1st things to learn in a new language

How to start learning Italian – 3 Key Italian Phrases

How to start learning Italian – What are the first 3 phrases you should learn?

After reading this you will know the key to start learning Italian, along with some great (and free) self study options. This is some of our “secret sauce” here at Strømmen. The first step to learn Italian, or any language for that matter, is to:


In our many years of experience teaching beginners we see a common issue, when we ask that first question – “Ciao, come stai” (Hi How are you?) students’ eyes go wide and they look like a deer caught in the headlights. As an Italian teacher you can almost see the italian words circumventing the student’s ears (and brain) and flying over their head. So, how can you make sure you are using your ears?

1st things to learn in a new language
Students when they get asked a question in Italian for the first time.


  1. Cosa vuol dire ______?  (What does ______ mean)

    Cosa (what) vuol (does it mean) dire (to say). Whenever you hear something you dont understand, it is vital to try and repeat the phrase in Italian out loud. If the Italian speaker hears you trying to repeat the phrase, chances are they will also repeat it slower to help you. This is just a natural human reaction when we hear someone trying to parrot us. After you reweat the expression you can ask “Cosa vuol dire [inster expression]” and the Italian speaker will try to explain (maybe in English, or even by miming or gesticulating). Either way you have successfully listened, repeated, and hopefully understood the expression. Many times I will see that students understand the expression as soon as they repeat it. Why? Because they hadn’t actually heard it until they tried to actively listen and repeat. This is a methodology called parroting, and is part of the Strømmen language learning methodology meant to empower you to learn any language on your own. Of course, working with a professional italian teacher in a lesson setting will accelerate this especially if you dont have anyone to practice with.

  2. Come si Dice _______? (How do you say ______?)

    This expression is equally important, because it gets you speaking – even if you dont know any Italian. You can ask someone – “Come (how) si dice (does one say)”  – and then whatever word or expression you need. For example, “Come si dice tunafish?” The italian speaker will answer “Si dice Tonno”  With “cosa vuol dire ____” and “come si dice _____” Students of any level can keep the conversation in Italian and try to understand new Italian vocabulary they hear, as well as acquire new vocabulary they need to communicate. Using these expressions together works very well with games and other interactive learning approaches.

  3. Come si scrive _______?

    This expression is also very important for those of us who are visual learners. Sometimes writing down a word can help students to lock in the word. This expression simply means, “How does one write _____?” The Italian speaker should always spell the word out with the italian pronunciation of the letters (for example the letter “C” is pronounced “Chee”)

Beyond these 3 first Italian expressions:

We recommend learning a song, maybe even by heart. Nothing quite instills vocabulary, pronunciation and pacing like music. Humans are very good at remembering things in song form. Why not start with the song Italians like to sing after a long night of drinking vino? 


  • A great trick to learn hundreds of Italian words immediately is to take any word in English that ends with -tion (Like Information) and replace it with -zione – Informazione. 
  • Check out verb conjugations on my favorite site: https://www.wordreference.com Great free online dictionary with an excellent, active and helpful forum for asking for translations of particular terms as well as verb conjugations.
  • Watch Netflix in ITALIAN (and here is the important part) WITH ITALIAN SUBTITLES. Not English. Why? It will help you to HEAR what is being said. Check out this post of language learning with Netflix.




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