My Process - Italian / What's Yours?

Hi All, just signed up for LingQ yesterday, really loving it. I have been doing input based learning on my own without knowing this tool exists. But now this is great.

I’ve just started learning Italian, it’s been about three weeks and I can make my way through a news article with 75-80% comprehension. Below is the process I use:

1)Duolingo - I know there is some debate on this subject, but I find duolingo to be so trivial that the grammar lessons and the translation exercises are a breeze. I do my duolingo as I’m sipping on my coffee and it takes me about 15 minutes to complete each session. I look at it as a warm up to get my brain “thinking” in that language. Think of it like stretching. I used to also use Babel but the danger with all these apps is that you feel as if you are actually making progress, but you’re really not (that’s the best way I can explain it.) You could never learn a language through one of these apps.

  1. LingQ - I’ve imported a few Italian children’s book lessons - with audio (available to everyone) so I’m working my way through those at the moment. Currently I finished Little Red Riding Hood. If you import new content here is the process: STEP 1: Go through all the blue words turn them into yellow, in the beginning there will be a ton of yellow, don’t worry about comprehension but do glance at the definitions. STEP 2: Go through sentence by sentence and add any “phrases” you want to keep. This stage takes the most time, and can be done in multiple 15 minute segments. Break each session up into smaller chunks. STEP 3: Read the article for comprehension, again break this up into multiple 15 minute segments if necessary.

3) Listen to Assimil dialogues. Again, some controversy over the Assimil method, I’ve gone ahead and condensed all the audio lessons into 3 lesson segments, and removed any extra audio that I don’t need. Listen to these on repeat over and over, until I form my own understanding. I will reference the text a little later.


  1. I love tech podcasts, so I found a few in Italian and listen to these in the background as I work. I don’t understand much yet, but a few phrases are peaking through. I’m not “actively” listening, but think of it as exposing myself to as much language as possible.


5)Either continue to turn blue words into yellow from the AM session, or read on LingQ something that I’ve already gone through and yellowed. 15 minutes or so.


  1. Assimil dialogues. - about 15 minutes.


  1. I will do one or two more 15 minute sessions of LingQ reading something I’ve added or work through a text turning blue into yellow. At this point I will do 15 minutes of the actual Assimil method where I look at the translated text to make sure that I have full comprehension. I don’t do any exercises, glance at the notes. I pick one or two lessons when the timer is up I’m done.


  1. On weekends I’ll spend some extra time adding in longer content that I feel would be interesting to read and review. Currently, I’m really into children’s books.

  2. I will also utilize HelloTalk and write some basic dialogues, this really takes a lot of time so the conversations really don’t go far on my end, but it does make me practice writing basic sentences out.
    I use HelloTalk mostly for having my writing corrected and posting recordings of myself reading dialogue (either Assimil or my own) so I can have my pronunciation looked at.

I’m really enjoying the process and feel that this moves all aspects of the language I want to learn forward.

And that’s about it, repeat the next day. I’m curious to hear about your process and how it is similar or different.



Duolingo - essentially worthless. Internet is littered with A0 level learners who pile hours into it. Much better to spend time with native materials from the off and fight your way through it.

Assimil - i’ve never used it but then i don’t use courses so can’t comment. What i do do though is take natural dialogue from real life and shadow/copy/repeat etc from that because they are real people speaking in a real way.

No manufactured content for me, basically, except for there is a French ‘dialogue’ channel on youtube which is quite good but then it’s made to sound a bit more natural than what you will find in courses.

I just read, listen, translate words, look stuff up as i’m going etc. Once you can read a book without a dictionary the word accumulation is rapid because context is filling most of the words in for you. Even if you don’t know the direct translation it doesn’t matter. You can know the sentiment of dozens of words without even knowing what the English is if you know how to use them in context.

For real, 100% genuine conversational type stuff, I basically read graphic novels/comic books aimed at adults, watch Easy French and documentaries/chat shows with lots of dialogue in them on youtube/tv etc.

Because there isn’t a lot of description going on in these, i supplement with newspaper articles and novels aimed at 9 year olds+ to make sure i’m getting adjectives and descriptions of scenes etc.

I also listen to podcasts but i find it harder to follow them because my mind wanders.

At the end of the day you have to do what you like, but that doesn’t always mean that is the most effective. There is a guy on another forum who has some weird OCD over courses in French, he collects them and can’t bear to study a language without them. He’s only B1 certified after several years of proper dedicated study, and still refuses to ditch the courses in exchange for the real hard graft of native content. He’s essentially wasting his time.

Che programma! Auguri!

I will be in Italy/Malta for four weeks starting next week, so I’m going to get back into Italian while I’m there. Your post has served as a nice bit of inspiration!

i don;t like duolingo it bores me i don’t know why people swear by this to each it’s own. assimil i do use every day

For me Duolingo was very useful, especially for Spanish and later for Italian though for Italian I started to use early also lingq. (When I learned Spanish I still did not know about lingq otherwise I would use it early too). Another useful app for me is memrise.

Thank you for importing those children’s books! I am currently reading and listening to Little Red Riding Hood and the sound quality is amazing. If you could import more of these it’d be great.

Great response! I like your take on language learning and acquisition. I do agree that it’s important to listen to as much of native content as possible. I also read comic books here and there, but I don’t have enough vocabulary yet to make it a worthwhile activity.

In regards to Duolingo, I feel it’s a pretty good intro to the language. If you understand the limitations of the app I think it can be a great resource starting out. I agree with you, some people spend way to much time on it and it’s not meant for that kind of use. But to get some basic sentences, vocabulary and a general intro to the language you are about to study I think it’s a pretty good resource.

