Today, I’m giving you some tremendous keys to a very important life hack.
Say hello to Italian audiobooks!
Because if there’s anything that’s been hitting all the right notes with Italian language learners, it’s these babies.
That’s right! You can get many of your Italian audiobooks for free. And there’s nothing better than free learning!
So, what can an audiobook do for the average language learner?
Simple. It can make him or her “un-average.”
Here’s how audiobooks can boost your Italian, as well as tips for maximum learning, where to find audiobooks in Italian plus some book recommendations!
Italian Audiobooks: The Definitive Guide
What Audiobooks Can Do for Your Italian
They open up your learning time and space
Audiobooks are untouchable when it comes to multiplying opportunities for study. We often find ourselves pressed for time, but audiobooks blow practically every limitation out of the water because they can be set to work virtually anywhere, at any time of the day.
Just plug in those headphones, press play and you’re all set. Audiobooks make you more productive by allowing you to multitask. You can cook in the kitchen, ladling that tomato sauce on your favorite pasta while gesturing and saying “buon appetito” to no one!
Or you can be standing in any line, driving to work or waiting for the elevator doors to open and be working your Italian. You might be in your bed, and instead of tossing back and forth cursing your well-timed insomnia, you can be listening to Italian language lessons or stories.
They tickle more of the senses
Most audiobooks today come with written text or transcriptions so you can closely follow the story or the lesson.
The text serves as an additional layer of stimulation that ultimately helps you efficiently absorb whatever it is you’re listening to. Audiobooks and the text integrate both visual and auditory stimulation so that you’ll have more anchors in the memory.
More often, the audiobook you listen to will be narrated by native speakers. Which means that listening to it would almost be like sitting in one of those public cafes in Italy, listening as a wave of Italian washed over you.
In addition, as a way of pulling learners in, audiobooks tickle our imaginations, daring us to picture characters, events, actions and movement. These visualizations not only keep the mind sharp, they can be an endless source of entertainment for the engaged language learner.
They’re portable, durable and affordable
Like I said before, audiobooks can be employed anywhere, anytime. They’re portable, and you can load as many onto your gadget without adding any weight to it. Audiobooks really are the stuff of magic. They’re not only portable: They’re actually weightless.
And ever since we graduated from scratchy CDs and cassette tapes, the digital format of these things means you can go crazy with the “repeat” button without fear of loss of quality. You can replay an audiobook until your fingers melt, and it’ll be as clear and as crisp as the first time you listened to it.
And all this for a very low—sometimes even free—price. Audiobooks are so cheap they’ll make you squint and wonder how they can afford to give all of this away. Well, that’s technology for you, and that’s good news for all language learners.
Tips and Tricks for Learning Italian with Audiobooks
Audiobooks that teach Italian
There are audiobooks that function very much like textbooks, giving you lessons about the Italian language. They’re often topically divided into chapters or modules. Here are some tips to get the most out of these types of audiobooks:
- Get a copy of the transcript whenever possible. Like I said, many of these come in written form, and you should take advantage by following along with the transcript as you listen to the audio.
For one, it helps you familiarize with the differences in spelling between English and Italian. It can also help you get a feel for the pronunciation and spelling dynamics of Italian.
- Use play and pause often. You can do this on two levels. You can hit “pause” and repeat at that instant where you missed something, or you can hit that repeat button once you reach the end of a module or chapter. The moral of the lesson is to listen actively. Listen to the material multiple times.
- Speak when the narrator asks you to speak. Practically every last one of these audiobooks will strive to be interactive and ask you to “Repeat after me!” Or they’ll ask some questions and leave a few quiet moments for your answer. Always participate in these exercises.
Don’t just passively listen and expect to absorb the lessons. Really get into the lessons and the activities the narrator asks you to do. For the audiobooks that you pay for, this is where you really get your money’s worth.
- Write out the vocabulary, examples and grammar rules provided in the lessons. Writing about the words, phrases or rules discussed in the audiobook adds another layer of insight into the language.
