Learning Italian: Step by Step and Region by Region

Rated 5 out of 5 by from Bravissimo! Great job Professor Olson and The Teaching Company! I always had to study Italian on my own before this course. This course is authoritative, interesting, challenging, organized and has quality video and audio. My main use is for culinary and theater arts, but I want to visit Italy someday. I am not ethnically Italian, but I hope to use it with Italian Americans too. I hope you will create additional Italian courses and courses in additional languages.
Date published: 2021-02-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Good start Only a few lectures into the course, and I like and enjoy both the approach and delivery. This will course will provide me with a good start for more advanced studies as well as for my next trip to Italy. Thanks a lot for the excellent workbook!
Date published: 2021-02-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Entertaining presentation My husband and I just finished all 24 lessons, and have come away with admiration for Dr. Kristina Olsen's vivacity and knowledgeability, and for her introduction to the different regions of Italy. Familiar with Tuscany, Umbria, and Venice, we knew next to nothing about Basilicata -- Molise -- Sardinia -- many other parts of the country. Fascinating! And a great way to make language learning less of a chore, to tie it to imaginative conversations with great Italians of antiquity or dialogues tourists might have about local points of interest or food. As a language course it really goes too fast for beginners, which my husband is, more or less. I have 3 years of lessons behind me and found this a very good refresher course -- but certain aspects of the lessons seemed way advanced for a basic level of language learning: Double object pronouns? "The future of probability?" The impersonal voice -- with reflexive verbs? Some of these are things that I have barely touched on in Advanced Intermediate courses. The 2 different past tenses: imperfetto and passato prossimo? Still, to whet the appetite for learning Italian and visitiing Italy, this is a great overview. Just don't expect to come away with much fluency.
Date published: 2021-02-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Love the course I studied Italian in Siena for six months. This is an excellent review for me. I wish that you would teach the next level. In lesson 22 the visuals are out of sync with your speaking in the part where the characters are talking about food at the end. It is impossible to follow.
Date published: 2021-02-16
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Not a Beginning Course As long as you know what to expect this can be a valuable review or perhaps a "step beyond basic" level course. It also helps if you have a better recollection of or grounding in grammar than I do. I have been to Italy over a dozne times, spending as much as a month on each visit. And I have made friends there in Lazio (Rome), the Veneto (Venezia), and Toscana (Abrezzo Provinzia). My rudimentary Italian was learned via Rosetta Stone (four full levels and well into level 5 before bogging down on grammar) and it was a valuable immresion level experience. What I was hoping for was to refine my abilities beyond the present tense and what I call "menu Italian..." the ability to carry on a basic conversation and functioning in shops, transportation, and bars and resturants. There is a wealth of material in this course, but the pace is well beyond that of a "lreaning Italian" from the beginning level. I keep pickiing it up...and putting it back down affter the first two lessons. There is just an incredible amount to try to absorb. The workbook is extremely valuable and without it I would be almost totally lost. I think the course is worthwhile as a review for those whose gammatical exposure is beyond the basic. But I fear it might be discouraging for anyone who does not have at least a basic conversational level experience with the language.
Date published: 2021-02-09
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Prof is Non Native Italian Speaker I grew up hearing the Italian language spoken daily. I have taken several Italian language courses. From that experience I can say that the Italian spoken by Prof Olsen is quite odd. Her over-pronunciation and exceedingly drawn out final vowels are unnatural and unhelpful to me ear. Follow her example, and you will forever sound like an American trying to speak Italian. A teacher who is a native speaker is the only way to go, unless you are looking for just an academic understanding of the language. In addition to the above, Prof Olsen's teaching style is stilted and presentational, not conversational at all. Please, I wish she'd just speak in her everyday voice and omit all the hand gestures and facial expressions. Tone it down. You are speaking to a camera not a lecture hall.
Date published: 2021-02-04
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Captivating Informative Presentation Style I spent about a year going through all 5 levels of Italian Rosetta Stone by myself and have visited Italy 5 times, so i thought i could communicate Ok, but after listening to Professor Olson's pronunciation and correct diction I'm embarrassed. In my opinion, Dr. Olson's is spot-on with the region introductions to re-enforce learning and also with her real life examples. After my Rosetta Stone experience(which I highly reco), it's so refreshing to see and appreciate an accomplished presenter. You can download the course PDF and follow thru on you own or just do your own homework depending on your earnestness. As far as cost- for a year membership to the Great Courses Plus of only $150 for hundreds of lectures - the amortization cost for this Italian course is minimal. I just finished lesson 10 and look forward to each lecture, there's a lot here so if you are a beginner several reviews are of course understandably necessary. What's missing for any learner of a language is an immersion in that language to become fluent in conversation of course.
Date published: 2021-01-30
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Very organized My husband and I tried this course. I speak several languages already. Some I had learned as a student in school and some on my own. I love the fact that the course includes lots of background information about geography and the arts. The professor manages to give examples of the grammar point and connect it to the topic of the lesson. The overview of the regions is just fascinating. Also, Professor Olson is so upbeat and supportive. I always feel like I am sitting in the front row. However, do not expect this program to be the solution of how to learn Italian. There is much more to that. I do know that watching the lessons is not enough. I have to repeat them and see them in the workbook before I can even practice in life. Is there a level 2? I hope so!
Date published: 2021-01-29
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Learning Italian: Step by Step and Region by Region
Course Trailer
Benvenuti to Italian and Italy’s 20 Regions!
1: Benvenuti to Italian and Italy’s 20 Regions!

