Of all the ways there are of learning Italian, there is one that’s more convenient, quick, and simple than all the others: downloading apps to learn Italian.
Why, after all, would you waste time and money on real-life language classes, with a teacher and other clueless students, or buy one of those heavy box sets with books, CDs and notecards that promise to get you up and running, if you can just go to your phone’s app store and get all of that in the convenient package of a little icon on your home screen?
If you're busy, prefer learning at your own speed or taking lessons on the go, nothing beats an app. The only question remains: which one?
If you type “learn Italian” into the search bar of your phone app store, you’ll see dozens upon dozens of options. Apps that claim to teach you faster, or promise to be more fun. Apps that advertise a unique method or a specific focus, like the building of vocabulary.
Because of this, even thinking of choosing one can be a headache. And trying all of them even more so. The good news is that I'm here to save you the time and hassle of going through all of that.
9 Best Apps To Learn Italian
In this article, I'll be looking at the best apps to help you learn Italian. Now, all of the apps I’ve selected below are fine choices, so you really can’t go wrong with either.
But I will go into the specifics of each, to see what makes them different, and which kind of learner could benefit from which specific app. All of the apps to learn Italian below are available to both Android and iOS users.
And at the end of the post, I'll share an alternative to apps for learning Italian online that will help you go from beginner to conversationally fluent in Italian fast through story.
Promising to teach you a language with just five to ten minutes of learning per day, this app may sound like a quick fix, but that’s not strictly true. Drops actually takes things slow, so that your head won’t be buzzing with too many new words and phrases you only half remember.
Those few minutes every day really allow for information to sink in, and frequent repetition solidifies new knowledge. Admittedly not the best for advanced learners, and only useful up to a point, Drops may be the best place to start if you’re absolutely new to Italian besides ciao and grazie.
Imagine Drops sort of like word Tinder, where you swipe up or down on words depending on whether you’d like to learn them, and then pairing words you selected to little pictogram bubbles, or “drops”.
It helps that the app is beautiful, easy to use, and addictive. There's an easy way to look at your statistics. And the points you earn add up to buy you more time to practice. While the app is free, there is also a premium version that erases the time limit.
Best for: Casual learners, and visual types at the very beginning of their learning journey.
Pimsleur, an American company founded in the 60s, is considered a classic in language-learning circles for good reason. Their famous “Pimsleur Method” has helped scores of people learn languages from French to Arabic.
While pretty classical and serious, along the line of Rosetta Stone (more on that below) with their massive budget and school-type approach, Pimsleur does seem to be the more effective one in terms of building knowledge.
Pimsleur Italian takes thirty minutes a day and comes with all the usual suspects of language learning: building vocabulary, understanding Italian grammar rules, recording speech to check for spelling and help with fluency, and a whole lot of multiple choice answers.
While the app is technically free, it only comes with one unpaid trial lesson, after which the language course is quite hefty in terms of price. They do, however, promise to get you up to an intermediate level in thirty days. Plus, if you sign up for classes on the app you can use their website, as well.
Best for: Those who long for a serious course and don’t mind playing the price, are familiar with the very basics of Italian, and have half an hour a day to devote to the task.
*Pimsleur is very similar to the marketing giant language school Rosetta Stone, which is why I haven’t devoted a separate entry to them. Rosetta Stone may be great as a comprehensive language learning option, but if you’re just using the app, the system comes with a number of flaws.
It’s very expensive for what it offers, and their platform is limited to advanced students even in the “beginner” mode, since it lacks almost all explanation and description, throwing students curveball after curveball, which isn’t very helpful.
Mondly, a very popular app, is a great choice for those mid-level students who want to broaden their vocabulary or, even more so, learn the tenses of Italian verbs.
This doesn’t mean that you can't use Mondly if you're a beginner — you can specify your skill level at the start. But just that learners who come to the app with some knowledge of Italian will find it offers the best option for improving language comprehension.
Mondly also has a strong community component, since you can compete with friends and other learners and be motivated by their successes in learning Italian, as well as test your knowledge against theirs in the games the app offers. The only catch is that Mondly is not free after the trial period. But the reasonable price is more than worth the service this app provides.
Best for: competitive intermediate learners.
Babbel is a comprehensive language learning platform. Students of every kind — from absolute beginner to advanced speakers — can find the right path.
Like Pimsleur, Babbel offers a web platform that includes learning on the app and their site. And like Pimsleur, Babbel is much like a language school, but online.
Babbel includes the first lesson of any language for free, and becomes a paid service thereafter. Though, unlike Pimsleur, it is not prohibitively expensive.
While it’s younger than some competing online language schools, Babbel has become an incredibly popular learning platform, and takes teaching seriously. There are all sorts of different tasks to complete on every level, aimed towards helping you speak useful Italian. So there are no sentences you will never use, such as “the pen is on the table,” here.
You learn things that actually interest you thanks to mock dialogues, recorded repetitions to improve your Italian pronunciation and a choice of topics at every level. Babbel also has a beautiful design that makes the app super simple to use.
Best for: Students at any level who are serious about learning and don’t mind devoting the time. But don’t feel like shelling out big bucks.
*Babbel is quite similar to Nemo, except for the fact that Nemo prioritizes hands-free learning, which can be great for busy people. But the app doesn’t get its own entry in this article. Here's why – if you're a serious learner, the selling point of being able to repeat Italian phrases into your headset isn’t enough to warrant downloading it over other options.
FluentU approaches language learning somewhat differently from other apps: it emphasizes real-world interactions instead of dry vocabulary lessons. So you watch videos and (hopefully) pick up Italian somewhere along the way.
