Did you know that you can learn Italian without spending a single dime—and with your eyes closed?
The web is awash with free educational, and authentic Italian material.
The real question is, though, how exactly do you find these resources to learn Italian for free with audio?
And, what’s so great about exclusively auditory resources, anyway?
- The Importance of Listening for Learning Any Language
- The Main Perk of Distraction-free Audio Learning
- 20 Free Audio Resources for Learning Italian Online
- The Italian Experiment
- Foreign Service Institute
- Fluent Simple
- Coffee Break Italian
- One World Italiano
- Online Italian Club
- My Daily Phrase Italian
- Let’s Speak Italian
- BBC Languages
- Open Culture
- Learn in Your Car: Italian
- Il Punto Podcast
- Radio Popolare
- Radio Italia
- Eye On Italy
The Importance of Listening for Learning Any Language
Speech, in its simplest explanation, is just sound. Speech is all about specific vibrations that carry meaning. Language, say, Italian, is a specific way of working your vocal equipment to produce the types of sounds that are meaningful to native or fluent speakers.
In Italian, for example, the R’s are rolled, while in English, they aren’t. But the same mouth that speaks English can learn to position the tongue and jaw in different ways to pronounce different languages.
But the thing is, if you don’t practice listening to the language you’re trying to learn, you’ll have a difficult time learning to speak it, or at least properly. That’s why individuals who are deaf often have a bit of difficulty when speaking, as it’s very hard for them to imitate something they’ve never heard before.
As a language learner, audio content is important because it’ll become the well from which you’ll be drawing the sounds you’re going to make.
And in case you’re wondering, yes, it’s normal for absolute beginners to think that native speakers talk too fast. Don’t worry, though; just keep listening, and the language will eventually “slow down” in your mind.
The Main Perk of Distraction-free Audio Learning
Video sites like YouTube have tons of videos that language learners can use for listening and learning practice. Videos work well for language learners because they place the target language in context. Images are a nice complement to what’s being said, as well.
But sometimes instead of focusing on the speech, you get distracted by the images in front of you. This happens more often with beginners who are just starting to work on pronunciation and training their ears to the natural rise and fall of Italian intonation.
The main perk of using resources that are just focused on auditory learning (i.e., listening skills), is that you have the opportunity to learn free of any other sensory distractions, especially if you plug in your headphones and close your eyes while you listen.
That said, here are 20 free resources to get you started!
20 Free Audio Resources for Learning Italian Online
The Italian Experiment
The Italian Experiment started as The French Experiment, which created audio children’s stories in French. That little experiment soon blossomed and gave birth to Italian, German and Spanish siblings.
Today, this New Zealand-based endeavor, led by a girl name Aletta, offers excellent Italian lessons with a strong audio component. For example, you’ll find audio lessons to learn Italian possessives, time, days of the week, how to ask for directions and even -are verbs.
Each lesson contains a brief explanation of the topic and pertinent examples. The sentence and phrase examples are spoken by a native speaker so you can actually hear Italian being spoken in its most natural form.
In addition, the site is known for its roster of children’s audio stories told in the target language. They’re paired with the English translations that come one paragraph at a time so you can carefully follow along.
Listening to these stories will immerse you in the language and get your ears attuned to the melodic flow of Italian.
Have you ever wondered what that Italian word—the one that you’ve been staring at on your computer screen for the last 20 minutes—actually sounds like?
Forvo can give you a quick answer. It curates, in audio form, the world’s words so language learners can listen to them and practice. For example, if you want to know how cinque (five) is pronounced, you can simply perform a search for it, and within seconds, a native speaker enunciates it for you.
It’s like having a native speaking friend on hand to ask every time you want something pronounced.
With Forvo, you can listen to Italian one word at a time.
Forvo was recognized as one of the top 50 websites in 2013 by TIME.
Foreign Service Institute
The United States government depends on its Foreign Service Institute to train its countless diplomats and agents who work and foster relationships around the world. The agency has over 800 courses, and many of them audio-based.