The older versions of Assimil are wonderful. You get two hours of dialogue only in the Native language so it’s a great resource for that.

Thanks for your comment and good luck on your language learning Journey.

Glad I could help. I’m heading to Florence myself in May and would like to be able to get around and have some understanding of the language.

I would also recommend looking into Anki! It’s a really awesome SRS app. Available for mobile and desktop. I don’t use much flashcards anymore, I just let the language come to me through input.

No problem! I will be uploading more stories this weekend. There is also “I Tre Porcellini” and “Riccioli d’Oro e i Tre Orsi” uploaded from the same provider.

Let me know if you’d like to practice Italian sometime via chat voice or text.

Buona fortuna :slight_smile:

Grazie! Sei stato a Firenze?

Si, una volta moltissimi anni fa. Ho abitato a Roma, anche anni fa, e ritorno a Roma al meno una volta per anno, perché é la mia città preferita nel mondo. E non vedo l’ora di ritornare la settimana prossima!

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Your method is thorough and will undoubtedly lead to great results, but I just have one, somewhat nitpicky comment: I don’t think there is any controversy over the Assimil method itself.

From what I see out there, criticisms of Assimil break down into two categories:

  1. “The older editions where better.” – Yes, I know, everything was better back in the old days (for more info on this, see US electoral rhetoric, 2016) But the question is, if you wanna learn a language today, in the present, what methods are available and how do they compare to each other?

  2. “Their books for some languages are not as good as others.” – Yes, this is somewhat true. Their Korean edition, for example, is in desperate need of an upgrade. However, the languages where they may not be as good, tend to be the languages where other publishers are lacking as well. Assimil’s books for European languages, which is where they probably make their bread and butter, all seem extremely well produced.

I’ve started three language journeys with Assimil and for anyone setting out to study a Europe based language from scratch, I have not seen a better method to get you from 0 to B2 - C1.

Most people who criticize Assimil still use the methodology of Assimil – reading listening, and repetition – but just with different material that they deem better for some reason.

Working with audio books while reading along, which is what I do now, is really just the continuation of that method, just with more advanced material – material that Assimil has deliberately prepared me for by including book segments in their advanced course. People overlook the attention Assimil pays to cultural content in all of their books – especially their advanced “Using” series. By the time you finish a course, not only can you communicate in the language, but you also a have an understating of important cultural and historical aspects of the people who speak it.

There are other ways you can learn a language, but if you did a test, dollars to donuts, starting from scratch, two students with similar aptitude, one hour a day, one student on Assimil, the other on whatever app or book you chose, I have no doubt the Assimil person would come out ahead.

And yes, you wanna speak often, read the news sites, listen to podcasts, etc, etc. I’m talking your core study materials here.

(Steve did say Assimil has a cult like following – I happen to be Grand Master. Worship stats every Sunday at 10:00 GMT. Donations are welcome :slight_smile:

Oh, and Duolingo :stuck_out_tongue: It’s great for when you’re starting out with a language and mix in Duolingo as a companion to your core study material – exactly the way you’re using it – to get some tests in. But yeah, I’ve known people who tried to use it as their principal method and didn’t get very far. It’s a companion app.

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I’m playing really dialogue-heavy RPGs in German such as Dragon Age and The Witcher, but they can’t go on forever (but I try to milk them as much as possible, for 2 hours a day so I can have a consistent intake of language that way). Those games, however, come at the earliest after a month of study, maybe even two. Now that I discovered the ‘Easy German’ channel and lots of channels that are like it for other languages, maybe I will play games even later when I feel more comfortable as a lot of the words and expressions are a bit harder to understand.

I mentioned Easy German, a video or two a day.

I use LingQ for 30 minutes to 50 minutes in one session with a small break, importing Wikipedia articles currently and thinking what else I can throw in to entertain me. This is when I do intense reading.

And yeah, sometimes I put on some video or podcast out of sheer curiosity, it is not part of the general schedule, it just so happens. I enjoy it and I learn more, so bonus points.

When I go to and get back from university I put on to listen something in German with my earplugs on, ain’t nothing like walking and getting your brain stimulated like that. Sometimes I really can’t be bothered with listening to Grimm fairytales for the 20th time, so I have to look for more options.

I am trying to find somewhere books for children - free, of course, the pirate life is not something I feel disgusted by.

It’s a pretty not-so-rigid-schedule if it can be called that. I basically do the things I listed whenever I feel like, but I make sure I DO indeed do them instead of slacking off. I prefer doing afternoons for LingQ specifically, no idea why.

I played Skyrim in German. Brilliant. Learned a load of essential words, like Dietrich and Zaubertränke, and cool new phrases like “Zaubertrank der Anhaltenden Unsichtbarkeit”.

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Great breakdown of the criticisms towards Assimil. In the end it’s a resource and a pretty darn good one.

Very interesting strategy, I didn’t even consider gaming as an option for language learning. I’ve even heard of SpeedRunners changing the in game language because the dialogue is faster in some languages than others.

@Colin: Ich habe das gerade meiner Tochter vorgelesen und sie hat sich sehr darüber gefreut :wink:

Hahaha while it is true that some words have no practical use, the games do help with getting used to the structure and sound of the language while doing something fun.

It helps if you are a nerd such as me. Knowing the word for “Mana pot” in different languages never gets boring!

EDIT: I tried it with Skyrim as well, but the audio quality is atrocious, even with the other sound channels adjusted.