The Official Guide for Learning to Read in Italian
Did you know that reading in one’s first language accounts for 70% of a literate person’s vocabulary? As a consequence, applying the same basic concept to your Italian study plan will undoubtedly accelerate your language learning process.
Reading in Italian is not only the most effective way to learn and retain new vocabulary, but it is also an extremely effective manner for activating your passive Italian vocabulary and grammar.
How to Read Italian Books
Make peace with the idea that, learning something new does not imply that you will be able to apply it the next day. It takes time for new information to sink in. You will almost certainly make a number of attempts and make a few mistakes (think about your Italian subjunctives and prepositions) before you can properly externalize the correct information.
That is where reading comprehension comes in. You visualize and consciously absorb correct sentences when reading in Italian. Reading an Italian novel means being bombarded with beautiful correct sentences, including subjunctives, prepositions, and connectors.
In this post, I’ll share some practical tips for making the most of your time spent reading Italian books. These suggestions are based on my experience as an avid language learner and language coach who has found immense joy in immersing herself in books in multiple languages over the years.
How to read Italian books, step by step
1. Do not look up every unfamiliar word
Some students will never be able to read an Italian book – not because they don’t know enough, but because they can’t stop at every unfamiliar word to look it up.
Despite acknowledging these students’ eagerness to learn, I would advise against looking up every word in the dictionary. The reason is simple: you are depriving yourself of the pleasure of reading. It is impossible to learn if your mind receives too many inputs. Finally, the overwhelming new vocabulary that can result from reading in a foreign language will leave you confused and overwhelmed.
2. Do not read Dante’s Inferno
Choose a book that corresponds to your level of Italian. If you’re a lower intermediate, the Italian short stories are a must-read. Alternatively, seek advice from your Italian teacher on what materials to use. Choose a reading resource that is easy to understand. That means you should be able to understand 90-95 percent of the book. Anything below will not serve as a learning tool.
3. Determine your Italian reading level
Read an excerpt from your chosen book. If the first few pages make sense to you, you know you won’t be confused by the rest of it – it’s at your level. Never attempt to read a difficult Italian book for the sake of bragging rights. You will feel as if you have run a marathon despite not having exercised for a single day.
Also, choose Italian readings that pique your interest; otherwise, you will be less likely to stick with that book and finish it.
A very effective strategy to boost up your Italian through reading is by reading narrowly. If you want to extend your vocabulary in a specific field you should read voraciously about that topic (or using the same authors)
4. Consider reading non-fiction in Italian
5. Read an Italian magazine
Great Italian magazines to learn Italian
- Millionaire (innovation and business)
- Internazionale (international affairs and world news)
- Bell’Italia (monthly magazine about places and regions of Italy)
- Focus (most popular Italian science magazine)
- Airone (another popular science magazine, less complicated than Focus )
- L’espresso (Italian affairs weekly magazine)
- Donna Moderna (weekly women’s and fashion magazine)
6. Do it for 5-10 minutes a day
In the following articles I made list of some great Italian reads for beginners and intermediate learners.