How do you begin to speak Italian? After all this time studying Italian grammar, it’s now time to begin to talk, right? Great! But how can you start? How can you say your first sentences when nothing comes out?
Ok, ok, first things first. Sentences don’t come out by magic. First, you need to give yourself some time to plan them. You can spend some time thinking about what you would like to say or even write down some notes with useful words and phrases. This preparation takes a lot of stress away from you and you’ll be able to enjoy your “talk” checking over and over again what’s the best thing to say.
Having said that, here are three exercises to help you begin to speak Italian and take your words out step by step.
Say it again
If you don’t know where to start, you can simply read a short text or listen to a short extract and retell what you read or what you heard. You can use some of the words that you noticed and even include some of the words that you already know.
Here is a short text to help you get started. How can you tell it again?
La mia famiglia non è molto numerosa. Siamo io, mia mamma, mio papà e mia zia. Purtroppo sono figlia unica, questo significa che non ho fratelli o sorelle. Siamo in pochi ma siamo felici. Abitiamo in una cittadina tranquilla e passiamo tanto tempo insieme. La domenica ci piace pranzare tutti insieme e chiacchierare. Quando fa bello ci piace andare a fare una passeggiata per prendere un gelato o un aperitivo. Siamo una famiglia tranquilla ma felice.
What do you see?
A classic. I’m sure you’ve found this exercise in a lot of courses and you’ve probably wondered why? Well… describing a picture gives you the time to think, to look up words, and say what you want to say.
What do you see in this picture that I took some weeks ago? Say it out loud!
And what about this picture? What’s in there? How can you describe it to someone?
Welcome to my talk
“Welcome to my TED talk!”. Just joking. Or actually not. Maybe at this stage, you don’t feel like saying something (in Italian) that you would say in a TED talk. But you can still make your own personal speech about anything that you like: your job, your hobbies, your day…
Here are three topics to help you start with a little hint. As usual, take some time to prepare your speech and then say it out loud a few times.
- Talk about the pros and cons of your job
- What’s best? Paper books or e-books? Look for 5 reasons.
- List 3 things that you like about the weekend and 3 things that you hate about it.
One important thing: don’t forget about fluency. You want to speak easily right? Then, one of the best things to do is to repeat what you’ve just said. Give yourself a few chances and you’ll see that you’ll start to get better and better.
Which exercise are you going to try today?
Folse Keith, The Art of Teaching Speaking: Research and Pedagogy for the ESL/EFL Classroom, University of Michigan Press ELT, 2006
Nation Paul, What do you need to know to learn a foreign language? School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand, 2014
Nation Paul, Newton Jonathan, Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking, Routledge, 2009