Italian phrasebooks, travel dictionaries, and language-lessons-in-a-box

Learn the basics of Italian, whether just the words and phrases useful to a tourist, or an entire language learning course in a box

This page covers four ways to get a handle on Italian for your travels:

Italian phrase books

Rick Steves' Italian Phrase Book and Dictionary Rick Steves' Italian Phrase Book and Dictionary - Buon giorno! From ordering calamari in Venice to making new friends in Tuscan hill towns, it helps to speak some of the native tongue. Rick Steves, bestselling author of travel guides to Europe, offers well-tested phrases and key words to cover every situation a traveler is likely to encounter. This handy guide provides key phrases for use in everyday circumstances, complete with phonetic spelling; an English-Italian and Italian-English dictionary; the latest information on European currency and rail transportation, and even a tear-out cheat sheet for continued language practice as you wait in line at the Sistine Chapel. Informative, concise, and practical, Rick Steves' Italian Phrase Book and Dictionary is an essential item for any traveler's zainetto (that's Italian for "daypack")...
Eyewitness Italian Travel PhrasebookEyewitness Italian Travel Phrasebook - These pocket dictionaries give business and vacation travelers everything they need for a smooth, successful trip. Organized by subject, the traveler can quickly find the vocabulary relevant to the situation, whether transportation, hotels, meals, shopping, post offices and banks, sports, or health care, accompanied by a pronunciation guide. At the end of each phrase book is a 2,000-word mini-dictionary. Fully updated from the original editions to reflect currency changes such as the Euro and new vocabulary such as e-tickets...
Lonely Planet: Italian PhrasebookLonely Planet: Italian Phrasebook - LP was the first publisher to realize that more people probably needed to know pick-up lines in the local lingo than needed help saying such traditional phrase book stalwarts as, "Pardon me, good sir, but could you please assist me in securing the services of a porter for my valise?"
Kwikpoint point-and-choose translator cardKwickpoint cards - Don't want to bother learning the actual Italian (or worried that some more complicated and obscure words will stymie you)? Pick up a laminated, foldable Kwikpoint card covered with cartoonish pictures off all the things a traveler might need—double bed, taxi, AAA battery, ice skates, computer printer, toothpaste, cheese, gas station, can opener, policeman, pig (as in point to this and either shake your head in order to say "My religion forbids me to partake of pork," or nod vigorously to say "pile on the pancetta, please"), etc. You just unfold it like a map, point at the thing you want, and say "per favore?" (Italian for "please?")
Berlitz Italian Phrase BookBerlitz Italian Phrase Book - The classic travel phrase book. Berlitz redefines the phrase book with its full-color best-selling collection, making communication more successful and comfortable.
Berlitz Italian Phrase Book & CDBerlitz Italian Phrase Book & CD - [user review:] I used this to learn a little Italian before traveling to Italy for the first time, and the phrase book and the CD served me well. Although I found that most Italians speak at least a little English, some did not, and then what I had learned from the Berlitz Guide really came in handy.[Editorial review:] The Berlitz Italian Phrase Book and CD offers the most up-to-date, relevant content in both print and audio formats to help any traveler build a basic Italian vocabulary. The completely revised and redesigned Phrase Book contains hundreds of useful travel-related phrases—from saying hello to making a hotel reservation to shopping—and the user-friendly book is color-coded to provide easy navigation between sections. Also included are practical, full-color photographs, an extensive menu reader, and an English-Italian dictionary.
Hide This Italian BookHide This Italian Book - It's not the Italian you learned in high school. This uncensored language guide has everything you need to speak real Italian from cool lingo to hard-core insults. Learn the lingo on love, sex, extreme sports, fashion, gossip, partying and much more. Also exposed in "Hide This Book" are hilarious mishaps, social trends, and cool cultural features. Entertaining as well as enlightening, this is one language reference you'll enjoy reading cover to cover. Also you can listen online to hear all the expressions at [user review:] During my second semester Italian class this past year, this book was my favorite to pass the time and pass this class. I love languages but not my prof. and it was the best book I have picked up in a while.

