Did you know that Luciano Pavarotti was actually once a school teacher?
It’s a fact! So, do you want the great tenor to teach you Italian?
You may be wondering, “Why would I want some famous Italian singer teach me the language?”
You’re about to find out why.
Why Do Famous Italian Singers Make Great Language Teachers?
They enuuuuunciate like they mean it
Italian is a language full of passion. It’s melodic and rhythmic. The words are pronounced with intent, and you can literally hear the emotions—pleasure, delight, longing, despair, anger—in the rise and fall of the tones.
Singers are trained to be heard and understood.
When talking, native speakers sometimes talk so fast and sound so garbled that all you hear are the Italian vowels (and you might notice some forceful gestures if you can see them while they’re talking).
Singers are a different breed. What you get from them is a slightly slower version of what’s often heard in everyday conversation. They enunciate clearly so that everyone in the audience—from the high rollers in the front row all the way back to the people in the nosebleed seats—can hear them. They roll their R’s, elongate their L’s and stress their S’s.
With singers, you get an amplified enunciation—the same kind of enunciation that language teachers use when helping along beginners.
Language teachers don’t overwhelm you with conversation that goes from zero to one-twenty in three seconds—well, at least the good ones don’t. They luxuriate in pronouncing the words, slowing it down so the untrained ear can make out the exact words. Italian singers can do the same for you.
And as you’ll see in the next section, Italian singers do even more than that.
Their music can make words come to life
By listening to famous Italian singers and studying their songs, you have the advantage of having melody, rhythm and repetition all working in your favor.
Music is a biggie when it comes to learning a different tongue. When you listen to an Italian song, you’re getting direct access to authentic Italian. It’s the same effect you can get by reading authentic blogs that interest you or watching Italian movies that you’d enjoy even if you weren’t learning the language. These authentic materials give your learning an added boost because they’re fun and you don’t even notice that you’re learning a ton of new words.
A great Italian song makes the words, phrases and sentences stick to your mind’s ear. Music makes strings of words easier to remember and reproduce, almost as though the sound makes the lyrics stream out of your mouth. When you sing along, sometimes you won’t even understand everything that you’re singing, but there you are, spewing Italian words out of your mouth. You can be innocently singing at home and have an immersive language-learning experience without even realizing it!
But it’s really more than that. When the songs are wonderfully rendered by superb Italian singers, you not only have the tune to help you memorize vocabulary, you also have the benefit of context. All the words and phrases are ensconced into a single theme, a unified message or a simple story.
For example, a song could be about love for one’s country, or about a yearning for memories of the past. It could also go on an inspirational bent and talk about one’s dreams in life.
Whatever the song is, there’s a theme, a message or a story that all the lines point to. And this unifying characteristic is another reason that songs are quite sticky and very useful for the Italian language learner.
Under the spell of famous Italian singers, you’ll be listening and singing yourself to fluency in no time.
Their lyrics are great to emulate
Your favorite Italian songs probably often have lyrics that are simple, short and sweet—albeit insightful. Song writers are used to packing as much punch as they can by using the barest of essentials.
On one level, you can learn the actual words to the song and have a few dozen words in the bag. On another level, you can study the lines structurally and blow open the world of possibilities.
If you have the lyrics to the song and their translation while you listen, you don’t just have a great Italian song to sing and great lines to remember. You also have sentence patterns or phrases that you can play with. You can insert words to replace the original ones in the song and form a totally different sentence or phrase. Just make sure you replace nouns with nouns, verbs with verbs, etc.
With just a few songs, you can master many different sentences and structures. Your brain can become a factory that churns out many different sentences and phrases from a few basic forms.
Let’s now check out some of the most famous Italian singers and see how we can learn Italian from their most enduring songs.
7 Famous Italian Singers Who Make Great Italian Teachers
He’s one of the most acclaimed tenors of the 20th century, best loved for his operas, arias and collaborations with pop artists like Elton John, Bono and Sting. His stint with the Three Tenors (Plácido Domingo and José Carreras being the other two) was hugely successful and further cemented his legend as an opera singer.
Pavarotti could fill a room with his powerful voice—talk about pristine diction and enunciation! In addition, the force of his charm and personality could captivate an audience for a whole evening.
One of his most famous works is his rendition of “Nessun Dorma,” (“None Shall Sleep”) from Puccini’s opera “Turandot.” The song is an aria from the final act, where Princess Turandot’s loyal subjects are tasked with finding out the name of the man (Prince Calaf) who has correctly answered her three riddles. Failing to do so would mean her marriage to him.
Pavarotti performed “Nessun Dorma” at the 1990 World Cup and brought the classical song to a whole new audience.
The song’s lines are short and simple, making the lyrics perfect for the Italian beginner. The fact that it’s part of a thrilling story makes the song highly memorable to anyone wanting to learn from its lines. With Pavarotti’s expansive voice and Puccini’s mastery of storytelling, language learners are sure to gain an even deeper appreciation for both art and language.
Had his parents heeded the doctor’s advice, there would never have been an Andrea Bocelli. He was supposed to have been aborted because it was determined that he would be born with a disability.
His personal story just gets more interesting from there. As a boy he had severe problems with his vision and was diagnosed with congenital glaucoma. At the age of twelve, he completely lost his sight following a football accident. But he didn’t let that stop him from earning a law degree later in life.
His first love is music and today Andrea Bocelli is not only the darling of the opera-going crowd, he’s also a crossover act who has sung together with famous pop artists like Ariana Grande, Nicole Scherzinger and Jennifer Lopez.
