The 5 Hardest Things About Learning Italian

Italian is one of the most-studied foreign languages in the world, with nearly 64 million native speakers. But as anyone who’s learned Italian can tell you, it’s no walk in the park. From complicated conjugations to tongue-twisting pronunciations, the Italian language is full of challenges that often give learners a headache. Here are some of the most common complaints we’ve heard from students of Italian:

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Image via Jorge Royan / Wikipedia

1. Complicated conjugations

Italian verbs are conjugated for person and number, meaning that verbs take numerous different forms depending on who the subject is. For example, “I talk” is parlo, “you talk” is parli, “he talks” is parla, and “they talk” is parlano (and that’s not even the full set of conjugations!). Amplified by the fact that these conjugations change for each verb tense, memorizing all of the verb conjugations is certainly one of the Italian language’s most tedious difficulties.

2. Numerous verb tenses

As stated before, Italian verbs are conjugated by person and number. But there are also a variety of verb tenses that learners must memorize, in addition to these conjugations. The subjunctive mood (in present, present-perfect, past, and future forms) takes the cake for the most difficult for English speakers, as subjunctive constructions are very rarely used in English.

3. Confusing pronoun rules

English speakers often struggle with pronouns in Italian, and it’s no wonder why. First of all, the Italian language has more pronouns than English, including distinct direct and indirect object pronouns, which is a lot to memorize. But even more challenging is the placement of pronouns: sometimes they come before the verb, sometimes they come after the verb, and sometimes they’re tacked on to the end of the verb. Though it does have its internal logic, Italian pronouns can be very overwhelming at first!

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4. Exceptions galore

As we’ve seen, remembering all the rules in the Italian language isn’t easy. However, to complicate the picture further, the language is littered with exceptions. While rules can be learned and generalized to novel words, these exceptions must simply be memorized. For example, the Italian word for egg is uovo. Normally, the plural would be formed by replacing the “o” with an “i”, as “uovo” is a masculine noun. Curiously, however, the plural is uova — whose final letter “a” is the one that is seen in singular feminine nouns even though it is still considered masculine!

5. Rolling your Rs

Some people are born with the innate ability to roll their Rs. Others, however, are not, and this can make speaking Italian quite a challenge. Indeed, “r” is an exceedingly common letter in Italian, and your inability to roll your “r” will surely give you away as a foreigner. If you can’t roll your Rs, however, don’t worry: your Italian-speaking friends and colleagues will be so impressed at your ability to speak their language that they won’t even notice.

As you can see, learning Italian isn’t an easy task. However, it’s worth it in the end, as speaking Italian will allow you to connect with millions of people — in addition to helping you make the most out of your next vacation to Italy. Luckily, learning Italian can be made much easier with the help of a qualified, native-speaking Italian teacher. Contact us to see how we can best help you learn Italian.