There are many ways to learn the language. Something as elementary as listening to the tapes can give you a reference point. There are also good classes available in many areas.
You can study it and learn how to read the language. That would assist you in translating any documents of interest.
However, in order to speak it, you must have someone to converse with on a regular basis. If not, you will " lose it if you don't use it." If you live in or near an Italian community, that would present a wonderful opportunity for you.
Obviously, the best way would be to immerse yourself in it by spending significant time in Italy and hearing it and using it every day. I realize this isn't possible for most of us.
I have taken a few Italian classes, but have never had anyone to converse with on a regular basis. Consequently, I have made very little progress.
I'm sure there are many other suggestions by our excellent Italian researchers on this forum.
Researching surnames Ianniello, Tamburrino, Mattora/Martora/Mattori & Scialla in Santa Maria Capua Vetere, Caserta, Campania.
To truly learn the language and be able to carry on unrehearsed conversations, your best bet is to reside in Italy and immerse yourself in the culture for a minimum of two to three years. I would suggest an area like Firenze ("Florence") where you will find a close adherence to "standard Italian" as opposed to Sicilia, for example, where I believe the spoken language is more likely to be heavily influenced by local dialect.
Okay, so that's probably not possible.
Have a spare room in your home? Live near a university? How about offering reduced-rate room & board to a native Italian university student under the condition that you help him/her with English and he/she helps you with your Italiian?
Once you have some words under your belt, you need to work on listening comprehension. You may be surprised at how difficult it is to train your "English ears" to hear in Italian. I can easily count aloud into the billions in Italian and can read virtually any number written in Italian. But... on our last visit to Italy my wife and I frequented a small grocery store just a few blocks from our hotel and each time the checkout clerk told me the amount of the charge I was totally flummoxed. The words were out of her mouth and gone into the ether even before my ears had engaged; I found it very frustrating because I thought for certain this was one area that I would have under control.
So, to help with listening comprehension (and speaking), I suggest heading over to iTunes and buying some Italian pop music that you can enjoy listening to; download the lyrics from any of numerous sites on the web and work at singing along. Two of my personal favorites are Laura Pausini ("The Best of Laura Pausini") and NEK (aka Filippo Neviani - "The Best of NEK: L'anno Zero"). Warning: like many of their ilk, these entertainers record in several languages; make certain you are getting the Italian versions. Andrea Boccelli is a truly great vocalist, but operatic music is not going to help much with everyday comprehension.
Also, if your cable-tv provider offers Italian programming (usually "RAI") consider signing up. Or, just visit http://www.rai.it/ and watch/listen to videos.
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There are some excellent suggestions above, and there are many ways to learn a language. But there is one thing required, no matter what you do... Practice, Practice, and Practice. Whether you practice listening, speaking, reading, or writing.... language learning takes a LOT more practice than anything else. You will be frustrated, it is normal. Everyone hits roadblocks with language learning. Just keep practicing.
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