Do you hear voices in your head?
No? Nada? Zilch?
Oooh. That’s not normal, at least in this case. So let’s change that, shall we?
We’ll point you to some excellent examples of those babies so you can definitely start hearing some Italian voices in your head.
3 Deadly Italian Listening Practice Mistakes That’ll Prevent You from Learning
A common mistake among learners is thinking that listening is a passive affair, with the “listener” just sitting there and doing nothing.
I think this mindset dates back to our grade school days when the teacher would say, “Okay class, now listen to me.” This meant you weren’t supposed to do anything. You just sat there, totally quiet and absolutely transfixed on her. You didn’t even dare to take notes, for fear she might think you were doodling. You didn’t move. You didn’t even breathe.
But in reality, if you want to learn Italian, listening is actually a very busy affair. Mentally, you’re really honing in on the words’ pronunciation, proactively focusing on the flow of words and phrases. You’re also writing things down, jotting thoughts you can review later.
Unlike in class, you’re not supposed to be silent. You should be speaking during your Italian listening practice. This allows you to hear yourself and check what adjustments you need to make in order to get the tone, melody and inflections right.
So instead of listening passively, listen with focus and intent.
Listening to the Wrong Content
Diligence and hard work can’t really compensate for using the wrong study material.
The practice material is “wrong” when it doesn’t match the student’s language level. No matter how excellent the content is, if it’s not appropriately matched to your skill level, it’ll all be for naught.
There must be a “meeting of the minds,” of sorts, between the student and his material. The material must meet the specific needs of the individual. Otherwise, audio that’s too difficult will just overwhelm and go over the head of the listener while audio that’s too easy won’t help you move forward.
So choose your listening material carefully. If you’re a beginner, don’t try to “leapfrog” the whole process and listen to things that are challenging even for native speakers. Spend time with authentic content specially made for kids, for example. That way, you’ll have Italian come at you in manageable bites.
Really, you don’t want to be wasting your time listening to Italian that sounds all Greek.
Consistency is how we learn and master stuff. That’s why we go to school every day. That’s why elite athletes practice day in and day out. That’s why the best artists are those who consistently give their time to practice their craft.
Learning Italian is no different. You have to engage in listening practice in a very consistent manner. If you plan to work on the material every other Wednesday, then it’s not going to cut it. You really need to commit real time to your Italian listening practice.
Listening actively must be turned into a daily routine or habit. In other words, it must be an integral part of your learning process. Listening’s not “a phase.” It’s not a chapter in a book, it’s not a lesson in the course. It’s not a one-shot deal, like your accountant who you see only once a year. Listening is a continuous iterative activity.
So if you finish learning some material, for example, you immediately go look for some more.
And on that note, I’m now going to give you seven types of content for Italian listening practice. These will furnish you hours upon hours of winning practice material.
Italian Listening Practice: 7 Types of Audio Content to Hone Your Hearing
Native speaker vlogs provide authentic Italian listening practice to aspiring learners. They’re a notch more interesting than just listening because, in addition to audio, vlogs have the benefit of graphics and visuals layered in.
They also provide cultural insights, show off linguistic nuances and boast fun host personalities, making them more compelling than your typical Italian listening practice resource. They’re also more meaningful since the video aspect provides more context that students can pick up on.
There’s a full range of vlogs that tackle topics as different as prosciutto and politics. There are vlogs that cover travel, tech, business, entertainment, sports and lifestyle. Take your pick.
We recommend these two YouTube channels to get you started.
What does an Italian YouTube channel that highlights juvenile activities (like playdates and toy unboxing) have to do with language learning? Well, it features novice language that’s manageable for students in the nascent stages of learning Italian.
Besides, you’ll be smitten with the utter cuteness of the kids, Alyssa and Daniel!
Every time Silvia talks to the kids, she uses simple and plain speech. She emphasizes the tonality and pitch in her words. And their content is so light and low pressure, with the utterances moderately paced, that the videos would be perfect listening practice for beginners and intermediate Italian language learners.