This is helpful if you prefer a more realistic approach to learning. For every lesson, you’ll watch a video so that you can understand the context and tone of words and phrases better than just written words to memorise, or even sentences to repeat.
Their (always subtitled) videos are super varied, from news clips to movie trailers, so that you really feel surrounded by Italian as it’s really spoken and used in Italy. Some classic vocabulary and grammar lessons are still featured, of course. But the focus is on the visual medium of learning.
FluentU offers courses for every level of learner. And it’s more the type of student that the success of this approach depends on, rather than their level of knowledge.
This is an app with a beautiful interface. And a lot of work seems to have been put in producing the content. Perhaps because of this, FluentU doesn’t exactly come cheap, though it isn’t the most expensive language course on this list. The free trial lessons can help you decide whether this approach is right for you.
Best for: You if you lose interest in classes of an educational dryness quickly. And if you prefer hearing (and seeing) people talk rather than just reading.
Busuu is focused on covering the specifics of Italian rather than an immersion in the culture as a tool for learning.
This means that lessons will be pretty straightforward multiple choice questions and word memorization. However, there is one advantage Busuu has over other apps, and that’s the possibility of interaction with native speakers.
Here, you can write things using the words you’ve learned and actual Italians will correct the texts. Both this, and the general method, make Busuu a great choice for beginners.
While there is a free version that includes the things mentioned, an upgrade to premium is recommended if you want to use all the features of the app, like actually speaking to locals to improve your fluency and verbal comprehension.
The premium comes at about the price of a coffee each week. So it’s nowhere near expensive for what it offers. The paid version also includes an accredited certificate for those who complete the course, if that’s something that interests you.
Best for: those looking for a personal connection with native speakers and for those who prefer active to passive learning.
Much like Busuu, Italki emphasizes speech, only more so. With Italki, you’re basically signing up for real-life lessons with real language tutors over video chat.
While the name would have you believe that the app is Italian specific, Italki actually covers over 130 languages. That means its outreach is large enough to accommodate a lot of learners, and teachers, too.
Since this is a very different service, the app works a little differently, as well. It's free, and you only pay for lessons with actual people. Here, prices vary greatly. And it’s up to you to decide what the best balance between the cost and the service provided.
While none of the teachers are a steal, exactly, the hour-long lessons tend to be cheaper than a real-life tutor. Plus, it helps to think that most of the money goes to them, real people focused on you as a unique student, rather than a pre-packaged app that’s the same for everyone.
With Italki, you can chat to the teacher, ask specific questions and upload written homework for correction. While Italki is probably one of the best options to learn Italian properly, you may find it suits you best if you've covered the basics of the language already. Teachers offer trials so you know if they are a good fit before committing.
Best for: Those who thrive in a fully personalized, professional learning environment instead of a one-size-fits-all course. Or want to supplement learning with some interactive classes.
*An alternative to Italki that works much in the same way is TakeLessons. The app also offers free group classes in the first month of joining.
Rocket Languages is actually one of the older language learning software programmes back when things were on CD-ROMs. Founded in 2004, they've helped millions of users around the world learn a large variety of different languages.
You can now use their app to practice the essentials of Italian. You'll master essential words and phrases, listen to Italian pronunciation, and use voice recognition tools to check your own pronunciation.
Rocket Languages also includes step-by-step explanations of Italian grammar to make it easy for you to master all the tenses and more.
#9 ItalianPod101 (Innovative Language 101)
Innovative Language 101 or Pod101 lessons are available for a massive number of languages, and so too for Italian.
One thing that sets ItalianPod 101 apart is you can find all the materials you need, whether you're the newest beginner or can speak the language fluently. If you're looking for a one-stop-shop to learn Italian, it's hard to beat ItalianPod101.
Here, you can learn Italian in a similar way you would from a book, through in-person lessons, or Rosetta Stone. Lessons start with the most basic of things, such as learning to count to ten, or how to ask people for directions, before going into more detail on the structure, grammar and vocabulary of the language, like reflexive verbs in Italian or Italian possessive adjectives.
All pod101 language students can make use of an online platform with a variety of free lessons and the option to choose a paid course that goes into even more detail.
Best for: those who are just starting out, since the lessons cover a whole lot of ground right from the very beginnings of learning in a straightforward, simple way.
An Alternative To Apps To Learn Italian
So you see, each option I mention above is a fine choice for you if you’re trying to learn Italian. And which one you pick just depends on your preference.
That said, in the grand scheme of things, it really doesn’t matter which way you learn Italian. Why? Because as long as you just keep at it, you will get there.
But an app won't do the hard work for you of speaking the language. You can't get fluent in Italian just by using an app.
For that, you'll need something more comprehensive. That's why I created…
Italian Uncovered is my comprehensive beginner programme that teaches you to speak Italian through the power of story.
It's not an app, but you can still use it on ANY device – computer, laptop, smartphone or tablet.
This comprehensive beginner programme teaches you Italian through a fun and natural method that makes learning a pleasure, and grammar a breeze!
It goes far deeper than the Italian smartphone apps listed above. And will give you a very thorough grounding in Italian.
You see, language apps might appear flashy and modern…
But they lack the depth you need to truly master Italian.
The only way to achieve a high level of Italian is to immerse yourself in the Italian language! And that's what you do in Uncovered by learning through story from Day 1.
With stories, you can:
- Learn Italian faster through immersion, instead of rote learning
- Memorise vocabulary more easily, by seeing it in context
- Learn grammar naturally, not through rules!
- Understand Italian more easily, thanks to lots of reading and listening practice
Pretty effective, right?
To find out more about Italian Uncovered or to enrol in the programme, click here.