to find out what works best for you or which you like most you have to simply try them out. You can read reviews from other people but they might not feel the same way about a site that you will. For example, Vanessa found that she wasn’t too impressed with Duolingo and although I see where she is coming from, I think that it can be a valuable tool. It’a a matter of trial and error for you to find some resources that work for you.
  3. Connect with others and create a PLNThere are so many ways to connect with others online. For myself I used Twitter, Instagram and blogging to follow and connect with others. By sharing my blog I was able to connect with people who read my blog and commented on it. Through comments on my blog I was given suggestions for additional resources to check out for my learning project. I was able to connect with others on Twitter and practice some of my language skills as well. There are some great websites that allow you to chat or talk with others who can help you learn the language you are working on. Depending on what you are learning about your PLN might look different. You might connect with others by sharing step by step videos for cooking, or following an online Twitter chat. Everyone’s PLN will be different, but it’s important that you reach out and try to connect with people.
  4. Step out of your comfort zone.  There are so many beneficial things that can come from stepping out of your comfort zone. In my learning journey there were two things I did that really made me step out of my comfort zone. The first was reading a book in Italian. It was only a children’s book, but it was difficult to put myself out there and read it online knowing that I probably mispronounced a number of words. I practiced over and over but never felt confident enough that I was reading it perfectly. I decided to just record it and post it. It was a good opportunity for me to hear how I sounds when I speak and reflect on it. The second thing I wanted to do was have a conversation with someone online. I was hoping to have a Skype meeting with someone but I didn’t feel confident enough in my speaking skills, so I opted for the next best option and had an online chat with a couple of people through WeSpeke. This was truly a great learning experience for me as it gave me an opportunity to have an unscripted conversation with someone. I had to think about what I wanted to say and try to put the words together in a sentence. I found that I had to use a translator to help me complete my sentences but it was nice to connect with someone and practice what I had learned. Both of these situations caused me to step out of my comfort zone and I think I learned a lot from each experience. Had I not pushed myself to step out of my comfort zone I would have missed out on these great opportunities.
  5. Practice, practice, practice…and then practice some more. Regardless of what you are learning, you must keep at it. Learning a new skill does not happen over night. It’s important to practice and be consistent. Learning takes time. Even practicing for 15-20 minutes a day is better than nothing. Use the people in your network to connect and practice or ask for help. Watch a video while waiting for a bus, listen to a podcast in your car. Whatever you do to connect, try to do it every day. If you are involved in a MOOC, do the work that is required, check in when you are supposed to…participate. You get out what you put in, so if you are serious about learning, you’ll find the time.

In follow up to one of my first blogs showing the beginning of my learning journey here is some evidence of the progress I made. I’m happy to say that I reached 37% fluency and level 11 on Duolingo. On my placement test at the end of my learning journey I was able to place out of 4 categories so that was also great. Below are some photos of my progress and a video showing my final placement test.

Duolingo Progress

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Duolingo Placement Test – Post

Babbel Progress

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Itlaian 101: And the award goes to…

This semester I was given the opportunity to learn something – just like I am given the opportunity in any other class. However the opportunity was presented much different than it has been presented in any other class. I was given the opportunity to pick something that I was interested in and learn about it using technology and online connections to help me along the way.

Obviously when you are given the opportunity to learn about anything a lot of possibilities run through your head. I wanted to choose something that I would enjoy learning about. I wanted to learn something that I could use at some point in the future. I would have loved to pick something creative like sewing or knitting, but I didn’t want to spend a whole lot of money purchasing materials along the way (especially with my limited income on maternity leave). So I decided I would learn a language.

The language I decided on was Italian. Why? Well I didn’t want to do French because I already have some experience with speaking French having gradated with a French 30 credit (even though that credit is from way back in 2004). I wanted to start with a clean slate. In my travels I have spent some time in Italy and I just love everything about the country. The food, the culture, the scenery, the cities and of course the language. I have always thought that it would be great to learn a language and be able to travel and use it someday. Now that I have been learning some of the language maybe it’s time to go back.

Throughout the semester I found a lot of resources that are very useful in learning a language online and found even more that seemed to be of little help. If you want to check out all of the resources I  reviewed in detail look back at some of my previous posts. But here is a quick list of my top resources for learning Italian online broken down into categories.

To practice site words, memory work and phrases.

WINNER: Duolingo – great tool for rote memorization and practicing words & phrases. Uses audio, text, written and spoken language. The biggest negative is the sentences that are used to practice sometimes – they don’t make a lot of sense and you wouldn’t use them in daily conversations very often.

RUNNER UP: Babbel – similar to Duolingo but is a paid service. This focuses on themes for each lesson and can be helpful in learning phrases for basic conversation or travel. Uses mostly writing and listening to complete the lessons.

Honorable Mention: Mango – A free online service provided by the library in Regina. Similar to Babbel in the sense that you practice basic phrases and conversation by listening and repeating the audio.

To listen to audio.

WINNER: News in Slow Italian  – provides slower audio with text to read along. The text is also translated into English to help with further comprehension.

RUNNER UP: The Italian Experiment – this site is good but provides limited resources. There are three audio books you can listen to and follow along with text. The text is also translated into english. It is a great site but would be nice if new material would be added.