Begin with a preview of the content of the course, as you will study the Italian language within the cultural context of Italy’s 20 geographic regions. Learn about vowels and consonants in Italian, and important principles of pronunciation. Study the subject pronouns, the verbs essere and stare (both meaning “to be”), daily greetings, and practice the elements of a simple conversation.

34 min
Nouns and Articles / Sicily
2: Nouns and Articles / Sicily

Discover the island of Sicily, as you build knowledge of Italian grammar and vocabulary. Dive into a text describing Sicily’s topography, history, and ancient treasures. Using the text, explore Italian nouns as they express gender and number. Then look at indefinite articles in Italian (“a” and “an” in English) and definite articles (“the” in English), and learn a practice dialogue.

30 min
Nouns and Adjectives / Sicily II
3: Nouns and Adjectives / Sicily II

Delve further into the history and culture of Sicily in this lesson. Study the plural forms of nouns, and how numbers are spoken in Italian. Practice both elements using an imaginary dialogue concerning a Sicilian literary character. Learn how to describe people, places, and things with adjectives; how adjectives reflect gender and number; and practice describing a Renaissance painting.

37 min
Verbs Ending in -are / Lombardy
4: Verbs Ending in -are / Lombardy

Take an overview of the region of Lombardy; its geography, culture, and food traditions. Learn the present indicative conjugation for “-are” verbs, covering a group of highly useful verbs. Use your new knowledge in talking about daily routines and discussing a classic Italian film, Il Posto. Review numbers in Italian, and look at one of Lombardy’s gems, The Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci.

32 min
Verbs Ending in -ere / Lazio
5: Verbs Ending in -ere / Lazio

The region of Lazio contains the city of Rome, and much history regarding Italian art, politics, and society. Take in its cultural highlights as you practice “second conjugation” verbs, ending in “-ere”. Build facility with these verbs in the present indicative, using a text about the iconic film La Dolce Vita. Learn idiomatic expressions using avere (to have), and ways of forming questions.

33 min
Verbs Ending in -ire / Aosta and Trentino–Alto Adige
6: Verbs Ending in -ire / Aosta and Trentino–Alto Adige

Start this lesson by reading texts describing two of the northernmost regions of Italy, the Valle d’Aosta and Trentino-Alto Adige, focusing on their mountainous geography and beautiful landscapes. Then study “third conjugation” verbs, ending in -ire, taking note of important irregular -ire verbs. Also learn the calendar, seasons, days of the week, and vocabulary concerning sports activities.

32 min
Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns / Puglia
7: Possessive Adjectives and Pronouns / Puglia

Grasp how possessive adjectives (“my,” “your,” and “our” in English) and possessive pronouns (“mine,” “yours,”and “ours”) function in Italian. Explore their use in text describing the geography, scenic landscapes and coastline, and traditional houses of the Puglia region, and add important vocabulary about the family. Practice what you’ve learned in discussing Tre Fratelli and Le Mine vaganti, two films set in Puglia.

