Man thinking in Italian cartoon

How to think in Italian

Do you want to stop translating in your head and start thinking in Italian? Yes, but how? This post is for you.

What happens in your brain when you translate every word?

To become fluent in Italian, you need to think in Italian. Most of us start learning a language by translating everything in our heads, which works up to a point. But eventually, we struggle with fluency. What happens when you translate in your head? Your brain has to connect the new word, its meaning in your mother tongue, and the physical object. That involves three elements. When you skip translating between Italian and your native tongue, the connection between the Italian word and the object is faster.

Connecting three elements for one or two words may not have a visible impact. But what happens when you start to need fluency to carry a conversation? Your brain is using your mother tongue as clutches (slowing you down in a noticeable way). So, it is time to learn techniques to put those clutches aside and run.

Techniques to think in Italian

Here are four techniques to become an Italian thinking machine.

1. Have Italian all around you

Make it a goal to surround yourself with Italian constantly. You’ll improve pronunciation, sentence structures, grammar, and new vocabulary.

How can you do it? Play Italian music in the background while you study. Have an Italian radio station on while you cook. Listen to podcasts while you jog. Immersion is a crucial aspect of this learning process because it’s easy to do yet very effective. Even if you’re not giving the program your full attention, your brain absorbs the language. Absorbing produces familiarity (enabling you to switch faster to thinking in your target language).

2. Notice the subtle differences that occur in the language you hear daily

After immersing yourself in the language, the next step is to notice the subtleties. Learning by observing is the most natural way to learn. It’s how we all learned our mother tongues as infants. Surprisingly, we stop learning this way. If you have patience and learn through observation, Italian words will have links to personal experiences rather than translations from your mother tongue.

Skip the bilingual dictionary and only get an Italian dictionary.

3. Speak Italian to yourself out loud

Now, this suggestion may leave you scratching your head. Please avoid being caught doing this exercise in public, or those around you may also start scratching their head and wondering what’s going on.

When you’re cooking at home, driving your car, or alone in the elevator, talk to yourself in Italian. Well, the elevator may not be a good idea. But speaking the language out loud helps you think in Italian and listen to how you sound.

It forces you to correct pronunciation errors and makes it easy to spot grammar mistakes. When you speak out loud, talk about what you did that day and what you plan to do the next day. Your goal is to become comfortable speaking out loud and creating sentences. Once you’re comfortable talking to yourself, start thinking in Italian about your daily activities and what’s happening throughout the day.

4. Practice every day

Setting apart 20 to 30 minutes daily to practice Italian can be challenging (especially at the beginning when the habit hasn’t solidified). But resist the temptation to bundle up your practice time into one day. Cramming 120 minutes on Saturday does not equal 20 minutes daily, from Monday to Friday. If you practice everything in one day, you won’t retain the information as well as when spread out over multiple days.

Wrapping Up!

Nobody around you can see what you’re thinking. But thinking in Italian can show everybody how fluent you are in your new language.

Gentleman thinking in Italian cartoon

Thus, work hard to implement the four recommendations we shared with you. Working hard and having patience is the most exhausting part of achieving your language learning goal.

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  1. Allora! Reading this post has been so enjoyable. You make learning Italian something that I want to do. It is such a romantic language, anyway.
    I usually find popups annoying, so this may be the first time I thank someone for a popup! You’ve gained a subscriber.

    1. Thank you, Hannah, for your kind words. And thank you even more for subscribing to my newsletter. It means a lot to me.
      I hope to keep inspiring you to learn Italian. I wish you all the best!

  2. What a fun, fun post. Allora seems to be a versatile word! And an initiator to have us thinking in Italian. I can not guarantee I will say “allora” out loud. But I will honestly try playing it in my head daily. It will be fun to confront it with different everyday life scenarios.

  3. I like the step-by-step guidance on how to approach the process of thinking in Italian. And the specific exercises and activities to build confidence are spot on.

    Once we start thinking in the language, it’s a one-way direction toward fluency. Thanks for sharing. Your style is entertaining and funny.


  4. I love your site. And I like that you teach people to think like an Italian to make learning the language easier. I have used Italki, the platform that connects you with language teachers worldwide for 1-on-1 lessons. The best part is that there’s something for everyone’s budget. I’m impressed that you can choose from over 320 languages! Another nice feature is that no two teachers are alike.

  5. Hey! I have always translated in my head. And it makes me slow to comunicate. And to cap it all, translating word by word guaratees that we will constantly be making grammar mistakes.

    Thinking in Italian sounds intimidating. But your post has encouraged me to give it a try! Thank you

    1. I agree with you. We should not translate word by word when trying to express ourselves in a new language. I am glad this post has encourage you to start thinking in Italian!

  6. I am learning Italian. So your article was helpful. I have, so far, been trying to translate from English into Italian (what I want to say). But it always seems to take forever.
    I have often heard Italians use the word “allora.” But I didn’t realize it had so many meanings and interpretations. Using Allora will help me to start thinking in Italian and help me improve.
    Thank you for these great ideas.

    1. Using Italian without translating is the best way to become fluent. I wish you all the best on your journey.

  7. Very interesting article.

    A filler word like “Allora” can indeed make someone blend in with natives. A lot of culture and linguistic value is tied to these language-specific filler words. I can say the same for Arabic, my native language.

    Some people say that your native language is the language you use when you say cuss words, or the language you speak in during a dream. Do you agree?

    Personally, I sometimes think in English although I’m not a native English speaker.

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