If you’re thinking about learning Italian, then you might be wondering whether Duolingo’s Italian course is the course for you.
La bella lingua is spoken by over 66 million people worldwide. It’s an official language in several European countries and currently boasts over 6.5 million learners on Duolingo!
It also happens to be the first language I properly learnt on Duolingo — so needless to say I’ve spent a lot of time with the course over the years!
But does that mean Duolingo is good for learning Italian?
In this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about Italian on Duolingo.
We’ll look at:
- How Duolingo’s Italian course is structured
- Special features
- Other features you need to be aware of
- The pros of Duolingo’s Italian course
- The cons of Duolingo’s Italian course
Ready to dive in?
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What you’ll find in Duolingo’s Italian course
If you’re new to Duolingo, then it’s worth pointing out that all of Duolingo’s courses are structured in pretty much the same way.
They all follow what is commonly referred to as the lesson tree. You can see an example from the Italian tree below:
- The tree is broken up into a set of units.
- Each unit has a set of skills (or modules).
- Each skill has up to 6 crown levels.
- And each crown level has a set of lessons.
The basic goal is to work through the tree by completing every lesson… in every level… in every skill… in every unit.
As of March 2022, Duolingo’s Italian course has a total of 4 units, broken down into a total of 66 skills. That means there are 330 crown levels in Duolingo’s Italian course (or 396 if you include the legendary levels).
The Italian course also has a couple of bonus skills you can buy from the Duolingo Shop. These focus on idioms and flirting.
The exercises in the Italian course are basically the same as in all the other courses. Some of the common exercises you’ll come across include:
- Complete the translation
- Mark the correct meaning
- Picture flashcards
- Select the missing word
- Sentence shuffle
- Speak this sentence
- Tap the pairs
- Tap what you hear
Does Duolingo’s Italian course have any special features?
Although English speakers can learn nearly 40 different languages on Duolingo, it’s important to point out that not all of the courses are created equally.
Some courses have special features that others don’t.
As of March 2022, Duolingo’s Italian course has 51 stories, but doesn’t have audio lessons or podcasts.
These are basically fun little mini-stories entirely in Italian designed to improve your reading, listening and speaking. You follow along line by line, and every now and then answer questions to make sure you know what’s going on.
They’re great for learners of all levels, so once you’ve unlocked the first batch you can feel free to jump in at any point.
There’s also a conversation mode on some of the stories, which lets you take part in the story by reciting what one of the characters is saying.
If you want to speak Italian FAST then you should definitely check out this book on Amazon. Benny’s ‘language hacking’ strategy is an absolute game-changer!
Other features in Duolingo’s Italian course
Duolingo’s Italian course is built on the same stuff as all of Duolingo’s other language courses.
We won’t go into too much detail here, but some of the features worth knowing about include:
- XP – As you work through the Duolingo Italian course, you’ll earn experience points, which are more commonly known as XP. You’ll earn XP for pretty much everything you do. Some lessons, tasks and exercises will earn you more XP than others.
- Leagues – Every week you’ll be entered into a league with other Duolingo learners. There are 10 leagues to work through, starting at Bronze and ending at Diamond. The leagues are basically leaderboards — simply earn more XP than others in your league to have a chance of winning.
- Gems – XP and crowns aren’t the only things you’ll earn as you learn Italian. You’ll also earn gems, which you can spend in the Duolingo Shop. There isn’t really much you can buy here, but you can use your gems to pick up things like Streak Freezes, bonus skills, Timer Boosts for timed challenges, and some costumes for the owl.
- Friends – Duolingo is a social experience, so you’re able to follow other users and compare your progress. The guys at Duolingo reckon you’re 5 times more likely to finish your course if you follow people! To get you started, feel free to give me a follow — my username is DCiiieee!
- Duolingo Plus – This is Duolingo’s premium membership. Pay for Plus and you’ll get access to some useful features, including unlimited hearts, no ads and Practice Hub.