One of his most famous songs is “The Prayer,” which he sang with Celine Dion. It really is a prayer—a humble supplication of faith, grace and guidance—married to surreal melody. It’s yet another example of how great songs are often actually very simple. The sentence structures and the vocabulary are very basic, but the effect is elevated poetry.
The lyrics are partially in English and partially in Italian. There’s a section where Celine and Andrea take turns delivering short lines. Their lines aren’t really perfect translations of each other’s lines, but they do build upon each other, talking about similar themes, and they bring the song to a powerful finish.
To prove that great songs and great artists are timeless, we’re going to go back several decades for this one, to a time when they didn’t have iPhones or self-driving cars.
Not many artists have the longevity of Mina Mazzini or Anna Maria Quaini. She’s the only artist who has landed a top album for five consecutive decades, ever since the Italian music charts started in 1965.
She was a dominant face in Italian pop music in the ’60s and ’70s. Her life’s work was recognized by her country when President Carlo Azeglio Ciampi awarded her the Grand Officer Order of Merit of the Italian Republic, the second-highest honor bestowed on a civilian.
Her voice was a real force, spanning three octaves. Louis Armstrong described her as the “greatest white singer in the world.”
One of her early hits was “Non Credere” (“Don’t Believe”), an anguished love song Mina’s signature song. To the language learner, the lyrics represent a valuable vocabulary lesson that doesn’t overload you with too many terms. It’s light. You might already know some of the words in this song, and it can provide a great emotional context to lock them into your long-term memory.
Laura Pausini was already hamming it up at local singing contests when she was discovered by a music producer. She vaulted to fame in 1993 after winning the newcomer’s category at the prestigious Sanremo Music Festival.
The following year, she entered the “Big Artists” category and won third place.
Laura Pausini isn’t just a star in her home country. She’s also made it big in countries like Spain, France, The Netherlands and Belgium. And for language learners looking for inspiration, check this out: In addition to her songs in Italian, Laura has recorded songs in French, English, Portuguese and Catalan, among other languages.
The song that won her third place in the 1994 Sanremo Music Festival was “Strani Amori” (“Strange Loves”). The song would be perfect for both beginner and intermediate Italian language learners. For beginners, it’s a great way to add new vocabulary. The lyrics are peppered with easy Italian nouns and verbs. Intermediate learners can learn some useful conjugations as well as other nuances in sentence construction.
5. Patty Pravo
Patty Pravo is the third-best-selling Italian artist of all time. Since she started her illustrious career in 1966, she reportedly has sold around 110 million records. She’s a constant figure at the Sanremo Music Festival, having participated in it a total of nine times.
It wasn’t all bright skies for the woman originally born as Nicoletta Strambelli. She was big in the ’60s and ’70s but suffered a decline in popularity after then. But she got her second wind as she came roaring back in the ’90s with consecutive hit albums and a world tour.
One of her best songs, and one that helped cement her status, is “La Bambola” (“The Doll”), released in 1968. It stayed at the top spot on the Italian music charts for six consecutive weeks, and elevated Patty Pravo to total stardom. It’s said that the song was offered to many other artists but they all refused. Don’t make the same mistake as a language learner—say yes!
This song will elevate your grasp of Italian, that’s for sure. It contains phrases and statements that you can already use in your next conversation with a native speaker. The lyrics are pure, simple and right to the point—it’s almost as if a 10-year-old girl is talking to you.
Umberto Tozzi—singer-songwriter, musician, composer, record producer—is a bona fide star of Italian music.
Imagine having a song that stays at the number one spot for seven months. Not only that, it also swept Europe and catapulted to the top spot in Sweden, Switzerland and France.
The song was “Ti Amo” (“I Love You”), which has since been translated into various languages and covered by many international artists. The song will also be a hit for language learners, especially when you get down to the message and lyrics of the song. It’s very poetic and raw at the same time.
Italian beginners will get plenty of words and phrases to add to their treasure chest. The vocabulary is eclectic and there’s also plenty of symbolism and imagery in the lines. If you want to learn how to paint a scene, this song can be a good example. Listen to it and study the lyrics and you’ll quickly discover why it’s a big hit.
Eros has come a long way. He was a terribly shy fellow who would have rather gone hungry than eat alone at a restaurant, but now he’s shared the stage with Rod Stewart, Elton John, Joe Cocker, Tina Turner, Cher and Andrea Bocelli. He’s also been the musical guest for shows like “The Tonight Show With Jay Leno” and “Good Morning America.” He has won the “Best Italian Artist Award” three times, and is a multi-platinum act.
His unique voice and the intensity with which he sings and performs his songs pull his audiences into the story and into the world of his songs. It’s no wonder he found success all over Europe and has sold out venues like the Kremlin Palace Concert Hall for three straight dates.
One of the Ramazzotti hits is “Un’emozione per sempre” (“An Emotion Forever”). It’s a must for every Italian language learner. This is an interesting study because the lyrics are about love and separation, but the song is still able to pull off some sunny notes and a catchy tune. Language learners can easily sing along with this one. Before you know it, you’ll be a Ramazzotti fan and have the whole song memorized.
I just gave you seven famous Italian singers and a sampling of their classic songs, but there’s plenty more where that came from. There are hundreds of great Italian songs and scores of wonderful singers who can help you learn the language.
So put your ears and brain to work! Once you’ve mastered these songs, you should look for more songs by some of the many other “Italian teachers” out there. But remember, not all teachers use chalkboards to teach—some use microphones!
And One More Thing…
If you like learning Italian with songs, 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!
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