Italian-English pocket travel dictionaries

Barron's Italian-English Dictionary: Dizionario Italiano-IngleseBarron's Italian-English Dictionary: Dizionario Italiano-Inglese - This definitive Italian-English dictionary—which comes with a free, downloadable e-book version—features 100,000 entries with translations, and makes an ideal reference book for schools, libraries, businesses, and the home bookshelf. Yet its manageable size and reasonable price also makes it a practical learning tool for students taking an Italian language course. It features: • Two full-length sections: English to Italian and Italian to English • American-style English translations of all Italian entries • Headwords printed in a second color for easy reference with translations, parts of speech, and pronunciation guide printed in black • Exemplary phrases using headwords in standard contexts • Separate bilingual lists for numerals, phonetics symbols, abbreviations, and geographical names This all-inclusive dictionary also features full-color atlas-style maps of Italy and adjoining regions, a concise grammar guide, a regular verb conjugation list, and many more language learning aids. Here is a complete and up-to-date bilingual dictionary for libraries, schools, and the home. It can also serve as a helpful take-along book for international travelers. A key feature that sets Barron's Italian-English Dictionary apart from the competition is the FREE downloadable electronic version of the print dictionary. Users will find a PIN number in the back of each book that instructs them on how to download a copy onto their PDA, smartphone, and/or PC. Here's a great feature for students and travelers constantly on the go.
Langenscheidt Pocket Italian Dictionary: Italian-English/English-ItalianLangenscheidt Pocket Italian Dictionary: Italian-English/English-Italian - Over 45,000 references and around 65,000 translations on 672 pages * Comprehensive vocabulary with many idiomatic expressions and up-to-date words * Attractive two-color layout with all main headwords in blue for quick reference * Conjugation tables for the Italian verbs * The ideal compact reference work for everyday use.
Berlitz Italian/English Pocket DictionaryBerlitz Italian/English Pocket Dictionary - Compact and comprehensive, the Berlitz Pocket Dictionary is suitable for travelers, students or professionals. Blue headwords make entries accessible while its size makes the book handy and portable.

Learn Italian - Italian courses in box, CD, and computer form

Rosetta Stone Version 3 Italian Level 1, 2 & 3 Set with Audio CompanionRosetta Stone Version 4 Italian Level 1, 2 & 3 Set - The Rosetta Stone method allows for a natural, intuitive exploration of the language. This award-winning method, called Dynamic Immersion®, consists of the following innovations: • Natural Discovery™—Learning your first words was as natural as smiling. Effortless. Rewarding. Every step in Rosetta Stone feels like that. Speech. Sound. Images. Without thinking, you just know what it means. • Speech Activation™—Build your confidence and polish your pronunciation skills with state-of-the-art speech-recognition technologies and real-world dialogues. • Native Socialization™—Practice with native speakers in our live interactive sessions and our online community. Every conversation gives you the confidence to communicate in the real world.
Fodor's Italian for Travelers 9CD Package)Fodor's Italian for Travelers (CD Package) - To learn some of the lingo before you go. [From a user review]: Independent travelers who use this product should feel reassured that they can ask for what they need; express proper appreciation for assistance; make better informed menu choices and can even hold a friendly conversation with host country residents. Hearing native speakers repeat sounds, words and dialogs in proper cadence and accent is the key element to making the included phrasebook/dictionary usable in the real world...
The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning ItalianThe Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Italian - For anyone who wants to learn and enjoy the most expressive and romantic of languages, the third edition of The Complete Idiot's Guide to Learning Italian is the first choice for a whole new generation of enthusiastic students of Italian. This updated edition includes two new quick references on verbs, grammar, and sentence structure; two new appendixes on Italian synonyms and popular idiomatic phrases; and updated business and money sections. Author Biography: Gabrielle Euvino has been teaching Italian since 1986. The president and founder of La Bella Lingua, an educational immersion program, she also teaches Italian at the Learning Annex in New York City.
Oxford Italian: The Complete Language-Learning KitOxford Italian: The Complete Language-Learning Kit - Take Off In Italian makes learning or brushing up on the language quick, easy, and fun. Follow an integrated course including activities and dialogues with native speakers so you can feel confident in day-to-day conversation. The course offers expert help when you are traveling with a handy phrase book and mp3 audio download for practice while on the move. This complete language learning kit contains everything you need to speak, read, write and understand Italian, and gives you flexibility when learning. The pack includes a clear, easy-to-use course book, full mp3 audio available to download, 5 audio CDs, including an extra practice CD, a handy travel dictionary and phrasebook, and [online activities and dialogues to support you as you pick up your new language.
Berlitz Rush Hour Italian: A Musical Language Course for People On the GoBerlitz Rush Hour Italian: A Musical Language Course for People On the Go - Rush Hour uses the power of catchy melodies and dynamic rhythms to introduce you to basic Italian expressions and vocabulary for every day life. Follow the main character, Jon through all the events of his day - as he learns Italian, so will you. HIGHLIGHTS: All-audio course - listen and learn at home, at the gym, in the car, on the plane 10 short lessons fit easily into you busy lifestyle Topics include: greetings, telling time, transportation, weather, jobs, food, shopping, sports, and leisure activities Exciting storyline keeps you involved Listener's guide helps you follow along with ease INCLUDES: 2 CDs of language-learning lessons set to lively music Bonus CD with popular Rush Hour songs Listener's guide with a complete transcript of the audio course Downloadable Rush Hour word game Free sturdy case to hold your Rush Hour CDs. [user review:] My 3 year old and I zip around town listening to these CDs and love singing the catchy songs. It is a great way to pick up a couple of practical phrases while running errands. It has made my toddler and myself want to learn more and a great way to introduce people of all ages to Italian. I even think my 9 month old enjoys the songs and conversations because he seems pretty happy when they are playing. ;)
Prego!: An Invitation to ItalianPrego!: An Invitation to Italian - Not for nothing, but this is the language textbook used by Temple University's study abroad program in Rome, where my rather taught (art, not Italian!) when I was a kid, and where I later matriculated during my own junior year abroad (and met the love of my life). For what it's worth, the book seemed to work amazingly well for my fellow study abroad students (can't really speak to it personally, since my method of learning Italian was to attend an Italian parochial school at the age of 11, which I would only recommend to others interested in being totally confused for several months while being bossed around by nuns). [Editorial review:] Introducing the online ActivityPak available for the seventh edition of Prego! This exciting new supplement replaces the former stand-alone interactive CD-ROM and provides a unified learning experience for students through the Online Learning Center. Flash-based activities, games, and video clips offer vocabulary, grammar, and culture review in a fun and useful online format. With the online ActivityPak, students will not have to worry about lost CDs and Operating system incompatibilities. It's all online, it's easy to access and use, and it helps students get the most out of their study of Italian.