Is Duolingo good for learning Italian?
Now to answer the all-important question: Is Duolingo good for learning Italian?
Let’s consider some pros and cons.
Learning a new language can be pretty intimidating, especially if you only speak English.
This is why one of the nicest things about Duolingo is just how accessible and welcoming it is.
Regardless of the language you’re learning, Duolingo presents its courses in a really warm, vibrant and inclusive way. So whether this is your second language or your tenth, you can feel at ease straight away!
Fortunately for English speakers, Italian’s probably one of the easier languages to learn as well. You don’t have to worry about things like cases or different writing systems, and the pronunciation isn’t *that* difficult once you get used to rolling your R’s!
Duolingo makes this even easier with the way it presents its courses. You’ll find helpful tips in every skill and if you’re stuck on a question you can just tap the words for some hints.
Duolingo’s Italian course also comes with the usual placement test when you first start, so you can rest assured you’ll start your tree from a place you find comfortable.
This is one of Duolingo’s standout features and it’s only available in a few of its courses.
Fortunately, Italian is one of them!
One of the best things about the Italian stories is that they’re genuinely interesting and funny as hell! Duolingo have got some seriously great writers!
They’re so good that reading them doesn’t feel like work. Yet all the while your reading and listening comprehension is going up, up and up!
And while the stories aren’t up to the same standard as some of Duolingo’s other courses (we’ll get to that in a sec) they’re still a HUGE selling point for the Italian course.
I highly recommend getting stuck into them as soon as you can!
This doesn’t just go for Duolingo’s Italian course, it’s the same for ALL of them!
One of the best things about Duolingo is that it’s more than just a language learning tool.
It’s also a game. And although this isn’t to everyone’s liking, it’s a big part of why so many people show up every day to do their daily lessons.
For everything you do in Italian, you’ll earn XP (experience points) which contribute towards your position in the weekly leagues.
Now this isn’t something you should take too seriously (you can read more about why here) but if you take it lightly it’ll definitely make your Italian a lot more enjoyable.
Because ultimately, the more you enjoy something, the more likely you are to do it. And given learning Italian will require you to show up regularly for a very long time, Duolingo could be the perfect solution.
Another great thing about Duolingo is that the Italian course is 100% free.
There is a premium subscription — Duolingo Plus — but this isn’t something you need in order to complete the course. The whole thing is completely free; Plus just adds a few features that make things a bit smoother.
This is great if you’re just dabbling with Italian and aren’t ready to commit just yet. But also if you’re keen to get started with the language but don’t want to fork out on special software or tuition.
I take it you’ve seen the owl memes?
Yes, the owl can be *a bit* of a stalker at times, pestering you at all hours to do your daily Italian lessons!
But relax, contrary to popular belief, he’s not gonna kidnap your family anytime soon!
Jokes aside, Duolingo is brilliant for keeping you motivated.
Learning Italian takes time. It’s not something you’re going to pick up overnight.
According to the US Foreign Service Institute, it takes roughly 600-750 “class hours” to reach “Professional Working Proficiency” in Italian.
So yeah, if you’re going to learn Italian, you’ve got to be in it for the long haul!
That means creating an unbreakable habit. And Duolingo’s amazing for doing that.
Put it this way — my current streak (i.e. the number of days in a row I’ve used Duolingo) goes all the way back to May 2016.
And that’s not just because I’m a bit obsessive! It’s thanks to Duolingo being such a great way of keeping me motivated!
Really short course
Although Italian is currently Duolingo’s 6th most popular course, the course itself is reallllly short.
It only has four units, which is less than half of what you get in courses like French and Spanish.
While each skill has up to 6 levels, realistically you could plough through them in a pretty short time.
I first completed the Italian tree back in 2016 and I managed to get it done in about a month. And even though Duolingo have updated it quite a bit since then, there still aren’t many branches on the tree.
