How long does it take to learn italian?

If you are considering starting to learn Italian probably one of the questions that you are asking yourself is how long does it take to learn Italian?

If you are a real learner you know that you never stop learning. This applies to everything in life, doesn’t it?

The good news is that along with Spanish, Dutch and Norwegian, Italian is one of the easiest and fastest languages for English speakers to learn, because of the similarities in the structure.

Even though it is not simple to calculate one hundred percent accurately how much time you will need to learn Italian, official sources, such as the Italian Language Academy (AIL) and the U.S. Foreign Service Institute (FSI), show that it can take 50 to 650 hours to learn Italian, depending on the level of proficiency that you want to reach.

Now, these numbers do not necessarily reflect the actual time you will need to learn Italian. It could be less, it could be more, depending on a lot of different factors.

Variables that can influence how much time it takes to learn Italian

  • Level of fluency you want to reach
  • Motivation
  • Prior knowledge of other foreign languages
  • Learning Strategy
  • Perseverance and Regularity
  • Personality
  • Attitude
  • Language Aptitude
  • Intelligence
  • Environment
  • Personal circumstances
  • Age

Let’s take a closer look at each of them.

What level of fluency do you want to reach in Italian?

Do you just want to be able to order your food in Italian or do you want to speak and understand Italian like a native?

The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) presents three main levels of fluency (A, B, C), each of them composed of two further levels (1 , 2). Each level includes speaking, reading, understanding of the written and spoken language.

Let’s see how much time you will need to learn Italian for each level.

Basic User (Level A1 – A2)

A basic user is able to talk about familiar topics of relevance for him using simple structures and limited vocabulary.

You will need only 50 – 60 hours to reach A1 level, and around 100 – 120 hours of study to get to level A2.

With this level you could maybe get by on a trip in Italy.

Independent User (Level B1 – B2)

If your goal is to be able to hold more complex conversations with Italian native speakers without too much of an effort from either party, you want to get to this level.

Suggested preparation time to pass B1 level is 240-300 hours, and for B2 320 – 400 hours.

Proficient User (Level C1 – C2)

If you are ambitious you will want to reach the level of proficiency.

By this time you will be able to talk fluently and correctly about any topic.

You will need 450-500 hours to reach C1 level, 600-650 hours for C2.


What is your motivation?

What is your ‘why’ to learn Italian?

There will be times where just liking the language will not be enough, you will need to have a stronger motivation.

Since almost everyone speaks English, English native speakers don’t really need to learn another language in order to communicate to the world, so having a strong motivation is fundamental to commit to learning Italian.

As an adult one can have different reasons to learn Italian, such as:

  • Personal interest in the Italian culture (music, literature, art,…)
  • Planning on studying, working or retiring in Italy
  • Work or school requirement
  • Upcoming travel to Italy
  • Reconnecting with Italian relatives
  • Truly understand your Italian lover
  • Keeping in touch with Italian friends

The stronger your motivation is, the faster you will learn Italian.

The motivation of a person moving to Italy could be stronger than the one of a summer traveler.

If you want to communicate with your new Italian partner, friend or your relatives in Italy who do not speak English, then you will more likely be studying harder and taking less time to learn to be able to express yourself and, finally, feel part of the conversation.

Do you already speak other foreign languages?

The previous acquisition of other languages can speed the learning process a lot, because you will already know how to learn a language and what is the best method for you to learn.

This factor can really give you an extra oomph, especially if you already speak a Romance language, such as Spanish, French or Portuguese, since they come from Latin and therefore have the same grammar structure and even similar vocabulary.

If you don’t know any other language besides your native English, it will probably take a bit longer to click in the beginning.

Also, when learning another language, you will have to deal with English language structure first in order to really understand Italian or any other language.


What is your learning strategy?

Especially if Italian will be the first foreign language that you are learning, you will need to take some time to figure out what learning strategy suits you the best. Some strategies can be more effective than others depending also on your specific cognitive style.

A combination of those strategies can certainly help you learning Italian faster than others:

Perseverance and Regularity

How often and how long are you planning to study Italian?

