The Pontifical North American College

Learning Italian – Resources & Study Locations

Learning to Speak Italian

  1. Useful Resources for Italian (Guide / Audio Course / Rosetta Stone / Spark Charts / Books / Websites / Tutors)
  2. Language Immersion Programs (Assisi / Siena / Verbania)

Any Italian you can pick up in the USA, before coming to Italy, is a huge benefit

Learning Italian will be one of the most important things for you to focus on before you show up.  For seminarians attending the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross or the Pontifical Gregorian University, classes are taught in Italian.  If you plan on attending the Greg or the Croce, then if it is possible and your schedule permits, start studying Italian today.  Those attending the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) can take all of their classes in English, but anyone can choose to take some classes in Italian at the Ang. It is important to note that almost all Second Cycle (S.T.L.) programs at the Ang are only offered in Italian, so preparation in the language will definitely be to your benefit.  Seminarians attending the Pontifical Gregorian University will also have to pass a language proficiency exam during the first year. Seminarians may also be assigned to Italian-speaking ministries. Whatever the situation, you will probably live in Italy for four or five years and a good grasp of Italian will only help you.  The key is to begin Italian as soon as possible.  Languages can rarely be crammed in a short period with lasting retention.  The best bang for your buck is a two-pronged strategy of (1) daily fidelity, & (2) the number of days of study.  You may wish to start small; even as little as 5-10 minutes done each day consistently in April and May will bear fruit.  Regardless of when you begin, find the best way to study for your learning style, and devote the time you see fit.

Useful Resources for Italian

None of these resources are required, but many students have found them helpful. It should also be noted that many of the books are similar and they may overlap each other in content. Many of these would be useful to provide a basis in Italian before arriving at NAC and allow further studies in Italy to be more fruitful. Praying the Rosary in Italian, setting the language on your eBreviary to Italian, and reading the Bible in Italian are also good ways of beginning to learn the language.

Guide

This guide was made by a NAC seminarian in 2012. You may find it useful for vocabulary and grammar review.

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Audio Course

One of the best courses available is produced by a company called Pimsleur. It consists of ninety half-hour lessons. It is very expensive ($600–$1000 for the whole course), but it can often be found at your local library. Additionally, many libraries are now offering a digital audio-book download service, which may include the Pimsleur Languages Courses.

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Rosetta Stone

Most people are familiar with this software from the many commercials. It can be rather expensive, especially for the higher levels, but some dioceses already have one or more copies available that you could use. It helps primarily with association of vocabulary and many students found it helpful to prepare them for Italian studies prior to coming. It is best supplemented with additional grammar study, however, since that is not a primary focus of the method of the software.

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Spark Charts

  • Italian Grammar (ISBN 978-1-4114-0455-7)
  • Italian Vocabulary (ISBN 978-1-4114-0266-9)

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Books

You can find a good variety of Italian grammar, vocabulary, and exercise books at any bookstore or online.

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Websites

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Personal Tutors

For those who want or need additional language training, personal tutors are readily available. They can be recommended either by the College or by other seminarians on a case-by-case basis. They tutor either at the seminarian’s university or at the College and generally charge €25/hour.

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Language Immersion Programs

The College provides a four-week intensive program in the Italian language for new students during the month of September prior to the beginning of the academic year. Nevertheless, students are strongly encouraged to begin their formal study of Italian before September. An intensive immersion course of at least four weeks’ duration is therefore highly recommended. What follows is a preview of the language immersion programs sponsored by the College. These programs are based out of Assisi, Siena, and Verbania. The best way to maximize each program is to show up with a basic level of Italian proficiency by studying in some manner in the USA beforehand. 

Here is some general information that will help you prepare for your program. Note that casual attire is worn at all locations.

