What’s in a song?
There’s melody, lyrics and, as it turns out, secrets to learning your target language.
If your target language happens to be Italian, you’re in luck.
Italian music provides beautiful context for a beautiful language, and today, we’re going to be talking about easy Italian songs.
In this post, we’ll be looking at some particular songs that can help you with your Italian learning, even and especially if you’re still a beginner.
But before we do that, allow me to clear up a very common misconception.
Why It’s Never Too Early to Start Learning Italian with Songs
One big misconception about learning a new language is that songs come later in the process and that they only play a minor role, if any at all. When you’ve got the grammar rules down and have a decent storehouse of vocabulary memorized, that’s when you can employ songs and take those language skills to a whole new level. Attempting to use songs without grammar and vocabulary already on your side would be a disaster, right?
Well, that all couldn’t be further from the truth!
While selecting a good Italian textbook and checking out a wide variety of books for Italian learners in general is important, it can be just as important to consider more interactive options in the early stages of learning: Games that teach you Italian, for example, or other online options for learning the language. And along with these comes music.
The earlier you take up songs in your Italian language journey, the better. Think about the songs of your childhood, when you were learning your first language. You didn’t have a decent grasp of grammar or vocabulary before you started singing your ABC’s or your nursery rhymes out of tune. In fact, you used these songs to bone up on your language skills.
So instead of waiting ’til later to use songs, which is really putting the cart before the horse, use them on the very first day of learning the language.
Songs are memorable and stick in the mind. We never forget the songs we used to sing as kids in school, even when it’s been 20 years since those days. Songs are the perfect vehicle to learn grammar and vocabulary because they provide a context for the language.
And language is context. It’s really through context that language derives its meaning. And songs are language used to communicate a coherent thought and context, creating memories in the process.
Furthermore, with songs, we’re not talking just any context. Songs have a melody, rhythm and rhymes that always beat memorizing a dry list of words from a sheet of paper.
So if you want to really learn Italian and learn it fast, consider Italian songs to be one of the most efficient and effective tools in the shed. And what’s one of the easiest ways to learn from songs? Enter FluentU.
Learning Italian Songs with FluentU
FluentU is an efficient and effective way to learn languages with songs and other authentic contexts.
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 best part? You can try FluentU for free with a 15-day trial.
And thank heavens that there’s no shortage of easy Italian songs to choose from. You won’t run out of Italian melodies to accompany you in your language journey, and to start you off, we’ve picked seven of the best easy ones for you.
So why don’t we look at them in detail?
7 Easy Italian Songs to Capture a Language Learner’s Heart
1) “Giro giro tondo” (Turn Turn Around)
If you were a little Italian boy or girl, this would be one of the very first songs you’d learn in school. It’s the equivalent of the English playground song “Ring Around the Rosie,” which many speculate to be a song about the Black Plague. (Which is ironic since the song has fun connotations for today’s children.)
This song is easy as it gets. The melody is charming and the structure of the lines simple. Actually, there are many versions of this song. There’s the standard one with the hen, another involving a wolf at the door and even one talking about Mussolini’s grandchildren.
The variety of versions can only mean good news for your vocabulary, as you’ll be able to sing the same tune and have many different words accompany it. In fact, you can make your own Italian version and just use the standard melody as a template!
2) “Ci vuole un fiore” (It Takes a Flower)
“Ci vuole un fiore” talks about flowers, seeds, wood and trees and is perfect for Italian beginners because of the vocabulary mining potential in the lines, not to mention the catchy melody that stays with you long after the song is done. The structure is simple, regular and repetitive. You can easily get the hang of the words because they have been artfully arranged into a progression. Kudos to the lyricist, Gianni Rodari!
If the English song “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes” adeptly teaches children different parts of the body, this one does the same, but with words related to nature.
This is one of those songs that crams plenty of vocabulary into a few lines and is an example of how to creatively learn new words by embedding them in a meaningful context.
3) “Il coccodrillo come fa?” (How Does the Crocodile Go?)
