Learning Italian is not an easy task if you’re not used to it. It will seem to you that they speak very fast, but don’t get intimidated by it. Italian is simple if you’re immersed in with the locals and if you pay attention to a few grammar rules! Here’s how to learn Italian in Florence:
Watching an Italian movie with English subtitles is a great way to become more familiar with the language. If you wish to go to the cinema to watch the latest Hollywood blockbuster, bear in mind that all non-Italian movies are dubbed in Italian.
In my opinion, the best way to learn Italian while having fun is to catch up with some local kids in bars for a coffee or a beer. Regarding this matter, you can organise language meetings that will allow you to exchange opinions and get in touch with the Italian culture. Also, you’ll get to know some off-the-track places, where locals eat and hang out. If you are shy and don’t know how to make the first move, you can set up group meetings through Facebook or Couchsurfing. Otherwise (this is addressed to the bravest ones), you can try approaching some Italian kids that hang out at the Oblate library, next to the Duomo, or even in squares at night (we all know that alcohol makes everybody friendlier!).
Some universities, mainly American ones, have a big network of Florentine host families to whom they send their students. Some of them live throughout their time in Florence with these families, while others, who live in dormitories or in private apartments, have the opportunity to be offered a free dinner or lunch once a week with these families. In exchange, these students help them practise their English. In the unlucky event that your uni/college hasn’t got any kind of exchange program, try to set a meeting up by putting an ad on library noticeboards or on Facebook.
Instead of living with fellow nationals, find some Italian housemates. You’ll definitely improve your language and cooking skills!
Many foreign students (mainly American ones) work at bakeries, cafés or pubs in the city centre, where thousands of Erasmus students hang out every night. Besides the fact that you’ll surely learn a bit of Italian, you’ll gain some spare money to spend!
Being a globally-renowned food capital, Florence has got many cooking schools for both tourists and locals. Some language schools like Europass, organise cooking lessons for foreigners in Italian, which focus on some main themes of our cuisine such as fish, meat, pizza and ice cream.
Florence is full of English-only bars and clubs where international students gather. But if you are interested in stepping out of the comfort zone and get to know Italians, I’d recommend you to go to an enoteca or vinaio, which are traditional wine bars where you’ll surely meet some more locals.
Football is a very big thing here in Italy. In fact, there are public parks all around the city (like Piazza Tasso or Piazza d’Azeglio) with football fields in them where you can easily join a match. Also, talking about football with some Italians is a good way to make friends and in the meantime learn the language. Beware of the intense rivalry between Fiorentina, the city’s main football team, and Juventus… Merely suggesting you sympathise for Juventus will surely make the conversation short-lived. If you take this dangerous path, take into account that you’ll be answered with typical florentine swearwords, given the wave of insults that always follows someone who praises the rivals!
When you meet locals and you want to speak Italian with them, pretend you don’t speak nor understand English. If they think you do, they’ll surely answer you in English and won’t even try to speak to you in their native language!
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