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Pocket Italian
Web Translators
Here are some free online translators, handy for finding words and pasting in chunks of text from Italian-only websites:
• Google Translate
• Babelfish
• Bing Translator

Free language lessons!
The venerable BBC provides free audio and video language courses at:

Italian phrase books
Rick Steves' Italian Phrase Book and Dictionary
• Eyewitness Italian Travel Phrasebook
• Lonely Planet: Italian Phrasebook
• Berlitz Italian Phrase Book

Translator apps

Unlike the vast majority of translator apps for the iPhone—merely interfaces to the Google translate engine—those listed below work without Internet access (so you won't incur huge roaming fees); the boldface are the better choices in each price range:
World Nomads (free)
• 24/7 Tutor (free)
• Cool Gorilla (99¢)
• Word Roll (99¢)
• Odyssey ($9.99)
• Lonely Planet ($9.99)

The computerized travel phrase book
Lingo Voyager 5 translatorIt's the size of a calculator, and it literally speaks 20 languages. The Lingo Xplorer 52 Talking Translator knows 1,000,000 words and 100,000 useful phrases in 52 languages. What's more, it can speak them in a native's crisp, local accent.

This makes it a much better learning tool than puzzling over the pronunciation guide in a Berlitz, and also provides a wimp's way out of actually learning the lingo. Just walk up to a hotel clerk, select the right phrase, and the Lingo will ask for the price of a double room on your behalf.

But wait, there's more! (Always wanted to say that.) It has a built-in FM radio, world alarm clock, voice recorder, calculator, calendar, metric and currency converter, and eight games for long train rides (since Mine Sweeper and Sudoku are the same in any language). My favorite phrase: "I have been bitten by a dog" in German. $249.99 from Magellan's.

(There's also cheaper Lingo Eurotalk 6-Language Translator does 360,000 words and 20,000 phrases—plus currency and metric conversions—in English, Italian, Spanish, French, German, and Greek for just $99.85.)

iTRAVL® Multilingual Communicator and DictionaryAmazonOr you can really upgrade into the realm of Star Trek instant translators and get the Ectaco NTL-8C iTRAVL Talking 2-Way Multilingual Language Communicator and Electronic DictionaryAmazon.

You speak into it, and it (a) recognizes your language and what you said, (b) translates it into any of eight other languages of your choice, and then (c) spits it back out in the foreign tongue. Wow.

It knows 3,370,000 words, and 14,000 travel phrases, in English, Italian, French, German, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, and Spanish.

You can carry on entire, albeit stilted conversations by asking a question in English, having it repeat your question in Italian for the local, then they say their answer in Italian and the iTRAVL translates it into English for you.

Oh, and it also comes with a built-in language teacher so you can actually learn some Italian, plus a talking calculator, cultural notes, time zone maps, and Fodor's restaurant, hotel, and sightseeing info on 50 major destinations on five continents and the CIA World Factbook. Did I mention it can play MP3s and audio books (some travel ones are already included)?

There is, of course, a price to be paid for this technological Wunderkind: $499.95 from Amazon.Amazon

Kwikpoint point-and-choose translator cardOr go really low-tech (and cheap: about $16) with the laminated, foldable Kwikpoint card covered with cartoonish pictures off all the things a traveler might need—double bed, taxi, AAA battery, ice skates, pig, computer printer, toothpaste, cheese, gas station, can opener, policeman, etc. You just unfold it like a map, point at the thing you want, and throw on the local word for "please?"

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