There’s just something about writing that makes us remember those lessons very well. So I encourage you to have a pen and paper ready and write. After the lesson, take time to go online and find out even more about the notes you’ve written. You’ll find this to be a very insightful exercise.
Audiobooks that are in Italian
There are also audiobooks that tell a story in Italian. They’re the audio versions of the books we read before bedtime or the novels we dive into while sitting in coffee shops. They show how the language is used by native speakers.
Here are some tips on how to get the most out of them:
- Get a copy of the book whenever possible. There’s material for different levels and it’s really important that you not only are able to follow what’s being said in audio, but also can see how the words and phrases interact and build on each other.
If you can find the English translation for the whole thing, then so much the better. It’ll orient you on what the story is about to give you the big picture, yet also allow for lessons in translation and word order by working with a small section of each text side by side.
- Read along with the audio. Kids learning the language often use mimicking or shadowing, and there’s no reason why adult learners of Italian can’t emulate that technique.
An advantage of audiobooks is that you not only hear authentic use of the language, you can also read along with the audio and compare your pronunciation for good measure.
- Divide the material into chapters and subchapters. It’s always a good idea to give yourself some slack and divide your audiobook into manageable chunks and chapters. Don’t try to finish everything in one or two sittings. Don’t hurry the plot. Spread the material out and give yourself ample time to deal with the chapters.
If you think you’re still missing something, play the chapter again. No shame in going slow and absorbing it one chapter at a time.
- Translate some sections into English. Translation serves as a linguistic exercise. Converting sections of the material from Italian to English gives your language muscles a workout.
There’s nothing like writing a paragraph or two into English to put your Italian through its paces. It’ll compel you to research vocabulary, practice sentence construction and familiarize yourself with the nuances and peculiarities of Italian.
- Don’t memorize! You’re dealing with a story. The worst thing you can do with an audiobook is to memorize large swaths of it and know nothing. Audiobooks are essentially stories, always remember that. They’re communicative in nature, aiming to hook you with the plot. They’re not a long series of Italian words to be cast in stone.
So as you read along, remember that you’re telling a story. When you translate, remember that you’re dealing with some event in a character’s life. Looking at it this way is much better than the inorganic and inefficient method of memorizing what you hear.
The 5 Best Sources for Italian Audiobooks Online
Audible, whose mission is “to unleash the power of the spoken word,” is owned by Amazon and houses the largest collection of audiobooks online.
Here you can find titles and genres that range from mysteries and thrillers to sci-fi and fantasy. They most definitely have an excellent collection of Italian audiobooks to regale and challenge every language learner.
- “Alice nel paese delle meraviglie” (“Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland”) by Lewis Carroll
Lewis Carroll’s “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland” is a beloved classic that has been tickling our childlike imaginations for generations.
In this Italian edition read by Stefania Pimazzoni, you’ll go down the rabbit hole and meet not only strange and wonderful creatures, but you get to experience the rich Italian language as well—which is an adventure in and of itself.
- “Raccontini” (“Tales”) by Alfonso Borello
This is a collection of three stories geared for the intermediate level Italian language learner. Here you can listen to discussions of love and beauty, the relationship between food and health, and even witchcraft and body parts hunting.
This audiobook not only entertains, it shocks, informs and also gives relatable insights to Italian language learners.
Everything you need to be entertained—that’s what iTunes is all about. You have your music, movies, podcasts and pretty much all of your media. For Italian language learners, iTunes is a Mecca of audiobooks to last a lifetime.
- “The Missing Cat” from Berlitz Publishing
What do you think happens when Princess, one family’s beloved cat, goes missing from her basket? Right. The whole family goes in search for her. Meet Nicholas and his family as they go hot on the trail of Princess.
Along the way, you’ll also get to meet some basic words and phrases, Italian greetings, numbers, days of the week, members of the family, colors, food and more. This one’s perfect for beginners.
- “Le avventure di Tom Sawyer” (“The Adventures of Tom Sawyer”) by Mark Twain
Twain would have been proud to hear his work in impeccable Italian. “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” is an 1876 novel about the mischiefs of a boy who lived along the Mississippi River.
