Did you know? A recent review of 20 studies showed that using podcasts to learn languages positively impacts not only listening and speaking skills, but also students’ grasp of grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary.
If that’s the case, then let’s “Play” all the Italian podcasts we can find and quickly become fluent in Italian, as is our right!
Whoa, hold your horses there. First of all, not all podcasts are created equal, so I’ve scoured the internet for the very best options just for you.
Second of all, podcasts, if they’re to be deadly effective, should be consumed in a very specific way. Otherwise, they’ll fall flat.
So first, let’s learn some of the best podcast studying techniques. Following that, you’ll find seven stellar podcasts to apply those techniques to.
Sound fair? Let’s go!
4 Super Smart Techniques to Make Italian Podcasts Work for You
1. Listen and Sit Still
Here’s a myth-busting statement: There’s no such thing as “multitasking.”
Yes, you read that right. Study after study has confirmed that, contrary to previous belief, our brains are actually not very efficient at doing two things at the same time. What our brains are good at, however, is very quickly switching from one task to another. What we usually think of as “multitasking” is actually really rapid “task switching.”
Research has also pointed to the mental costs of task-switching—that as a result, we’re not really as good at each individual task as we could be if we focused on one at a time. (Although it makes us feel good because we think that we’re being very productive and achieving loads!)
So, in light of this, what should you do when listening to Italian podcast? As much as possible, try to be in an environment where distractions are at a minimum.
To really focus on those pronunciation or conjugation rules (or whatever you’re listening to), make sure that you’re not doing anything else while you listen. Don’t try to do be “productive” by doing multiple things at the same time.
And yeah, a cup of Italian roast is just heavenly. So get yourself one.
2. Listen and Write
Ever wonder why that classmate of yours who took ridiculous amounts of notes got higher grades than you?
As it turns out, writing enhances memory and retention. So, when listening to Italian podcasts, you should also be taking notes. Plenty of them.
You can’t possibly remember all the good things in a single episode. So write them down. Write down examples, write down key words or phrases, write down your comments and thoughts on the subject. And by the way, it’s better if you handwrite them, rather than pecking them onto a laptop.
The act of writing itself won’t only help you remember the lessons, but you can also use those notes for review later since you’ll have a handy summary.
But wait! Doesn’t that contradict the previous tip? Don’t worry! Once you get to technique number four, it’ll all become clear.
3. Listen and Repeat
Passive listening won’t do it. Podcast listeners need to speak up, repeat after the host and practice actually speaking in Italian. When the host says, “Okay, repeat after me…,” do it. Just do it!
That proverbial “Pause” that teachers do, giving you time to follow suit with your enunciation, is really learning primetime. Ironically, those silent pauses have the loudest potential for teaching you Italian. Unfortunately, not everyone takes those opportunities.
So exercise those mouth muscles and get speaking. You’ll never learn how to speak Italian if you don’t speak it at all. A podcast, as it turns out, isn’t a silent affair. It’s as raucous as an Italian market where sellers shout about their wares and gesticulate like they’re swearing off customers.
4. Listen Again and Again
You might be thinking, “Stevie, the first thing you told me was not to ‘multitask.’ I was prepared to do that, but then you told me to… multitask. So, what gives?”
Yup, I did tell you those things. But they’re in no way contradicting. That’s because you shouldn’t be thinking of those podcast episodes as one-time events.
Nope, think of them like those “Friends” or “Seinfeld” episodes that you repeat over and over again. You’ve seen them so many times that you can mouth every line and “pre-laugh” the laugh track.
Repetition is the mother of all learning and you can’t go through an episode or a series once and expect to have Italian down pat. You’re going to have to go around the block a few times, mate.
So maybe for the first few times, you just listen to the whole podcast without taking down notes or repeating after the host. Just listen to it and give it your full, undivided attention. After you’ve done that, you can slowly build on things and actively learn the information by taking down copious notes and animatedly repeating after your teacher.
All that said, we now turn to the seven best podcasts you’ll ever need to master the Italian language. Hold on to your seats because it’s going to be a wild ride!
7 Italian Podcasts for Mastering the Language
The seven Italian podcasts below will get you started down the road of listening comprehension, better pronunciation and lots of cultural knowledge. If you get a hankering for something more visual but still audio-centric and with plenty of learning potential, you’ll also want to add FluentU to your study list.
But it’s also about so much more than videos: You get access to interactive flashcards and vocab lists, annotated subtitles and personalized quizzes that evolve as you learn.
If you’re looking for a method to familiarize yourself with Italian as well as deepen your knowledge of the culture, FluentU is the best way to go.
We cover some authentic content below, in addition to learner-specific Italian podcasts. Plug in those headphones and enjoy!
Coffee Break Italian
This podcast, brought to you by the Radio Lingua Network, is presented by the trio of Mark, Francesca and Katie.
Mark, the lead teacher, is an English speaker who’s also fluent in Italian. As someone who was once in your shoes, he can really offer you an honest peek into the process of learning the language and answer even those unarticulated questions that students find surprisingly insightful.
Francesca is the native speaker of the bunch. She’s also a language educator herself and brings an element of culture and an insider’s perspective into the discussions. Katie is the “fresh off the boat” learner who’s really able to probe the two with queries that make each episode robust with relevant content.
Each episode runs for about 20 minutes and feels and sounds like a couple of friends sitting in a coffee shop, figuring out what series to watch on Netflix. The three have amazing chemistry. The conversations are so smooth and they can easily teach you Italian greetings, numbers, basic travel phrases and more. If you insist on talking about the weather, well, there’s that too.
