Learning to speak a new language can sometimes feel like trying to have a conversation underwater.
You can catch a word here and there. You can see facial expressions and hand gestures.
But it’s difficult to understand a full sentence, and meanwhile your mouth just won’t seem to make the right sounds.
Every Italian learner has to go through this stage.
Fortunately, with the right practice, you won’t have to be underwater for long.
So, ready to come up for air?
Ascolta bene (listen well)!
Why Is Italian Audio Learning Important?
Listen, I get it.
When you first start studying a language, grammar and writing often gets the most attention. We buy a textbook, we look up written resources online, we write down notes in our notebooks or on our laptops. In fact, as mostly solitary, self-paced activities, reading and writing can feel like the least intense, least intimidating way to start to learn a language.
However, in practice,listening is one of the most useful language skills.
Plop yourself onto the streets of Rome or Naples, and you’ll see what I mean. Listening allows us to navigate the world in Italian and, ultimately, hold conversations with Italian native speakers.
That’s why it’s so important not to neglect audio resources in Italian. Listening to spoken Italian and native Italian accents is crucial to helping us hone our own pronunciation and feel more comfortable with the rhythms and cadences of the language.
It allows us to take down directions. It allows us to understand and respond to questions. It allows us to make Italian friends!
What to Look for in Italian Learning Audio Resources
If you aren’t experienced in finding Italian audio resources for learning, it can be a bit tricky. Here are some key criteria to look for:
- Good audio quality. Clear audio allows you to perfect your ear and imitate the sound of the language without distractions or confusion.
- Matches your learning level.While there’s no harm in listening to Italian radio and not understanding every single word, to get real improvement in listening and speaking, I recommend identifying your proficiency level and then picking listening resources accordingly.
That way, you’re not bored with simple material or overwhelmed by unfamiliar sounds.
- Corresponding comprehension exercises.While this may not be available for all audio resources, comprehension exercises allow us to reflect on what we’ve heard and make meaningful progress in our listening and speaking skills. They force us to actively engage with our audio resource, rather than listen passively.
Learn Italian with Audio Thanks to 9 Rocking Resources
This website is perfect for beginner Italian learners. It has great text-based grammar and vocabulary resources to help learners get a grasp on the basics of the structure of the language. But of course, that’s not the main reason I’ve chosen this website for this list.
In addition to the written materials available, “Don’t Speak Italian” has both listening practice and Italian dialogue audio resources for beginners to get accustomed to hearing native Italian speakers. The audio quality is great and the speaking is slow, which is perfect for students who are starting out.
While there are no comprehension exercises associated with these audio resources, each dialogue or listening clip has a corresponding transcript so you can read along and make sure you’re catching everything. Some also have glossaries with key vocabulary.
To find the audio clips, simply scroll down to the “Listening practice” section in the menu on the right of the page and choose the topic that interests you. The selections in the “Dialogues” portion also come with audio and transcripts, so be sure to check them out, as well!
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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.
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“Primo Ascolto” is a textbook and corresponding CD (welcome back, 1999!). It might be an old-school learning method, but that doesn’t mean it’s not useful.
This resource is especially perfect for beginner Italian learners, and it starts at the very beginning of Italian: there are chapters on basic phrases and verbs and common topics like shopping, restaurants and hotels.
The course can be ordered on Amazon, and it includes multiple listening comprehension exercises on CD such as repetition and Q&A activities, as well as written exercises in the book.
This podcast is a great listening resource and teaching material for intermediate learners. In essence, it offers 10- to 20-minute podcast episodes about a range of topics, entirely in Italian.
While that may sound intimidating, the audio is clear, and the host speaks slowly so that listeners can understand what he’s saying. It’s the perfect introduction to native spoken Italian for learners with a solid foundation in Italian grammar and vocabulary.
Further, while there are no transcripts or exercises accompanying the podcast, each episode has a description in Italian for you to read if you get lost.
Looking for more Italian podcasts? You’re in luck!
Podclub is a Swiss website that has podcasts available in Italian, French, German, English and Spanish. For Italian, there are actually five distinct podcasts to choose from aimed at the beginner to intermediate levels.
Topics vary, and you can find episodes on everything from Italian literature, to everyday life to opinion podcasts on slightly controversial topics.
Perhaps the best feature of these podcasts, aside from the fact that they’re spoken slowly and clearly, is that each one has a complete transcript to follow along with. The transcripts also have handy dictionaries at the bottom for more advanced Italian words.
I suggest giving each episode two listens: one with the transcript and one without. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your listening comprehension improves with this simple exercise!
Here’s an online course for beginning learners that focuses on pronunciation from the first week. You’ll be provided with phonetics and audio that you can play just by clicking on words and phrases.
It also features dialogues and exercises that give you immediate feedback, so you can always stay on track with your learning.
This is a relatively short course that’s great for getting used to the sounds of Italian and learning some practical phrases before traveling to an Italian-speaking area. It’s perfect for beginners who want to get right down to the nitty-gritty of the language with accessible audio and interactive materials.
Are you ready to encounter Italian audio in the wild?
Get your headphones! TuneIn allows you to tune into real radio stations from all over the world. There are dozens of radio stations completely in Italian that you can tune into at any time. And, as if it couldn’t get any better, signing up and tuning in is free!
Despite that, I should say that because these radio stations aren’t necessarily geared toward Italian learners (rather, Italian natives), this resource is best for advanced learners. There are no transcripts or exercises, and you can’t pause and rewind, so if you’re ready for it this is an awesome workout for your ear and preparation for conversing with Italians in the real world.
If you do want some additional support while you’re listening, it’s often easy to find a given radio station’s corresponding website. You can use those websites to read articles about the same topics you listened to on TuneIn.
Not at the advanced level quite yet? Not a problem! I still suggest listening to the radio stations, even in the background. That way, you’re tuning your unconscious mind and your ear to the sounds of the Italian language.
Are you looking for more exercise-heavy Italian resources to really train your Italian listening skills?
Online Italian Club, a site that comes from the same team behind Don’t Speak Italian, has hundreds of listening exercises to help you do just that. The exercises are on a variety of topics such as Italian culture, literature and even everyday basics such as grocery shopping or idiomatic phrases.
Most of the audio clips also have transcripts as well as corresponding exercises to test your understanding. There are audio clips for beginners to advanced students, easily organized by level.
The last resource on our list is perhaps one of the most extensive.
ItalianPod101 is a website with audio-based programs for learning Italian. There are courses available for all levels: beginners, intermediate and advanced learners.
The audio is generally short (around three to five minutes), clear and on a variety of topics that range from grammar and basic vocabulary at the beginner stage all the way up to complex listening comprehension clips.
Further, most listening clips have corresponding exercises to test your understanding and the clips have transcripts available to follow along.
So, now you’re really ready to ascoltare bene and learn Italian with audio! Check out these resources, and start learning today!
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