In this account, you can readily hear that Tom’s intrepid spirit is not lost in translation. Just like the original version, you’ll get the twinge of his daring escapes (all made necessary, one might add, by his tomfoolery.) It’s a treasure hunting, pirate arrrgh-ing adventure that many can only dream of.
Their website touts that they are a place “for people who love languages.” Languages-Direct.com offers audiobooks, movies, electronic dictionaries, language games and parallel-text books all aimed to make language learning fun and rewarding.
You’ll have over 1,000 language products to choose from, including some of excellent audiobooks in Italian.
There’s a Doctor Jekyll and a Mr. Hyde in all of us, but let’s talk about that some other time. This one’s the Italian reading of Stevenson’s classic about the good and bad struggling within the same person.
This work would be most appropriate for advanced learners. The original text is wonderfully rendered in Italian, so it’s a great opportunity to study how the phrases and sentences are artfully nested and structured in this piece.
- “Il Libro della Giungla” (“The Jungle Book”) by Rudyard Kipling
Here, Kipling’s work is rendered by the exuberant tones of Pino Insegno, who’s the dubbed Italian voice for many of your beloved characters like Diego of “Ice Age” and Aragorn in “Lord of the Rings.”
The book is about a boy raised by a pack of wolves, who goes on to meet a bunch of pretty memorable characters which includes a tiger, panther and bear. Here, intermediate learners will have their Italian brought to another level by artful use of language so descriptive you’ll feel like you belong in the wild.
Liber Liber is a non-profit organization that aims to use technology to promote cultural as well as artistic expression. The point is, they’re making learning media available for everybody. So here you’ll find many Italian audiobooks of classics like:
- “Piccole donne” (“Little Women”) by Louisa May Alcott
This is the story of sisters Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy, and how they deal with the different challenges in life. The book covers about 15 years in the life of the March family of Massachusetts, and details how poverty can shape goals and ideals.
Advanced learners should look for the linguistic nuances employed by the author to differentiate the characters in the novel. Notice how different vocabularies and phrases can shape each character.
- “La Divina Commedia” (“Divine Comedy”) by Dante Alighieri
Unlike other selections here, Dante’s “Divine Comedy” was originally written in Italian. This epic poem depicts the medieval vision of the afterlife, commenting on man’s temporal and eternal destiny. Many scholars consider the “Divine Comedy” as one of the foremost work of Italian literature, and is thus a must-read for Italian language learners.
Despite its length, it’s approachable to the beginner because the lines are simply structured. The work was in the Tuscan dialect and played a pivotal role in eventual standardization of the Italian language.
Librivox is open source for audiobooks. It’s a non-profit made of volunteers who wanted classics in the public domain to be appreciated and studied by anyone. To those folks, we give a big “Thanks!” Here are some titles you can find:
- “Le Avventure di Pinocchio” (“The Adventures of Pinocchio”) by Carlo Collodi
Who doesn’t know about Pinocchio? He’s the talking marionette who wanted to become a real boy. And boy, talk about wisdom gained from equal parts naiveté and mischief.
Follow the adventures of Pinocchio while also picking up Italian vocabulary along the way. This work is equal parts entertaining and educational.
- “La Contessa di Karolystria” (“The Countess of Karolystria”) by Antonio Ghislanzoni
This work is also done originally in Italian, and was rendered to audio by Riccardo Fasol. The author, Antonio Ghislanzoni, is an Italian novelist, journalist and poet who also wrote for the great Verdi.
Follow this tragicomedy of the Vicomte d’Aguilar and La Contessa di Karolystria as they escape from one misadventure only to start another. You can hone your reading comprehension and translation skills with this audiobook, whose sentences are simple enough to follow.
So now you’re all set. With audiobooks, you’ll realize that Italian is really a very approachable language. Have these “tracks” playing everywhere you go, and your ears will soon catch on to the melodious twists and twangs of Italian. Your simple walk in the park can now bring you closer to the fluency you’ve always wanted.
Oh, and One More Thing…
If you like learning Italian with audiobooks, you’ll love FluentU!
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.
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