Scared to face the music?
Don’t worry! These songs will have you hitting the right notes in no time.
When you’re learning a new language it’s always important to stop and listen. Maybe you’ve already downloaded some of the best Italian audio-books or tuned in to a couple of Italian podcasts. But sometimes listening can feel a little passive and you find yourself yearning to be able to chime in, or perhaps…sing along?
Singing your way to language proficiency doesn’t just work wonders for your vocabulary, it’s also a fun and useful way to practice grammar. If you’ve already explored all the best shortcuts for learning Italian grammar, creating a grammar oriented playlist is the next step to catapult you towards linguistic prowess.
Why Listening to Music Is an Effortless Way to Learn Grammar
You’ll automatically pick up grammatical rules
When you’re learning a new language, it’s easy to stick with what you know and shy away from trying out new terms and tenses. Repeated listening to a foreign language helps you feel comfortable and confident with new ways to communicate.
Before you know it, those complex sentences you’ve been listening to on repeat will be coming out of your own mouth without thinking.
You’ll learn to fill in the blanks
Language learners are masters of recognizing patterns. When you follow the lyrics to a song, you’ll make sense of what you’re hearing as you go even if there are some unfamiliar words along the way. The same goes for grammatical rules—when you hear difficult grammar being used within the framework of a song, it’s a lot easier to figure out what it means and how to use it.
You’ll internalize the structure
Melody, rhythm and rhyme are invaluable tools for remembering sentence structures and language composition. If you practice through music, the next time you’re racking your brain trying to figure out how to say something in the third person present continuous you’ll find yourself going “How did that song go…?”
Hit New Highs with Italian Music: 6 Popular Italian Songs That Will Fine Tune Your Grammar Skills
Understanding how to conjugate verbs is one of the biggest challenges for Italian learners. The Italian language has so many different tenses that it can be hard to keep track of them all and know how to use them. But studying verbs doesn’t have to be a snooze—just line up some great songs to listen to and you’ll be shimmying away as you learn.
To get you started I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite songs for learning Italian grammar, organized by the tense they help teach. Follow the links in each section to learn more about each tense, and look for the words in bold lettering to see how the tense is used in each individual song.
The Simple Present
“E penso a te” by Lucio Battisti
Reluctant rock star Lucio Battisti provides romantics and language learners alike a wistful love ballad ripe with phrases in the simple present (il presente indicativo).
If you want to talk about something that takes place in the present day, the simple present is your go-to form.
In “E penso a te” (“And I think of you”) Battisti uses the present tense to great poetic effect. In the song’s lyrics he juxtaposes mundane, day to day tasks with a sense of deep romantic longing with phrases like:
Io lavoro e penso a te (I work and I think of you)
Torno a casa e penso a te (I come home and I think of you)
Le telefono e intanto penso a te (I call her and in the meantime, I think of you)
The repeated use of the presente indicativo and the song’s simple vocabulary and structure make it the ideal song for beginners looking to understand the simple present tense and strengthen their everyday vocabulary.
The Present Continuous
“Amore disperato” by Nada
What are Italians if not victims of great love? Nada’s “Amore disperato” (“Desperate love”) embraces the excitement and agony of a budding romance through a joyful disco beat. And what better tense to explore such intensity than the present continuous?
The present continuous (il presente gerundio) is used to express something that is happening and underway as we speak. As in, right now.
In this song, Nada uses the present continuous to convey the thoughts and feelings of the man she’s singing about. She repeats these phrases over and over again in the chorus to mimic the manic feeling of young love, and you’re guaranteed to find yourself rushing to the phone as she chants:
Sta chiamando (Calling)
Sta chiamando (Calling)
Sta chiamando (Calling)
Sta chiamando lui! (He’s calling!)
“Amore disperato” showcases the present continuous in all its glory—and repeats it until you come to embrace it as well.