Remember when you were a kid and adults would ask you what certain animals sounded like, and then they would laugh with delight when you went “woof! woof!” or “meow”?
As it turns out, this is a universal phenomenon and Italian kids have a tune that helps them remember animal names as well as the sounds they make.
“Il coccodrillo come fa?” is a song asking a very important question: “What sound does the crocodile make?” And along the way, it will definitely teach you a vocabulary word or two.
Actually, this song teaches you a little of everything: Useful interrogatives, nouns, pronouns and verbs are peppered throughout it. And if you want to milk it for all its worth, it would be worthwhile to do a line-by-line study.
(A word of warning, though: By the end, you will still have no idea what sound the crocodile makes.)
4) “Arrivederci Roma” (Goodbye Rome)
More painful words have never been said.
This song is about a short-lived love affair of an English girl and an Italian man, with the Trevi Fountain and Italian sunsets for a backdrop. It’s a change of pace from the previous three songs we just talked about. This one is nostalgic in tone. Nevertheless, it can lift the spirits of Italian learners everywhere with the wealth of linguistic lessons it has to offer.
You can mine the song for language points after wiping your tears away.
It’s replete with sentence structures, phrases, connectives and conjunctions that you can borrow to add nuance and richness to your Italian conversations. Examples include ma (but), mentre (while) and sempre (always).
This song is part of the soundtrack of a musical movie of the same name.
(You’ve probably heard the melody to this one, but maybe with different lyrics. This tune is widely sung in Scandinavian countries like Sweden, Denmark, Finland and Norway.)
The place referred to in the title is the charming waterfront district Borgo Santa Lucia in the Bay of Naples.
The song is a boatman’s invitation to passengers to ride his boat so they can enjoy that perfect night in the waters of Santa Lucia, where the waves are peaceful, the wind is favorable and the stars shimmer on the sea.
There are plenty of declarative sentences in the song, especially when the boatman describes the evening’s setting, like “placida è l’onda” (the wave is peaceful). The pace of the song is just right. And because of its ubiquitous tune and some well-placed repetition of lines, like the one above, you can very easily commit this song’s lyrics to memory.
6) “Volare” (To Fly)
Would you believe that this song was the Italian entry to the Eurovision Song Contest of 1958, and won third place?
Formally titled “Nel blu dipinto di blu” (In the Blue That Is Painted Blue), it’s more popularly known as “Volare.” It was composed and performed by Domenico Modugno.
The song is a party of verbs, and you can find them in almost every line. So if you decide to give this song a go and actually sing it, don’t forget to move around and gesture away. Incidentally, Modugno’s interpretation, with his arms flailing and open wide, changed the way Italian singers performed. Gone were the days when they just stood still.
7) “Tu scendi dalle stelle” (You Come Down from the Stars)
We wrap up this list with the obligatory Christmas tune.
This one was written by Saint Alfonso Maria de’ Liguori and is one of the most popular Christmas songs in Italy. If in the U.S. you hear “Jingle Bells” as you join the Christmas shopping rush in department stores, “Tu scendi dalle stelle” is the equivalent in Italy.
This song is about the Baby Jesus leaving glory and descending into a simple and poor existence (one without the warmth of fire on a cold winter’s night). It’s often sung by a children’s choir. You can be sure to hear it during a Christmas Eve mass at the Vatican.
This song is a good pick for the language learner because, as a lullaby for the Baby Jesus, it’s not too brisk for the absolute beginner. The verses are simply composed and there’s enough repetition in the lines so that you can pick up new Italian vocabulary in no time. And in terms of context, there’s nothing like the story of Christmas to make the message, thought and content of a song clear. In short, the whole thing is very sticky for the mind.
So have a go with these seven easy Italian songs.
They’re a treasure trove of Italian lessons waiting to be discovered.
Don’t ever believe that songs are only a minor facet of learning a language. Some even get fluent mainly through songs.
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Italian with real-world videos.