WINNER: Learn Italian with Lucrezia  – most of her videos are fairly short and very informative which make them really nice to watch. The lessons range from beginner to advanced. She also has an instagram and twitter account that I would suggest following.

RUNNER UP: Learn Italian Words App – this app works offline and has a large variety of video lessons ranging from beginner to advance.

Social Media

WINNER: Twitter – @italianlanguage Instagram – italianwordoftheday – both accounts provide you with one word a day to practice and learn. The Twitter account gives you a word and a sentence most days to learn. The Instagram account gives you a word with a picture each day, but no sentence.

RUNNER UP: Twitter @ItalianLearn this account also gives you a word a day and you can click on a link that will take you to a sentence that uses the word and audio for the pronunciation.

Speaking with Others

WINNER: WeSpeke – a great tool to connect and chat with others online.



Italian 101: Kickin’ it Old School

In my last post I talked about brining old school methods into my new school learning project. This past week I decided to look into some old school ways to learn online. I was able to find a few things on my own and I was also able to use some resources that have been suggested by others in the class or different places online. I have been working with flashcards, lessons, books, audio and workbooks this past week. I haven’t spent a lot of time focusing on each, but have worked with each resource enough to understand whether or not it would be helpful moving forward. I will be reviewing the following in the blog:

  1. The Italian Experiment (website)
  2. International Children’s Digital Library (website) 
  3. Quizlet (website/app) 
  4. Basic Italian and Grammar Workbook (online PDF) 
  5. News in Slow Italian

The Italian Experiment

I’ve mentioned the Italian Experiment in a previous post and haven’t gotten around to talking much about it. I was introduced to this lesson from a chat that I was part of on Duolingo. The website is made up of lessons, stories (with audio and translation) as well as reviews of online courses. I have spent some time listening to the Three Pigs, Little Red Riding Hood and Goldilocks and the Three Bears on this site. I like that you can listen to the audio, read the Italian text and also see the translation in English. There is a lot of repetition in each of the stories so I was able to pick up on some of the terms and sentences by the end of each story. In terms of the lessons, they are very basic and cover introductory topics. I personally like the lessons because they cover the essentials for learning any language. I like that the lessons provide knowledge that will help you further understand the lessons. I read over the reviews of the Italian Language courses but never looked any further into them as each one requires a purchase and most are quite expensive.

International Children’s Digital Library

After some fellow classmates (Amy & Genna) have read books in another language I decided I would give it a shot. After all if you are trying to learn the language you should be reading it as well. This site was suggested by a classmate (sorry that I can’t recall who mentioned it or where I saw it, but thanks for sharing). This site was created for families who have moved to new countries where it may be difficult to find books in their native language or for families who need to learn a new language upon moving. It is suited for more people than those who have moved to a new country of course. Take me for example…someone who wants to learn a new language to travel or as a hobby. It is free to use and you can access books that are recommended for ages 3-13. You can search books by fiction, non-fiction, characters, age group and language. Many of the books are translated into multiple languages. The text for the book is given in the language you selected to read which is one downside. For someone like me who is just learning it is difficult to understand the books (even at a 3-5 age). I have to translate the book each time I read one which is a good thing because it challenges me to think and pick out words I know, but it is also time consuming. In my video below I took a screen shot of the Italian and English version of the same book. I put each page onto a slide so you can see the translation. The translation doesn’t translate back and forth between Italian and English quite as I thought it would. Here I am reading a story from the International Children’s Digital Library. I’m sure I am mispronouncing some of the words and I know my r’s still don’t sound the way they should so please excuse my rookie mistakes.


Quizlet is an online flashcard maker. You are able to create your own sets as well as find other sets that have been created by users. You can practice the flashcards by using the different features included in the program. I think its a really useful tool, however I have a feeling I would do better making flashcards with pen and paper as opposed to using a keyboard to make them. Check out my quick review below.

Basic Italian and Grammar Workbook

I found this workbook searching for online learning resources. It is developed by lecturers at the University of Turin in Italy and University of St Andrews in Fife, Scotland. I haven’t printed the workbook out because it’s 194 pages, but I have scrolled through it and skimmed it. It is definitely an old school workbook full of information, exercises and answers. From what I can see it is a great resource for providing more than just words. There is a lot of information and a decent amount of practice for each unit. The amount of information isn’t overwhelming however. This is something that I would like to print off one unit at a time to read and practice. I bookmarked this PDF and don’t know how I cam across it. I’m not sure if it is supposed to be printed or even presented as a PDF online. I don’t know if there are any copyright issues with this. I hope not!

News in Slow Italian

This is a great website that I came across a few weeks ago but never explored until the last few days. This is a GREAT resource for anyone looking to learn Italian. There are different pages for beginner, intermediate and advance users. I focused on the beginner level. Each level includes lessons with audio to help you learn Italian. When you are listening to a lesson you can hover your mouse over the Italian text which will display the English translation. The beginners lessons have very little Italian but they progress as you go along. I believe a subscription is needed to have full functionality of all the lessons. The intermediate new shows are great to listen to. I am usually able to piece together enough information using the Italian I have learned with the help of the English translations. There seems to be a lot of features and different ways to interact with the site so it is a great place to explore if you are learning Italian.

I hope that some of my resources help you learn Italian if you are trying to learn the language. I would love to hear your thoughts on some of the resources I have shared.