This means that although Duolingo is great for getting started with Italian, eventually you’ll need to look further afield if you want to make significant progress.
Not great for speaking
This is the case for most of Duolingo’s language courses.
Duolingo is brilliant for getting to grips with the listening and reading side of a language. You even get opportunities to practice your pronunciation.
But when it comes to speaking in a real-life scenario, Duolingo’s Italian course won’t get you there by itself.
The problem is the speaking exercises aren’t conversation exercises. You get a little bit of practice in the conversation mode on the stories, but this just involves reciting what the characters say. You don’t actually come up with your own responses.
Speaking is a skill in its own right and to learn it you’ll need to practice it regularly, ideally with a native speaker, or at the very least using a program that has conversation scenarios (such as ItalianPod101).
Stories aren’t as good as in other courses
I was really excited to see stories come to the Italian course back in 2021. Considering how popular the course is, they were definitely overdue.
And while they definitely improve the course, unfortunately, they don’t hit the heights of the stories in other courses, such as French, Spanish and German.
One reason is there just aren’t that many. As of March 2022 there are only 51 — which is pretty low compared to the French course, which has nearly 300!
Another reason is they just don’t read as well as in some of the other courses. The French stories are full of life with real voices. Whereas the Italian stories sound as though they’re being read by robots.
They’re still good, but they could be so much better.
If you’ve read any of my other articles then you’ll know one of the things I dislike most about Duolingo at the moment is the heart system.
Hearts are basically lives or chances. You start off with 5 then lose one every time you make a mistake.
If you lose all your hearts then you’re not allowed to progress through your course until your hearts replenish.
You can either watch an ad to get one back, do a practice session, spend some gems or wait 5 hours.
It’s far from ideal as it does the unhelpful thing of punishing you for making mistakes.
Which, as far as I’m concerned, is ridiculous as mistakes are absolutely essential and unavoidable when learning a language.
So keep this in mind as this can be so frustrating.
If you’re a total beginner or simply on the fence about learning Italian, then Duolingo’s Italian course is definitely a great place to start.
You’ll learn the basics of the language, get to grips with the pronunciation, pick up a nice chunk of useful vocabulary, and see the language in action in 51 mini-stories.
You’ll also have a blast working through the course as you compete in the weekly leagues and alongside your friends!
By the end of the course, you’ll definitely be more advanced than when you started (I speak from experience!).
However, given that the course only has 4 units, you’ll need to use other resources as well if you want to reach fluency.
By itself, Duolingo’s Italian course could probably get you to an A2 level in reading and listening (so long as you’re doing enough passive learning as well).
A good tool to use — either alongside Duolingo or after you’ve completed the course — is ItalianPod101.
ItalianPod and Duolingo complement each other beautifully, as they both target areas that the other misses. Duolingo is great for reading and typing things out, whereas ItalianPod is brilliant for improving your listening and speaking.
With ItalianPod you’ll also get essential resources like grammar packs, cultural insights, and learn the 2,000 most common Italian words — so by the end of the course, you should be able to understand as much as 80% of all Italian conversations.
When used together, Duolingo and ItalianPod will give you everything you need to reach a comfortable level in Italian.
if you’re new to Italian…
I’d highly recommend taking Duolingo’s placement test, figuring out what level you’re at, and then working through the first couple of units of the tree. This will get you familiar with the basics of Italian.
At the same time, I’d recommend taking advantage of ItalianPod’s free trial to get familiar with how the language sounds, pick up some useful phrases and cultural insights, and practice speaking as soon as possible.
Once you’ve worked your way through the Duolingo course, I’d recommend coming back to it daily to keep the streak alive (habit is SO important when learning a language) and start to move through the intermediate to advanced packs on ItalianPod.
Finally, make sure you’re getting enough passive exposure to Italian as well. It’s really important to experience the language in an authentic environment — so things like TV shows, music, books, real-life conversations — so you can see how everything you learn on Duolingo and ItalianPod works in the real world.