Assisi

Assisi

Assisi is the program recommended by the College and attended by most seminarians. It is located two and a half hours north of Rome by train. Upon arrival in Assisi, you will take a placement exam and be placed in a beginner, intermediate, or advanced course.  Previous study will allow you to place into the intermediate or advanced course and will significantly improve your Italian proficiency.  Classes consist of a four-hour block in the morning in a large group and a two-hour afternoon session with a small group.  Weekends are free for travel.  The group is lodged in a local hotel and three meals a day are provided.  One of the house spiritual directors remains with the group the entire time and offers daily Mass and confession.  You will also have the opportunity to attend liturgies at the many churches in Assisi and participate in the Feast of the Pardon and candlelight processions for the feasts of Saint Rufinus and Saint Clare. Many seminarians find time to hike or climb Mount Subasio nearby. Laundry facilities and telephone access are limited. Pack plenty of socks, undergarments, t-shirts, outdoor clothing, sunscreen, hat, an alarm clock, a water bottle, and an English-Italian Mass pamphlet (available here in Rome).  Show up with plenty of Euro or a working ATM card.

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Siena

Siena

Siena is located two and a half hours northwest of Rome by train or public bus.  If you are not an Absolute beginner you will take a placement exam online. Upon arrival in Siena, you will have a short oral interview and be placed in one of several possible classes depending on your proficiency. Any previous study will go a long way in helping you to get the most out of your time in Siena. Classes consist of a four-hour block in the morning with a small group and a two-hour afternoon session of individual lessons. Many seminarians in Siena stay with host families who don’t speak English; others stay in other kind of accommodation (i.e. convents, etc.). The host family provides breakfast (typically small in Italy) and dinner (typically large). Lunch is on your own in the city. Weekends are free for travel. The School organizes meetings with Italian Catholic priests and there is a Dominican priest who is originally from New York and has been living in Siena for over 25 years. He is available for confession in English and there are several opportunities for Mass in the city. The School will also organize for PNAC students orientation meetings and  special culture events (i.e. guided visit of the Duomo, etc.). Some years you will have the opportunity to experience the Palio, a traditional horse race dating back over 800 years. Every summer, the seminarians also serve the Mass of the Assumption in the Duomo (you are welcome to bring your own cassock) and, if they want, they can participate in the contrada dinners (cost depends on the Contrada), a sort of neighborhood meal connected to the Palio contest. There is also the opportunity to see relics of St. Catherine of Siena as well as miraculous Eucharistic hosts as well as other places of religious devotion. Depending on your host family, you may have to do laundry in the city or pay to use your host family’s washer and dryer. Your host family may or may not have Internet, but the school will provide wi-fi access for free (you are welcome to use your personal laptop). There are also 5 computers at students’ disposal to surf Internet. Pack plenty of socks, undergarments, t-shirts, outdoor clothing, sunscreen, hat, an alarm clock, a water bottle, and an English-Italian Mass pamphlet (available here in Rome). Show up with plenty of Euro or a working ATM card.

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Verbania

Verbania

Verbania is located in northern Italy near Milan, on the beautiful Lago Maggiore about six and a half hours northwest of Rome by train. Between 10 and 15 seminarians typically attend this program. Individual tutoring is its strength; classes consist of three hours of one-on-one tutoring, five days a week. Lodging and classes are in a local hotel where three meals a day are provided. Daily Mass and confessions are available in Italian in town, while a NAC spiritual director will visit at some point during the four-week program. There is ample opportunity during the week to interact with locals and to hike.  The weekends are left free for travel. Seminarians typically take a day trip into Switzerland and make a pilgrimage to the relics of St. Ambrose in Milan and St. Augustine in Pavia. Laundry facilities are limited to the local laundromat, which is expensive! So many seminarians opt to do laundry by hand. At the hotel, there are a few desktop computers available for use as well as wireless internet for laptops. The temperatures can range from 70 to 95 F (20 to 32 C) so plan for a hot summer with cool mornings and evenings. Bring an alarm clock, laptop, plenty of t-shirts, shorts, socks, a light jacket, water bottle, hat, sunscreen, a swimsuit, and an English-Italian Mass pamphlet (available here in Rome).  Show up with plenty of Euro or a working ATM card.

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