The Present Perfect
“Ho scritto t’amo sulla sabbia” by Franco IV e Franco I
Undoubtedly the Neapolitan beat duo’s greatest success, “Ho scritto t’amo sulla sabbia” (“I wrote I love you in the sand”) is yet another ode to the unruly laws of love. The song’s straightforward approach to the present perfect (il passato prossimo) secures its spot on this list.
The present perfect refers to something that has happened in the past and is always combined with one of two additional verbs, either essere (to be) or avere (to have). Figuring out when to use each one can be confusing, but fortunately for Italian learners worldwide, Franco IV e Franco I break down the differences for us in the very first verse:
Ho scritto t’amo sulla sabbia (I wrote I love you in the sand)
E il vento a poco a poco se l’è portato via con sé (And the wind little by little carried it away)
L’ho scritto poi nel mio cuor (I then wrote it in my heart)
Ed è restato lì per tanto tempo (And it stayed there for a long time)
In this snippet, the present perfect changes between the three possible combinations that can be made with essere (to have) or avere (to be). If you’re struggling to understand il passato prossimo, “Ho scritto t’amo sulla sabbia” decidedly deserves a place on your playlist.
“L’imperfetto” by Francesco De Gregori
While there are many great songs that help you learn grammar, few songs are written as an exercise in conjugation. “L’Imperfetto” (“The Imperfect”) is an exception.
This charming tune, written and recorded by folk-artist Francesco De Gregori, is a must-listen for anyone trying to learn the imperfect tense. L’imperfetto is usually used when speaking about something that happened over a period of time in the past. De Gregori delivers on the title’s promise, using the tense in each and every sentence of the song;
Non parlava (It didn’t speak)
Però sapeva tutto quello che gli bastava (But it knew all that it needed [to know])
Quello che credeva (What it believed)
Quello che non vedeva (What it didn’t see)
Although the lyrics at times seem a little impenetrable, there’s no better song to listen to if you want to master the imperfect.
“…E la luna bussò” by Loredana Berté
Rebellious pop-diva Loredana Berté is no stranger to adversity, a characteristic that has often found its way into her music. “…E la luna bussò” (“…And the moon knocked”) is a song that leaves room for interpretation, but one thing that can’t be disputed is its constant use of the absolute past (il passato remoto).
The absolute past can be one of the trickiest tenses to pin down. And the fact that it’s hardly ever used in conversation certainly doesn’t make it any easier for language learners to grasp. The tense has an almost mythical feel to it and is used to describe past events that seem distant from current events.
In her song about the moons misfortune, Berté draws from the tense’s mythical nature to tell a moral story that transcends time with its universal themes of poverty and social marginalization.
E la luna bussò alle porte del buio (And the moon knocked at the gates of darkness)
“Fammi entrare” (“Let me in!”)
Lui rispose di no! (He answered no!)
With lyrics like this, the song is sure to leave you not only intrigued, but grammatically enriched as well.
“Per dimenticare” by Zero Assoluto
Zero Assoluto brings us back to the 21st century with an addictive pop song about an old flame who is getting hitched. “Per dimenticare” (“To forget”) is the perfect song to round up our list of grammatically-bountiful songs.
“Per dimenticare” doesn’t just celebrate the very last tense on our list, the future tense (futuro semplice)—it also employs almost all of the other tenses we’ve been through so far (and introduces a couple of new ones as well!). With the delightful bitterness that only a love scorned Italian could summon, Zero Assoluto’s lyrics question an old girlfriend’s choice to get married. As we can see from the following excerpt, the future tense has a clear presence throughout the song:
E grazie per l’invito (And thank you for the invitation)
Ma proprio non ce la farò (But I really can’t make it)
Ho proprio tanti, tanti, troppi impegni (I have really many, many, too many engagements)
E credo forse partirò (And I think I might leave [to go somewhere])
Give it a listen to lock down the future tense and get a quick repetition of some of the other grammar forms in the process.
So there you have it! All that’s left to do now is to go out and explore everything that Italian music has to offer and include it in your studies.
Make sure to check out Fluentu’s other articles on Italian music for further inspiration. Buon ascolto e buon studio! (Enjoy your listening and studies!)
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