Forming the habit of learning Italian is one of the keys to speaking Italian faster.

It is more effective and faster to practice Italian twenty minutes to one hour a day every day, than 10 hours in a row once every two months.

Same as for going to gym, right?


What is your personality like?

Personality characteristics that can reduce the time it will take to learn Italian are:

  • Extroversion
  • Low anxiety
  • Empathy
  • Positivity
  • High self esteem
  • Positive reaction to criticism

All the above can be crucial in determining how long you will need to learn Italian.

An introverted or shy person could take longer to learn the language, would be more hesitant to start speaking, would be more anxious to make mistakes, would be more sensitive to the native speaker’s corrections.

A person suffering from a high language anxiety will be slower to start speaking in public.

Self esteem is important to know that you CAN achieve the goal of speaking Italian. Thinking ‘’I will never be able to learn Italian’’ will certainly not help you learn Italian faster.


Your attitude towards the Italian language, culture and people is one of the decisive factors in how much time you will take to learn Italian.

Are you going to lose time complaining and arguing about the nonsense of having feminine or masculine words in Italian or are you going to accept that in Italian language an apple (la mela) is feminine, but the flower (il fiore) is masculine?

Are you going to be ok knowing that you will make tons of mistakes, that you will feel lost in a conversation in Italian before getting to a comfort point with the language, or are you going to feel frustrated?

It doesn’t matter how hard or easy a language can be, what really matters is how hard YOU think it is.

A positive attitude towards the Italian language learning process will certainly help you learn at a faster pace.


woman writing in italian journal

Language Aptitude

Although everyone can learn a foreign language, the Modern Language Aptitude Test shows that people with a high language aptitude can learn faster than others.

Language aptitude is the innate ability to learn a foreign language. It has nothing to do with how intelligent or educated a person is, it’s a physical factor.

Language abilities that can speed the learning process are:

  • Ability of recognizing the sounds, associating them to a written form and memorizing them
  • Ability of identifying the function of the words in the structure of the sentence
  • Ability of catching the rules of the language by listening or reading the language


Like every other cognitive activity, a high IQ can affect positively how much time you will need to learn Italian.


In what kind of environment are you learning? For the environment we mean the kind of language exposure that you get.

Ideally it should be both formal, with an Italian teacher, and informal, by listening Italian and talking to Italians. In both cases it should be engaging and interesting to you.

You will probably learn very little and slower if you are not interested in the topics discussed, but if you are learning or talking in Italian about something that you love, you will pay more attention to it and learn faster.

Part of the learning environment is also the kind of feedback you receive from your teacher or the Italian native speaker you are talking to.

Positive feedback such as compliments, friendly corrections, tips on your pronunciation, can help you to learn Italian faster than not receiving any feedback at all.

Keeping a positive and engaging learning environment is fundamental to become confident in Italian.


Personal Circumstances

Personal circumstances can get in the way and slow the learning process.

A person with three jobs and kids could find it harder to make time and really focus on the language than a retired person, for example.

However this is also related to how strong your motivation is. As the saying goes ‘’where there is a will there’s a way’’, or ‘’volere è potere’’ in Italian.


I am too old to learn Italian? No!

It’s never too late to learn Italian and, despite many dissenting voices, Krashen (1979) actually shows that adults can learn a foreign language faster than children, especially when it comes to the correct structure of the sentence.


Now you know what are all the different factors that can speed up or slow down Italian language learning!

A real learner knows that you will never stop learning a language, like you never stop learning your own language. How many times have you heard or read an English word that you never heard or used before?

Imagine you meet a beautiful woman, or a handsome man, and you start flirting till you fall deeply in love, do you look at your clock when you are together, or do you enjoy his/her company and wish this moment will never end?

The truth is, when you start learning Italian you will never want to stop, just like a true love story!

So what are you waiting for? Start learning Italian NOW!

By: Lucia Aiello

Lucia Aiello is one of the co-founders of LearnItalianGo. Born and raised in Italy, she is a passionate Italian teacher and language enthusiast.