This is the story of an American girl, Sofie, who upped and moved to Rome in order to trace her roots. Her YouTube channel features the wonderful things she’s been doing since then.
She mostly vlogs in English, but there’s one particular playlist, a collection of 20+ videos where she tries to speak Italian. (They come with English subs, so beginners and intermediate students can confidently follow along.)
She struggles to enunciate her thoughts every now and then, and she also speaks plainly and relatively slowly. I included her here to serve as inspiration for all Italian learners out there. Watch one of her English videos and then immediately watch one in Italian. Note the language change.
That’s a girl who did her homework. And so, if Sophie can do it, then you can too!
If you’re looking for more bite-sized practice sessions, you’ll want to check out the optimized, curated audio and video resources on FluentU.
Say goodbye to passive listening! The program provides you with interactive subtitles (which basically turn every word into a hyperlink to deeper learning) as well as vocabulary quizzes, exercises and flashcard drills, so you can really engage in the “active listening” mentioned in the first section of this post.
The immersive, entertaining content makes grammar and vocabulary much more memorable. Give it a try in your browser or download the app for iOS or Android devices so you can get some Italian listening practice no matter where you are.
Podcasts, for the uninitiated, are basically “on-demand radio programs.” That’s great news because it means it’s virtually impossible to miss an episode. Gone are the days when you had to hurry home to sit in front of a blasting radio. (Sorry, gramps!)
Italian podcasts are a wellspring for listening practice. Although not always intended as a language learning tool, students can repurpose programs that were originally made for native speakers, and turn them into windows to the language—like putting a tin can on the wall and listening to the conversation on the other side.
As podcasts go, any topic can be covered. You have mainstays that cover politics, news, social issues and business. Here are two that you should check out.
Caterpillar is one of the most popular podcasts on Rai Play Radio, a widely known Italian radio broadcaster.
Headlined by the trio of Massimo Cirri, Laura Troja and Paolo Labati, the podcast is quite a basket of topics. They talk about literally everything, from the hodgepodge of current events, culture and history, to the current happenings in science, technology and business.
The podcast will serve advanced learners best since the hosts are witty and quick, insightfully nuanced, with a healthy sprinkling of clichés and slang. Listening to Caterpillar will give you a solid example of native speaker speaking speeds.
If food and wine are your cups of tea, then the duo of Federico Quaranta and Nicola Prudente can take you places your taste buds have never been to. “Fede & Tinto,” as they’re better known, anchor one of the most popular food podcasts in the country.
Imagine how good these two must be with language in order to describe food through a microphone. They cover the whole plethora of Italian dishes from the classics to fusion. Advanced language listeners won’t just learn about Italian food, they’ll also learn about the language.
And oh, how do you know that you’re an advanced language learner? When you salivate through your ears.
There’s just something about music that clicks in our heads. The beat, melody and harmony get to us. Listening to music helps us easily remember things. Lines of songs are oblivious to the ravages of time, staying in our heads long after they should.
Italian songs are lovely to listen to, but they’re also your best bet if you want high retention, high yield audio practice. Here are some sources to get you started.
Coccole Sonore houses a charming collection of children’s songs that could be the bread and butter of absolute language beginners. You’ll find songs for topics like numbers, parts of the body, members of the family and more.
They’re great for building vocabulary from scratch. Plus, these tunes are so catchy, you’ll find yourself humming them in public.
Speaking of music being oblivious to the passage of time, this option compiles 34 classic Italian songs that learners can enjoy.
Despite the songs being recorded many decades ago, they’re surprisingly crisp and clear. Intermediate and advanced language learners can don their earphones and sashay through their day while also engaged in Italian listening practice.
Speeches are another source for Italian listening practice. They have their own cadence and rhythm that are quite distinct from vlogs and podcasts.
Owing to the fact that they were probably penned on paper or in Word first, speeches are usually fairly formal. (And if you’re lucky, you could be in for some soaring rhetoric.) A speech can serve you a healthy supply of audio that contains words and phrases that usually don’t bubble up in everyday conversations. Nevertheless, these words and phrases are vital for language mastery.
