Dear ascoltatori (listeners),
Welcome to Learn Italian Radio.
My name is Michael Cristiano, it is 3:00 pm local time in Rome, and on today’s program we will be talking about the six best radio stations for learning Italian.
Even in the 21st century dominated by TED Talks and 300 minutes of video uploaded to YouTube every minute, radio is an important and enduring aspect of Italian culture.
But how can we as learners use Italian radio to better our listening and comprehension skills, grow our vocabulary and grammar knowledge and even hone our speaking skills?
Stayed tuned, ascoltatore (listener)! Today we find out.
Listen Up! Italian Radio for All Levels
Listening to radio should be a part of any learner’s Italian learning routine. Being one of the four major areas of language learning (along with speaking, writing and reading), listening sharpens comprehension skills as well as helps learners develop their accent, appropriate intonation and useful vocabulary.
The best part is that listening to the radio can be done actively or passively. This means that learners can sit down with pen and paper (or computer) and take notes on vocabulary, grammar and content while listening, or they can listen while doing something else such as housework or during the commute to work.
Intermediate and advanced learners of Italian should strive to make listening to Italian radio a weekly if not daily activity. The best way to be exposed to new vocabulary is through “in the wild” immersion such as through radio.
While it may seem counter-intuitive, beginner Italian learners should listen to Italian radio even if they do not understand the words yet. Listening to the radio as a beginner sharpens the listener’s ear to the rhythm and pronunciation of the language. Not to mention, it is a pretty cool feeling when you can understand an expression used on the radio or you “get the gist” of the content.
How to Listen to the Radio for Learning
Now that we know that listening to the radio can be a great way to grow your Italian skills, what is the best way to do it?
- Break it up. Beginner Italian learners should aim to listen to the radio in 5-minute chunks. This is the perfect amount of time to get a feel for the radio spot, but not enough to become overwhelmed by the words the learner does not know. Listening should not be stressful, so learners should avoid stressing themselves out!
- Listen to the rhythm. Beginners should also pay attention to the rhythm of the language, attempting to imitate speech patterns. Furthermore, beginners should also aim to understand “the gist” of a radio segment: What key words do you understand? What is the main idea.
- Listen for grammar and understanding. For intermediate and advanced Italian learners who are beyond “understanding the gist,” learners should focus on grammatical constructions, vocabulary building, and understanding the piece in-depth. These learners could benefit from listening with a notebook in order to record new sentence constructions and words that can be reviewed later and/or turned into flashcards. They should also listen to a segment multiple times if possible to get the full picture.
- Reinforce learning with FluentU videos. For visual learners, it may help to use videos in addition to the radio for enhanced learning. Use FluentU for examples of Italian “in the wild.”
FluentU takes real-world videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons, as you can see here:
FluentU helps you get comfortable with everyday Italian by combining all the benefits of complete immersion and native-level conversations with interactive subtitles.
Tap on any word to instantly see an image, in-context definition, example sentences and other videos in which the word is used.
Access a complete interactive transcript of every video under the Dialogue tab, and review words and phrases with convenient audio clips under Vocab.
Once you’ve watched a video, you can use FluentU’s quizzes to actively practice all the vocabulary in that video. Swipe left or right to see more examples of the word you’re on.
FluentU will even keep track of all the Italian words you’ve learned to recommend videos and ask you questions based on what you already know.
Plus, it’ll tell you exactly when it’s time for review. Now that’s a 100% personalized experience!
The 6 Best Italian Radio Stations for Learning the Language
Check out the best 6 Italian radio stations, and start listening and improving your Italian today!
Radio24 is the most well-known Italian talk radio station on our list. These shows cover topics on everything from politics to culture to finance and economy. Learners have the option of listening to the radio in diretta (live) or of listening to previous shows such as News in diretta (live news) or the Borse in diretta.
Their previous clips often include short summaries (some as short as 30 seconds) of daily news stories, so this is perfect for listening to the same segment multiple times in order to enhance comprehension and for taking note of unknown vocabulary. In addition to daily shows, Radio24 also offers a wide selection of podcasts, and the website also has written news stories that often coincide with the radio stories.
This radio station can be used to learn a variety of vocabulary including everyday speech, technical language and “news speak.”
Radio Radicale (Radical Radio) offers live talk radio as well as recordings on their website. Shows on this station include standard news shows as well as interviste (interviews) and dibattiti (debates). While the radio has a political edge, this station is a great way for learners to become familiar with formal Italian as well as lingo often used in radio/university settings.
This radio station is ideal for those who are interested in politics and economy. There is a large amount of political jargon used, and it would be helpful to learn a bit about the Italian political system and Italy’s political parties prior to listening. Interestingly, the station also offers video recordings of what has happens in the Italian parliament when it is in session.
3. ICN Radio
For learners who are interested in Italian music, ICN Radio is your radio station. Positioning itself as la voce italiana in America (The Italian voice in America), the radio station is specifically for Italian speakers who live in the United States, particularly the Italian community in the Tri-State area.
The station offers a number of shows that combine Italian music with Italian talk such as the music program Ieri e Oggi (Yesterday and Today) that plays contemporary hits as well as Italian classics, Sulle orme di Gesù (In the Footsteps of Jesus) and the talk programs ICN News and Ciao Tony! (Hello Tony!).
The radio station also offers a selection of Italian videos as well as live sports commentary. This station is perfect for learners trying to learn an informal version of Italian or the specific Italian dialect spoken by Italians in New England.
4. Radio Italia
Like ICN Radio, Radio Italia (Italy Radio) also has a strong focus on Italian music. Shows include Italian music playlists, interviews with Italian musicians and Italian popular culture such as Italian celebrities, tv shows and movies.
Because of the radio stations’ content, Radio Italia is a great way to learn informal Italian and even contemporary slang. However, take note: Their radio hosts speak rather quickly with large amounts of informal language, so be sure to brush up on that gergo (slang) before listening.
In addition to its audio selection, Radio Italia offers written articles about Italian pop culture.
Being the largest community radio station in all of Europe, Radio Popolare (Popular Radio) is a left-leaning political radio station that specializes in information and current affairs. In addition to its political shows, its eclectic music selection often includes experimental and international music as well as Italian folk music.
On the talk radio side, this radio station is pretty heavy on politics and current affairs, but listeners can also find quirky radio gems such as Minima Astrologica (Minimal Astrology) by Marco Pesatori, a weekly show focused exclusively on astrology and the cosmos.
This station is best for learners who want a wide variety of Italian exposure, both mainstream and counter-cultural. In addition to their live radio feed, listeners can find podcasts as well as written components to many of their audio news stories.
For nostalgic listeners, RAI Radio Techetè is a live feed of a collection of classic Italian radio shows from the past. Listeners can access recordings of old radio shows from the past 60 years of Italian radio: old sports broadcasts, news broadcasts, interviews and more. Listeners can also listen to radio teleplays of classic novels such as “War and Peace” in the Italian language. This would be perfect for learners who want to read along to something while they hear it!
Because of its old-timey nature, this radio station is great for listening to the Italian language without all the modern slang. The language is tight, and the vocabulary and constructions are rather formal. This is the closest to “textbook Italian” that a learner will get, which might be a great starting point as an introduction to Italian radio.
Grab your cuffie (headphones), Italian learner. Plug in, relax and listen your way to Italian fluency!
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