Coffee Break Italian was awarded by the British Podcast Awards as one of the “smartest podcasts” of 2017. So suffice it to say, you’re in good hands with this one.
The heart and soul of each ItalianPod101 episode is a short pre-recorded dialogue. The words and lines from the dialogue then become the springboard for the whole episode. Practical examples of everyday situations are used, so you might hear an exchange between two people talking about their jobs or their families.
Teachers or hosts will guide you throughout the lesson, repeatedly enunciating the lines so you can follow along, pointing out key words or phrases in the dialogue, explaining some grammar points that’ll be helpful in the future and sharing their personal and cultural take.
What’s cool about this Italian podcast is that it turns all the audio into written text. You can actually download not only a copy of the dialogue but even a transcript for the whole episode. So as you’re listening to the two hosts banter, you can follow along by reading the transcript.
And just to make everything extra special, the folks at ItalianPod101 provide you with printable grammar lessons that succinctly explain the grammar nuances specifically alluded to in the dialogues.
This podcast really puts the words “super” and “star” in “superstar.”
Learn Italian in Your Car
This one’s quite the opposite of the previous podcast, explicitly stating that it’ll teach you the language without the use of textbooks or any printed material. It’s also different in that it takes away all the fluff and goes directly to the point—giving you only the English words and their Italian translation, right off the bat.
This no-nonsense approach is a very simple way to quickly build your Italian vocabulary. (Hopefully, you’ll be listening to this one long before your trip to Italy.)
Don’t be misled by the title though: You can absolutely listen to it not only in your car, but everywhere. And anytime. You can learn before going to bed or while waiting for the elevator doors to open. Although, it’s better to find a private spot where you can talk to yourself, a lot. (This is more of a speak-along-and-speak-aloud kind of thing.)
The lessons are arranged thematically, so you’ll have episodes that deal with words and phrases related to themes like directions, numbers, hotels, restaurants or questions.
Eye on Italy
This podcast is, quite simply, a culture-fest. If you fancy yourself an Italophile and find cultural discussions in other podcasts too limited, you’ll have your fill with this deep dive into Italian culture.
The podcast is the collaboration between Jessica Spiegel (italyexplained.com), Michelle Fabio (bleedingespresso.com), and Sara Rosso (sararosso.com), and explores the various facets of Italian culture, from the Roman ruins to the Italian Mafia, to the trade in olive oil.
The podcast stopped putting out new episodes in 2015, but there are 62 eye-opening episodes in this portfolio that are just waiting to change your thinking about the language, the culture and what it means to be Italian in this day and age.
Italiane con la valigia
Just like the previous podcast, the remaining three resources on this list feature authentic Italian content—that is, they don’t explicitly teach you the language. Instead, they’re native-speaker directed material.
In short, these are the podcasts Italians themselves listen to. They’re perfect for intermediate and advanced language students. The hope here is that by bringing you these immersive experiences, you’ll gradually absorb the language and acclimate your ears to the authentic ebb and flow of Italian. By continually listening to them, you’ll not only pick up new words and phrases, but also ultimately learn to think in Italian.
Italiane con la valigia (Italians with a Suitcase) is a travel podcast that tells the stories of Italian expats around the world. There’s no shortage of Italians trying to make it in other countries, and their stories are worth a listen.
There’s a wide variety of flavor in these podcasts, depending on who’s being interviewed. You’ve got Italian students, artists, businessmen and couples making an impact in other parts of the world.
The girls running the show, Debora, Laura and Maddalena, are three friends who want to bring inspiration and motivation to others. They conduct these interviews online, bantering with a native speaker from the other side of the world. But they can make these conversations so honest and intimate that they feel like they’re happening face-to-face, on your couch.
If you love travel content and want to indulge in your love for Italian at the same time, then this podcast will hit the spot.
Digitalia is for anything digital.
If Elon Musk is your cup of tea and you’re into the latest gadgets and tech news, then you’ll find kindred spirits in this podcast.
But don’t feel left out if you’re not a serious techie either: Hosts Franco Solerio, Max De Santo, Michele Di Maio and Giulio Cupini are usually able to bring the discussions back to earth and make the news relatable and relevant.
This one’s an entertaining and informative podcast. That’s why native speakers can’t get enough of their weekly episodes. Language learners at the intermediate and advanced levels will get their comprehension both honed and tested here.
And if you’re up for learning tech-related Italian words, then don your top-of-the-line headphones for this one.
RAI (Radio Audizioni Italiane) is a state-owned media company which is the largest broadcaster in the country. RAIPlay Radio houses a collection of podcasts tackling a sundry of topics. It’s a good bet that you’ll find something to your liking in their array of shows.
For example, the podcast “Tutto il calcio minuto per minuto” proves just how football-crazy the country really is, celebrating every goal, every block and each equalizer, discussing the latest Serie A happenings and commenting on the latest developments in the sport.
“Radio anch’io,” on the other hand, serves up political, economic and social chatter. It’s anchored by the insightful duo of Giorgio Zanchini and Nicole Ramadori, who talk up current social issues, and Italian language learners won’t be disappointed. All this language learning happens while keeping abreast of the most pressing issues of the day.
So those are your magic seven! We opened the list with three super educational podcasts perfect for Italian beginners, and we rounded up with some really great authentic content that’ll take your Italian to the next level.
Immerse yourself in these podcasts. Listen to themover and over. Talk as you listen. Take down notes.
Fluency in Italian is within reach! All you have to do is take a deep breath and press “Play.”
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