So, if you’re an intermediate or an advanced language learner, get a hold of some speeches and listen as your cache of vocab goes “Ding! Ding! Ding!”
Get a sampling of political speech below.
Matteo Salvini is a far-right politician who serves as the Italian Deputy Prime Minister as well as the Minister of the Interior. Salvini is known for his nationalist leanings, championing populist and protectionist policies. He’s been nicknamed “Il Capitano” (The Captain) by supporters.
Hear him talk about immigration in this 20-minute speech.
Alessandro di Battista is a member of the Italian Chamber of Deputies. He’s a bright light from the Five Star Movement, an Italian political party that won the most votes in the 2013 general elections. Five Star is known for its innovative political agenda as well as its green initiatives.
His speech here, and that of Deputy PM Salvini, are perfect for advanced language learners who want to immerse themselves in the poignant cadence of Italian political speeches.
As an Italian language student, you probably have one or two Italian movies that you know by heart. I mean, you’ve watched them a few times and the repetition has made you quite familiar with the scenes.
Try doing this to such a movie: Approach it as an audio story. Maybe you’re in bed and about to sleep—don your earphones for a few minutes and play the movie without looking at your screen.
Something interesting happens when you subtract the visual component of a film. The audio takes center stage and becomes a lot more meaningful and crisp.
When you have just the audio to go by and you’re not too engrossed with what’s happening on the screen, your mind homes in on the sounds and you’re able to hear a lot more. Suddenly, the nuances and inflections of speech come alive.
And if you don’t have a favorite Italian movie yet, here are two great movies perfect for Italian listening practice.
“Benvenuto Presidente!” (Welcome Mr. President!)
What comical turn of events elevated a lowly librarian named “Giuseppe Garibaldi” to the highest position in the land, President of the Italian Republic? Can he captain an entire bureaucracy out of hot water? Find out in this movie. It’s a light romp out to put a smile on your face.
The film is recommended for intermediate language learners and can also be bought on Amazon if you have a Region Two player.
“La Coppia dei Campioni” (The Champions Couple)
This film follows the tried and true “odd couple” plotline: Two guys who are worlds apart are forced to share a car ride. Piero Fumagalli is a white-collar office chief, while Remo Ricci is a blue-collar warehouse worker. They’ve both just won tickets to see the Champions League finals in Prague.
The problem? There are hundreds of miles of open road, and there are two of them.
If you’re an intermediate language learner, this film will be right up your alley. Once again, you can purchase the DVD version on Amazon.
Last but not least, we just have to mention audiobooks.
Audiobooks are usually the province of advanced language learners. Although you can always get a hold of audiobooks targeted to kids, the examples we have here are several hours long and require a sharp ear to absorb and digest successfully.
They can take those Italian language muscles for a darn good stretch.
Dante gives you a beloved Italian classic for listening practice.
And speaking of Hell, this is almost 12 hours of eloquent Italian. It’s really no laughing matter, but have at it in manageable bites. Go for “practice” instead of “completion” and you’ll get divine rewards soon enough.
“Pinocchio” might remind you of those simpler childhood moments, but I’m not going to lie, this one’s no walk in the park. It’s over four hours long. Your nose might just grow longer in the interim.
But that said, if you’re an advanced level Italian student, thus audiobook will do you a whole lot of good.
“Il Barone Rampante” (The Baron in the Trees)
This classic 1957 novel by famed Italian writer Italo Calvino is about a boy who climbs to the top of a tree to live up there in his own little kingdom. The story asks what independence really means and how one can go about achieving it.
Although the themes explored are allegorical and are meant to make you think, the writing is fairly simple and straightforward, so learners should be able to keep up with the audio.
So with this robust list of listening material, you can be sure that you’ll have a steady stream of voices in your head for some Italian listening practice.
And who knows, one of these days, you might just talk back to them. Hopefully, in fluent Italian.
Keep on listening!
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