33 min
Prepositions / Abruzzo and Molise
8: Prepositions / Abruzzo and Molise

Travel to the beautiful regions of Abruzzo and Molise, which feature stunning natural scenery, fine cuisine, and much history. Dig deeply into the use of prepositions in Italian (as in “from,” “with,” and “about” in English), which connect all the parts of speech. Also, note how prepositions express unspecified quantities, and learn vocabulary about the weather and seasonal activities.

32 min
Modal Verbs, Sapere, and Conoscere / Liguria
9: Modal Verbs, Sapere, and Conoscere / Liguria

“Modal” verbs are verbs that precede another infinitive, as in “I want to eat.” Work with dovere (to have to), potere (to be able to), and volere (to want to), as you discover Liguria’s natural beauties, picturesque towns, and culinary and artistic riches. Then investigate the verbs conoscere and sapere, which relate to knowledge, and look into the creations of Genoese architect Renzo Piano.

31 min
The Imperative Mood / Campania
10: The Imperative Mood / Campania

The imperative mood expresses commands, as in, “Repeat after me,” in English. Explore the two types of imperative verbs in Italian, the informal and the formal, and when to use each. Also, study irregular forms of the imperative. Practice the imperative by describing the popular Campania region, famous for its capital of Naples, its ancient sites, beautiful islands, and the scenic Amalfi Coast.

32 min
Direct Objects / Emilia-Romagna
11: Direct Objects / Emilia-Romagna

Here, your subject matter for practice is the beautiful central region of Emilia-Romagna, which boasts the medieval city of Bologna, stunning Adriatic beaches, and a wealth of famous food specialties. Study direct object pronouns (as in “it” and “them” in English, standing in for nouns), as well as two vital adjectives, buono and bello, and use them in describing the sights of Emilia-Romagna.

30 min
Indirect Objects / Friuli–Venezia Giulia
12: Indirect Objects / Friuli–Venezia Giulia

Continue your study with the indirect object pronouns, which function as in “I give the book to him” in English. Also explore double object pronouns, as in “I give it to him.” Then practice the verb piacere, which expresses likes and dislikes, as you explore the multilingual region of Fruli-Venezia Guilia, highlighting its beautiful and diverse scenery and the fascinating city of Trieste.

32 min
Irregular Nouns / Basilicata
13: Irregular Nouns / Basilicata

The less-visited southern region of Basilicata contains rich treasures of history and culture. Discover its ancient rock-carved houses and lunar landscapes as you return to Italian nouns, working with their plural endings and irregular forms. Then add the interrogative nouns and pronouns (“who,” “what,” “why”), as you learn about Carlo Levi’s celebrated novel which made this region famous.

34 min
Reflexive Pronouns and Verbs / The Marches
14: Reflexive Pronouns and Verbs / The Marches

Reflexive verbs direct the action onto the subject, as in “I wash myself.” Practice key Italian reflexive verbs along with their pronouns for talking about daily routines and wellness. In the Marches region, reflect on its picturesque scenery, Renaissance and medieval architecture, and the legacy of Raphael and Rossini, and learn the vocabulary of the body as well as how to tell time in Italian.

33 min
Reciprocal Verbs and Negatives / Veneto
15: Reciprocal Verbs and Negatives / Veneto

The splendors of the Veneto region are your material for this lesson, from its iconic visual artists and the glorious city of Venice to its traditions of literature and theater. In speaking about the region, add reciprocal verbs, which describe actions that are shared reciprocally, as in, “They love each other.” Also, explore negative constructions and the expressive range of Italian adverbs.

34 min
Present Progressive and Suffixes / Piedmont
16: Present Progressive and Suffixes / Piedmont

Study text describing the rich attractions of the Piedmont region, its alpine geography, the beautiful capital of Torino, and famed artisanal products. Work with the present progressive construction, which describes actions occurring in the present moment, as in “I’m eating lunch.” Learn about Italian suffixes, word endings that convey extra meaning, and about expressive Italian hand gestures.

31 min
Indefinite Pronouns, Ci, and Ne / Sardinia
17: Indefinite Pronouns, Ci, and Ne / Sardinia

Indefinite pronouns describe nonspecific qualities or quantities, as in “some,” “any,” or “many” in English. Study how these work in Italian, as you discuss ancient sites, agriculture, and tourism on the scenic island of Sardinia. Also, explore the unique pronouns ci and ne, which replace phrases within sentences. Then see how the beauties of Sardinia have been depicted in Italian films.

