3 Reasons to Add Cooking to Your Language Learning Routine

Cook and learn Italian

Ciao a tutti!

I started Italian at Heart out of my love for Italian cuisine. To be honest, my language learning is motivated just a little bit…okay A LOT by food. Alberto already speaks English fluently, so Italian isn’t essential for us to communicate. Furthermore, there are a lot of Italians who speak at least some English (MUCH better than I speak Italian).

Although, there was that time in Orvieto where the elderly couple at the deli counter spoke NO English. I silently panicked because I couldn’t remember how to say “grams” in Italian (it’s un etto = 100 grams FYI my fellow Americans), and what’s worse is I didn’t know how much a gram even was (#AmericanProblems)! (Actual footage circa 2015 below LOL). Has anyone else had a stressful (lack of) foreign language experience like that?! Let me know in the comments below!

I could be off the hook with learning Italian, except that I want to know everything there is to know about Italian food & wine traditions, compliment chefs & winemakers and learn about their craft, and especially talk around the table with Italian friends about food (as Italians do). I want to immerse myself in this culinary culture, my soul culture, and the only way to do that is to speak Italian well.

Italian food culture is the antidote to American food culture, and that’s what I love about it. You won’t find any unpronounceable chemicals and additives in Italian food, just whole, simple, REAL ingredients with flavors that complement each other. Quick convenience is sacrificed for slow cooking that yields flavors with exceptional depth and you wonder, how is this only five ingredients? There is a certain grounding in making the same recipes as our ancestors did. That slow, traditional, timeless connection to food and the earth and seasons is what I crave more than a quick drive thru Starbucks latte. I consume food in America, but I truly EAT in Italy. And I want to speak, too.

I’m really proud that I’ve added Italian studies consistently to my morning routine since the beginning of 2019. While my cousins and I were waiting for our Trastevere food tour with The Romand Guy, I came across an edicola (newsstand) and purchased a food magazine called Ci Piace Cucinare. I read one recipe per day with my morning coffee. I write down any new words in a beautiful notebook from Tuscany. That way when I am ready to make the recipe, I’ll actually know what to do! It’s been great because a lot of new words show up again in other recipes…like lessare is another way to say bollire (boil)…who knew!

If you love cooking too, here are three reasons why it’s a great idea to cook & learn Italian!

Use words & phrases in context

The brain LOVES patterns from context. Recipes are a formula in which we can use grammar structures so that they make sense.

For example, I have only taken one semester of Italian in collage, where we only learned the present, past & future tenses. Just studying the imperative on its own in a grammar book does not make an impact on our long-term memory because it has real life meaning. However, when I combine my book Italian Verb Drills with real life recipes, the imperative makes sense.

Associate words with actions

I recently read an article that learning styles are bogus and that we should not take them into consideration. I beg to differ. (This is where my beliefs diverge from academia; I think not everything needs to be or can be proven with scientific “research,” sometimes intuition regarding our own needs is sufficient, no?).

I learned in a very hands-on classroom from first to third grade, and I can remember lessons and activities VIVIDLY form that time period. On the other hand, I can hardly remember anything from high school or university in a very passive learning environment. My educated hypothesis is that varying your type of exposure to the language is key, not merely focusing on your preferred learning style.

Anyhow, hands-on learning is really what I enjoy and helps me commit grammar/vocabulary to long-term memory. It’s about having an experience with the language. This is what is referred to as Total Physical Response, or TPR in the language education world. It connects speech with actions, much like how we learn our native language as infants.

The language becomes a tool to create – in this case make a recipe – and not the focus. The language becomes useful because we are using it to meet our needs. It envelopes the senses, creating a complete sensory experience where sight, sound, smell, taste, and touch are engaged.

Enjoy the learning Process

Most of all, I think what prevents many people from getting into language learning is that it’s associated with the classroom, grades, and homework. When I studied abroad in Torino, I became intrigued with the idea of learning around the table because it happened so naturally and informally. I think that if we do what we love, the learning comes naturally and we don’t have to force it, and sometimes that’s how the classroom feels -forced- (saying that as a former classroom teacher & student).


Chat with me:

  • Do you incorporate cooking into your language learning?
  • If so, what is the last recipe you made in your target language?
  • What do you love about Italian cuisine?
Cook and Learn Italian

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Ciao, I'm Kelly!

Welcome to my adventures in learning Italian, often while cooking authentic Italian recipes and wine tasting! I love discovering the traditional regional cuisine of Italy and trying to recreate those dishes when I'm back home in the US. I'm also on my way to becoming an Italian citizen through jure sanguinis (by ancestry).

WSET Level 2 Certified Wine Blogger


Join me for a virtual "aperitivo chat" to get exclusive updates on my Italian progress, dual citizenship journey, plus food & wine adventures in the Bel Paese and beyond!

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[…] 3 Reasons to Add Cooking to Your Language Learning Routine […]

1 year ago

You inspire us so so much!!! We stumbled yesterday at a little Italian shop in Manchester. They spoke English but we always freeze when we want to speak Italian to anyone other than our family and we need to start just diving in no matter if we make mistakes. You are amazing. We truly love your passion Kelly. You motivate us every day to keep going, even if it’s piano piano. :p We love reading Italian recipes too and translating them with Nanna! 🙂 xx

LuLu B - Calabrisella Mia

I adore your passion and I think using food to help in your learning process is a great idea! I remember the first time I went to the deli and wondering how badly I would be at in telling the person behind the counter what I wanted. Thankfully it was a local shop and they already knew I was the “new English teacher” haha But I also promised myself that I would not let my fear of making mistakes stop me from speaking – I threw myself into the language. I also didn’t have much choice because where I live,… Read more »

1 year ago

I absolutely love your post. The secret of learning a language is spending the time with the language in a fun way, just like cooking or leafing through Ci Piace Cucinare 🙂

3 days ago

прием нотариуса

нотариус срочно

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