Have you ever listened to a language and had it sound like gibberish, just a mess of consonants, vowels and intonation?
Worse, has that language ever been Italian?
Worst of all, has that language been Italian… even though you’d been studying it for a long time?
This phenomenon is actually quite common for Italian learners.
Although learning Italian with audio is an effective way to study the language, listening skills are often overlooked in language classes and programs.
As a result, even after studying academic and conversational Italian and reading numerous real-world Italian practice scenarios, it can be a dizzying and disheartening experience to discover that you can’t understand your favorite Italian YouTuber, an Italian short film or even the news in Italian.
So, what should you do to improve your Italian listening (and speaking) capacities to match the amount of blood, sweat and tears you’ve invested in the language?
You should use Italian listening comprehension tests, of course.
The Best Way to Learn Italian with Audio: Listening Comprehension Activities
“Aspetta (wait), Michael!” you might say, “you’re suggesting taking Italian tests?”
The short answer is yes, but don’t go yet—hear me out.
Listening comprehension tests are controlled and quick ways to expose learners to the Italian language as it’s naturally spoken. Many real-world conversations with Italian native speakers actually feel like tests at first. Why not practice on your own terms and take the shock out of those real-world interactions?
Further, listening comprehension programs have questions and activities to test your understanding. This is a fantastic way to gauge your listening abilities and improve accordingly.
Better yet, you can find audio comprehension practice that’s targeted to your level (A1-C2), unlike native speech, which is meant for other natives to understand.
And because these activities often focus on a single topic, they also allow learners to become intimate with a concept and its associated vocabulary. This will allow you to be comfortable with said topic when it comes up in a real Italian conversation.
Convinced yet? Then get ready for less gibberish and more Italian audio learning! Check out these top seven websites for listening comprehension activities.
Learn Italian with Audio Through 7 Listening Comprehension Resources
Easy Learn Italian is a comprehensive Italian learning resource that offers free online Italian lessons. These include lessons on basic grammar and vocabulary as well as resources to help learners improve in the four major parts of language learning: reading, writing, speaking and, of course, listening.
Simply scroll down to the “Listening/Ascolto” title for dozens of listening comprehension tests. These lessons are a mixture of video and audio files related to Italy as well as Italian culture and literature. They’re short, but they deliver quick doses of naturally-spoken Italian.
The questions included with each audio practice are mostly “true or false”-style and the answers are readily available so you can easily check your understanding. Some of the listening activities even offer transcripts in English and Italian to aid with comprehension.
This resource is recommended for learners at A2 level or higher.
FluentU is a program that uses real-world videos such as movie trailers, music videos, TV show clips and inspirational talks to teach you Italian in a natural, immersive way.
This program takes the intimidation factor out of learning Italian with authentic audio by including interactive subtitles with each video. Don’t understand a word? Simply hover over or tap on it in the subtitles to see an immediate translation of that word in English, a memorable image and even other videos where the word appears for more context.
FluentU includes a vocabulary comprehension test after every video, then adjusts its questions based on the words you already know well. You can also create your own vocab list for a more personalized experience.
Videos are conveniently organized by difficulty, so there’s something for every learning level here. Advanced learners can disable the English subtitles or even turn off subtitles altogether to give their listening skills an extra boost.
You can use FluentU in your browser or download the app for iOS or Android and take your learning on the go.
The Council of Europe is an organization that fights for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in European countries. As such, they offer many free resources to help with the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), the body that sets acquisition standards for the learning of European languages.
On their website, they have a variety of material to help Italian language learners, especially if you want to take an official proficiency test to certify your level. These materials include sample and past CEFR exams. Among these, there are seven listening comprehension exams available from the National Foreign Language Exam System as well as Italian universities.
These exams range from the A1 (beginner) to the C1 (advanced) level. Simply choose a level and begin listening.
Each activity includes audio samples that vary in length from a couple of minutes to 20 minutes, as well as short-answer questions to test your understanding.
Impariamo Italiano (Let’s Learn Italian) offers free Italian lessons in grammar and vocabulary as well as comprehension activities to strengthen all aspects of your language skills. As such, they have a selection of audio comprehension exercises to help you hone your listening skills.
Impariamo Italiano offers dozens of selections related to Italy, news, and biografie (biographies) of notable Italian historical figures.
Each audio file includes a short video in Italian and some true or false questions. Note that the answers to these questions are only available for some activities and can be found in the comment sections.
Loescher Editore offers a resource called Italiano per Stranieri (Italian for Foreigners) that can be used to learn Italian vocabulary and grammar as well as practice reading, writing and listening. The website also offers a dozen listening comprehension exercises from real Italian media and popular culture.
Each lesson includes a listening portion in the form of an audio file or video as well as a PDF with comprehension questions. Simply download the audio and the PDF file and get listening. At the end of each file, you’ll find the correct answers to make sure you understood well.
The listening comprehension tests are also sorted by levels A1 (beginner) to C1 (advanced). Click the livello (level) dropdown menu and choose the one that’s right for you.
Mondadori Education is a website that’s completely in Italian. However, it’s remarkably easy to use even if your Italian is at a lower level. There are plenty of useful sections, like the attività di grammatica (grammar activities) and attività di lessico (lesson activities), but for the purpose of this post, we’re going to focus on comprensione e produzione orale (oral comprehension and production).
In this section, there are two listening comprehension activities for each of the A1 (beginner) to C2 (advanced) levels. Simply toggle the dropdown menu to find the right exercises for your level.
Each lesson includes an audio file, a transcript and comprehension questions and solutions. The audio follows the format of a dialogue between two speakers and the audio files are around five minutes in length, making them perfect for bite-sized learning.
Be sure to click the scarica (download) buttons to get access to the material.
In addition to simple lessons in vocabulary and grammar, the Grammatica Italiana (Italian Grammar) website also offers nine listening comprehension tests for Italian learners.
Their audio-based activities include three levels: facile (easy) is for beginners at the A1/A2 level, intermedio (intermediate) is for learners at the B1/B2 levels and avanzato (advanced) is for learners at the C1+ levels.
Each lesson includes a short video in Italian as well as some true or false questions. Further, each lesson has the option to turn on Italian subtitles for better understanding.
Don’t be intimidated by learning Italian with audio. With these Italian listening comprehension tests, you’ll master that Italian listening like a pro and never have to say “può ripetere, per favore?” (“can you repeat, please?”) again!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn Italian with real-world videos.