32 min
Passato Prossimo with Avere / Umbria
18: Passato Prossimo with Avere / Umbria

The verdant region of Umbria is known as “The Green Heart of Italy.” Read text about its natural beauties, art and architecture, artisanal industries, and religious history. Work with the basic past tense, the passato prossimo (“Have you eaten?”). Learn to form this compound tense with avere (to have), and use it in discussing Umbrian culture. Also, study regular and irregular participles.

31 min
Passato Prossimo with Essere / Tuscany
19: Passato Prossimo with Essere / Tuscany

Tuscany is perhaps Italy’s most celebrated and popular region, and the cradle of the Renaissance. Learn about its breathtaking medieval cities, beloved food specialties, and its iconic artists and writers. See how the passato prossimo tense is used with the auxiliary verb essere. Study expressions of time, and practice your skills in describing the life of Florentine painter Sandro Botticelli.

30 min
The Imperfect Tense / Calabria
20: The Imperfect Tense / Calabria

The imperfetto (the imperfect) describes actions in the past that were ongoing or not completed, as in “I was reading.” Read text about the untamed beauty, prehistory, and Greek/Byzantine legacy of Calabria, noting the use of the imperfetto. Learn to conjugate the imperfetto, and practice choosing where to use it, as opposed to the passato prossimo, in text on the treasures of ancient Calabria.

31 min
The Impersonal Voice / Liguria II
21: The Impersonal Voice / Liguria II

Take a second look at the natural beauty and artistic culture of Liguria. Study the impersonal voice, which is used to refer to an unspecified subject, as in “One should” or “Everyone knows.” See how this voice expresses what people can do, see, or experience. Then return to modal verbs, as well as conoscere and sapere, and see how these verbs take on different meanings based on the tense used.

30 min
The Imperative with Pronouns / Campania II
22: The Imperative with Pronouns / Campania II

Return to the culturally rich Campania region as you review the imperative mood (commands), and learn how the imperative functions with pronouns (where “Eat the pizza!” becomes “Eat it!”). Explore both the informal and formal imperative, double pronouns (“Give it to her.”). Then practice them in describing Campania’s ancient cities, scenic beauties, and beloved culinary specialties.

32 min
The Future Tense / Lazio II
23: The Future Tense / Lazio II

Speak about the sights and history of Rome, the eternal city, as you learn the future tense in Italian (“I will go.”). Practice the conjugation of the future tense, and explore the verb stem changes that characterize it. Take into account the different meanings of the future tense, including its use to express probability, as well as the future perfect construction (“I will have gone.”).

32 min
Comparatives, Superlatives, and Arrivederci! / Tuscany II
24: Comparatives, Superlatives, and Arrivederci! / Tuscany II

Conclude the course with a return to the beloved region of Tuscany. Expand your knowledge of the past tense in discussing Tuscany’s topography; food culture; and literary giants Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio. Learn to make comparisons, of equality (“as good as”) and of inequality (“better than”). Finally, explore Italian superlatives (“the worst”, “the best”).

34 min
Kristina Olson

Italian is one of the most beautiful languages in the world. To learn Italian is to open a door to a people and a culture that have produced some of the world’s greatest thinkers, artists, and innovators.


Columbia University


George Mason University

About Kristina Olson

Kristina Olson is an Associate Professor of Italian and the Italian Program Coordinator at George Mason University, where she has taught Italian language, literature, and cinema since 2005. She earned her PhD in Italian from Columbia University.


Professor Olson is the author of Courtesy Lost: Dante, Boccaccio, and the Literature of History and several articles on Dante, Boccaccio, and Petrarch. She is the coeditor of Open City: Seven Writers in Postwar Rome; Boccaccio 1313–2013; and the second edition of Approaches to Teaching Dante’s “Divine Comedy” with the Modern Language Association.


Professor Olson is the president of the American Boccaccio Association and previously served as vice president and treasurer. She was also the vice president of the Dante Society of America for two years and a councilor for three years. She serves on the editorial boards of Bibliotheca Dantesca, an international journal dedicated to Dante studies, and Dante Studies, the annual publication of the Dante Society of America, and she is an executive committee member for the Modern Language Association’s Languages, Literatures, and Cultures forum on Medieval and Renaissance Italian. 

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