Project Introduction: Olly Learns Italian…in London!

Welcome to the introduction of my new project to learn Italian!

In the last few years I’ve undertaken a number of language projects…

In each case, I’ve documented my journey for you, so you can draw inspiration for your own language learning.

But now it’s time for something new, and quite different.

This summer, I’m learning Italian.

But unlike previous projects…

I want to demonstrate that anyone can learn a new language by themselves, in a short space of time, without picking up and moving to another country!

At the very end of the project, I’ll travel to Italy to be tested on my Italian. (There’s nowhere to hide!)

Read on for some more detail about the how and why of this project…

Why Am I Learning Italian?

Here in London, I meet Italians practically on a daily basis.

It doesn’t really feel like a “foreign language”, because it’s all around me on the streets of London.

I’ve been feeling for some time now that learning Italian would really enhance my life here, and so that’s the main aim of this project…

There’s also a secondary aim to the project, which involves dispelling a myth!

There’s a stubborn belief among the general public that you can’t learn a new language as an adult.

“If you haven’t learned a language as a kid, there’s no hope!”

A recent study was widely circulated claiming that:

“If you want to achieve proficiency similar to that of a native speaker you should start learning before the age of 10.”

In the wake of this study, I began to notice “casual” language learners on Twitter using this study to justify their personal failure to learn a new language.

The danger is clear: Without the belief that learning a new language is possible, you’ll never succeed.

Of course, even if it is impossible to reach a genuine “native level” in a foreign language as an adult (i.e. you’re indistinguishable from a native speaker), that should never be your goal in the first place!

If the point of learning a new language is to communicate with and enjoy the company of the people you meet, you can achieve that with far less than native-level skills.

Indeed, you can radically transform your life with even an intermediate level in a foreign language.

And that’s what I’m seeking to demonstrate with this project.

(If you’ve been following my stuff for a while, you already know this. But I’m hoping to reach new audiences with this project.)

How Far Will l Get In Italian?

olly italy

My aim for the project is to be able to have natural conversations with Italians here in London.

That’s my measurement for success.

I’m not particularly worried about the exact CEFR level I’ll reach in this time, but I’ll aspire to a B2 level, given my language background, and knowledge of other Romance languages (Es, Fr, Pt).

Goal setting is a funny thing in language learning. I’ve always believed it’s important, but I’ve never really known how to set goals.


Because you can’t control the level you’ll reach in a language.

But you CAN control the actions you take that might help you reach that level in the language.

So, instead of focusing on the outcome, I’m focusing on the process.

Let’s talk about the process…

What’s The Plan?

My view on language learning have been changing quite a bit in recent times.

After running into various challenges in the difficult languages I’ve learned recently, I’ve started to believe that the key to reaching those higher levels is to focus much more on input (reading and listening) than on traditional study methods, such as learning grammar, memorising vocabulary etc.

It’s the theory espoused by Stephen Krashen, as you can find in my interview with him here.

The particular kind of input I’ve found most powerful of all is stories, for 16 different reasons.

I’ve even been basing all of my recent language material and courses on story-based methods, and the feedback has been wildly popular, as students have been reporting huge gains in their language levels.

(Hardly surprising, when traditional language learning methods focus so heavily on deliberate study. As soon as you start getting hours of quality input, through stories, [LINKS] you’re catching up the kind of thing you should have been doing for years anyway!)

Here’s a discussion with Steve Kaufmann where we go into this methodology in more depth…


With my Italian project, I will give a demonstration of how you can learn a new language from scratch using an input-based method built on stories.

I’ll be documenting the whole thing in videos and blog posts.

Here’s roughly what to expect…

Documenting The Learning Process


Note: After one month, you’ll see a video of my very first conversation in Italian. It’ll be interesting to see how well I can speak after a whole month of pure input!



At the end of the process, I’ll be travelling to Italy to be tested on my level.

Since I don’t have a particular target level of Italian in mind, the point of getting tested is two-fold:

  1. It will make for a cool video!
  2. It will help to quantify what I’ve done

One last thing.

As I’m placing a lot of emphasis on the input-based methodology I’m using to learn, I want to try and quantify my learning as much as possible.

To help with this, I’m going to be doing all my study using LingQ. I’ll still be choosing my own material, but by doing all my reading and listening on the LingQ platform, I’ll be able to see all the numbers as I go.

At the end of the project, this will help to answer some of the hard questions around how others can replicate what I’m doing in their own language learning.

Resources For This Projectitalian resources

I’ll be keeping extensive lists of the resources I’m using to learn Italian.

Please visit the project resource page to find everything in one place.

Some action points for you if you want to follow along with this project…

  1. Subscribe to my YouTube channel and enable notifications if you want to receive new update videos when they’re released
  2. Join my Italian mailing list, as I’ll be sending out extra tips and thoughts about Italian as I go

Please leave me your suggestions and comments below, as I’m keen to hear from you about this project!

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