Traveling can be hard enough, but not knowing the language makes life much more difficult.
Lucky for me, I knew Italian before I went to Italy, but even then I was still worried. Would I speak too slow? Would I construct my sentences wrong? I can’t even begin to imagine how my friends who had never spoken Italian felt.
It can be very intimidating speaking Italian to THE Italians at first, but after four months I became very comfortable with it.
Here are some tips on how to survive speaking Italian.
Tip #1: Practice Beforehand
There are a ton of great apps and books now that will help you learn the basics of the language pretty quickly.
Before I left for Italy, I spent about 30 minutes everyday on the app, Duolingo, to help me brush up on my Italian. Duolingo is a great app because it makes learning Italian fun and it really helped with expanding my vocabulary.
If you want a more in-depth experience and prefer a textbook style of learning, check out this guide to teaching yourself Italian. Check out the link below:
Tip #2: Don’t Completely Rely on Translators
Many of my friends downloaded translator apps so that they could translate things right on the spot. Translators don’t give you the full experience though of communicating with Italians and create a barrier.
If you want something to keep on you just in case, I suggest buying an Italian pocket dictionary. The dictionary will have more accurate translations (and you also then don’t have to worry about having your phone stolen with the app on your phone). Check out this dictionary:
Tip #3: Italians Words Are Very Similar to English
You may be surprised to discover that many Italian words are similar to their English counterparts. Crazy as it may sound, sometimes speaking in English can help you if the words are similar enough.
For example, if you’re at a restaurant ordering food, most of the names of pastas are similar to ones in the US. (Pasta in Italian is “pasta.”)
If saying the English word doesn’t work, you can always use the next tip.
Tip #4: Use Your Hands
One of the typical stereotypes of Italians is that they use their hands to communicate.
It is completely true.
If you’re having a hard time getting your point across, use your hands to gesture at things or demonstrate what you’re trying to say. It might seem ridiculous, but the Italians can try to figure out what you are trying to say.
On numerous occasions I used my hands to communicate, while also speaking Italian. Using your hands is just an extra tool you can use when communicating with the Italians.
Tip #5: Most Italians Know Some English
Most of the Italians in big touristy cities, like Rome and Venice, know some English after countless years of American tourists. If you don’t know what to say to the Italians in Italian, they might know what to say to you in English.
As I mentioned in, How to Pick the Perfect Restaurant, ordering at a restaurant can be scary, but most of the waiters know some English to help in the process.
The Italians are willing to meet you in the middle. They will help you with the language barrier as long as you give some effort too.
The Italians also LOVE hearing tourists speaking Italian. There were so many times when I ordered in Italian and the waiter would get this huge grin after all my friends had ordered in English. They appreciate the effort it takes to use their language and they love helping you out. Many Italians helped with my pronunciation of words and my sentence structure.