Andiamo! Learn Italian with the locals

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Parli italiano? Do you speak Italian? If you’re planning a trip to Italy, you should definitely learn Italian – or at least a few basic Italian phrases to help you get by.

While many Italians have a good level of English – particularly those working in tourism, or people living in big cities like Rome – it’s good etiquette to learn at least a little of the local language. So, forget about relying on apps or Google Translate…Here’s what you need to know about speaking Italian with the locals.

Learn Italian vocabulary for travel

There are so many useful Italian words and phrases for travel that it’s impossible to cover them all here. But if you’re a complete beginner and you want to know some Italian vocabulary that will help you communicate on the most basic level, start here:

BASIC ITALIAN WORDS AND PHRASES

Hi!/Bye! (informal) – Ciao! (chow)

Goodbye (formal) – Arrivederci (ah-ri-veh-DEHR-chee)

Good morning – Buongiorno (bwon-JOR-no)

Good afternoon/evening – Buonasera (bwon-a-SEH-rah)

Pleased to meet you – Piacere (pyah-CHER-eh)

Yes – Si (see)

No – No (noh)

Please – Per favore (pehr fa-VOR-eh)

Thank you – Grazie (GRAT-see-eh)

Thank you very much – Grazie mille (GRAT-see-eh MEEL-leh)

You’re welcome – Prego (PREH-go)

Excuse me – Scusa – (SKOO-za)

Excuse me (when moving through a crowd) – Permesso (pehr-MESS-oh)

Sorry – Mi dispiace (mee dis-PYAH-cheh)

A note on cultural differences – Italians tend to use “per favore” a lot less than we use “please” in English, so if you translate every “please” it sounds excessively polite. But you can’t go wrong with saying “grazie” frequently, or greeting staff with “Buongiorno” whenever you enter a shop/bar/restaurant.

Local flower market
Visit local groceries and flower markets and try out your Italian skill with the locals

ITALIAN PHRASES FOR TOURISTS

The menu, please – Il menu, per favore (eel men-OO pehr fa-VOR-eh)

Can I have the bill, please? – Il conto, per favore (eel CON-toh pehr fa-VOR-eh)

Can I pay by card? – Posso pagare con la carta? (POSS-oh pag-AHR-eh con la CAHR-tah)

How much does it cost? – Quanto costa? (KWAN-toh COST-tah)

Where can I buy a ticket? – Dove si puo’ comprare un biglietto? (DOH-veh see pwoh comp-RAH-reh oon beel-YET-toh)

I’d like this one/that one – Vorrei questo/quello (vohr-RAY KWEST-oh/KWELL-oh)

I’d like these ones/those ones – Vorrei questi/quelli (vohr-RAY KWEST-ee/KWELL-ee)

When does it open/close? – A che ora si apre/si chiude? (ah keh OR-ah see AP-reh/see kee-OO-deh)

What time does the bus/train leave? – A che ora parte l’autobus/il treno? (ah keh OR-ah PAR-teh LAUT-oh-boos/eel TREH-noh)

What time does the bus/train arrive? – A che ora arriva l’autobus/il treno? (ah keh OR-ah ahr-REE-vah LAUT-oh-boos/eel TREH-noh)

Remember, if you stumble over the pronunciation or get a word slightly wrong, it doesn’t matter you’re still in the progress of learning Italian. Besides this, Italians are appreciative and encouraging of any effort to speak their language – mistakes are usually met with kind smiles!

Learn Italian and order your Pasta in Italian
Visit your favorite Italian restaurant, where you of course will order your pasta in Italian

Speak Italian with the locals

If your skills are more advanced and you want to practise speaking Italian on your trip, here are some ideas:

  • Conversation exchanges – Take part in one-on-one conversation exchanges or go to language practice events, which often take place over an aperitivo. Look for conversation partners or events online, as they’re often advertised on social media. Pages and groups focused on expats (or learning languages) are a good place to start.
  • Italian lessons – Many language schools offer intensive courses focused on communicative skills. If you want greater flexibility and prefer to focus just on speaking, rather than other aspects of learning Italian, look for a private Italian teacher.
  • Chatting with the locals – If you’re feeling brave, strike up a conversation with a stranger. Of course, choose your moment carefully…Busy shop or restaurant staff may not be in the mood. But if you’re the only customer, or you’re in a more relaxed setting like a bar, or on a private tour, it’s easy to end up in conversation with a friendly local and learn Italian.
Learn Italian while ordering Cappuccino
The easiest way to come into contact with the locals is to go to a coffee bar. Order your favorite coffee and try to have a short conversation with the barista in Italian

Learn Italian through movies, TV series and music

To speak Italian well, of course you need to practise speaking. There’s no real substitute for hours of conversation with native speakers. But if that’s not an option, the next best thing is watching Italian movies and TV series, and listening to music. Using subtitles or listening to music while reading the lyrics can be really helpful, as you can expand your vocabulary and understand the connection between spelling and pronunciation.

The more you listen to Italian being spoken, the faster your comprehension will improve. You’ll also be surprised by how simply listening to a language can improve your fluency, vocabulary and confidence when speaking.

So, as you count down the days till your next trip to Italy (and your tour with Roads to Rome Private Tours!), get started with some Italian practice. With countless Italian TV shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime, and so much amazing Italian music on YouTube and Spotify, there’s no excuse for not getting started straightaway!

Learn Italian with La Dolce Vita
The iconic scene in the Trevi Fountain of the well-known Italian movie “La Dolce Vita”

Sei pronto? (Are you ready?)

Read more: 96 essential Italian travel phrases and words to pack for your trip to Italy (FluentU)

Written by Alexandra Turney

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