There are four Italian FSI programs that can take you on an audio tour of the language. They cover topics from the Italian alphabet to higher-level grammar concepts. You’ll get your fill of Italian dialogue in the different situations that are presented.
You can download the files and listen whenever your heart desires.
The philosophy of Fluent Simple is to do away with standard grammar book-style learning and instead focus on the spoken and conversational aspects of the language. The site offers 10 free audio-based lessons to help you confidently speak the language.
They also have a solid number of audio short stories that make the language really come alive, dropping cultural insights along the way. Speaking of stories, the site also offers news in slow Italian.
Fluent Simple provides Italian language learners with clearly spoken Italian, as well as a text option.
The audio lessons are perfect for beginners and intermediate language learners who want to immerse themselves in the language from the comfort of their home or car.
Coffee Break Italian
Radio Lingua Network, a Scottish-born company, serves up its multi-awarded Coffee Break series to language learners worldwide.
Each Coffee Break Italian podcast is about 15 to 20 minutes long. Your teacher, Mark, native speaker Francesca and a student named Kate will take you on a journey of linguistic and cultural discovery.
The best thing about these podcasts is that you not only get to listen to bite-sized Italian lessons but also authentic discussions between your teacher, the native speaker and the student. Each one brings a unique perspective to the table, which only makes these podcasts more interesting and authentic.
The two seasons of Coffee Break Italian have 40 lessons each, with topics ranging from basic introductions to tenses to adjectives and beyond. With a little dedication, these podcasts will help you grow from an absolute beginner to an intermediate learner in no time at all.
One World Italiano
One World Italiano understands that coming to Italy to study isn’t possible for everyone. So they created an online program, in addition to their actual school in Cagliari, Sardinia. The online program is totally free and open to everyone.
There’s a listening section on their site that offers you a collection of short audio clips. A clip might be about curing the flu or the Greenhouse Effect. Make sure you listen carefully, though, because after the audio clip, there are questions about the topic that you’ll need to answer.
The audio clips are as authentic as they go, mirroring how a native speaker would normally speak. This is a great practice resource for intermediate students who want to test their listening comprehension. If you find the audio too fast for your fare, you can choose to show the side-by-side text so that you can also read along.
If you’re in a hurry and simply want to hear how a word or phrase is pronounced by a native speaker, ielanguages.com is a good place to go. The website’s audio component is fuss-free and is essentially a minute-long audio clip of a native speaker.
The audio files are thematically grouped. So, for example, you’ll have lessons on prepositions, or if you’re interested in food vocabulary, there’s an audio for that too.
The lessons come with minimal textual explanations, so don’t expect too much hand-holding here. You’re really just getting an audio clip of thematically grouped words.
This podcast has been around since 2014 and has 55 episodes. The podcast is intended to be used as a reinforcement tool. The episodes last around 10 to 12 minutes and cover an eclectic assortment of topics from cultural dilemmas like “To Kiss or Not to Kiss” to grammar-heavy discussions like one that tackles how to structure Italian sentences.
The discussions are lively and enlightening, and the audio is crisp and clear. Since the podcast covers a wide range of topics, there’s something for everyone, whether you’re an absolute beginner or well on your way to Italian fluency.
And if you like what you hear, the ItalianPod101 program has plenty more podcasts, videos and lessons, paired with vocabulary and grammar assistance and other learning tools for all levels.
Online Italian Club
Are you a member of the club?
This “club” has thousands of pages of learning content. As a subscriber, you’ll receive two to three exercises in your inbox every week.
The site also offers loads of listening exercises that you can get for free. The clips are followed by questions that effectively assess whether or not you understood what you just heard. There are transcripts to help you get a stable footing, as well, if needed.
Best of all, every audio clip is categorized according to the standards set forth by the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR), so you can pick and listen to content that’s just right for your level.
My Daily Phrase Italian
My Daily Phrase Italian is another offering from Radio Lingua Network and has over 120 episodes, so far. Each short and sweet lesson is anchored by Mark, the lovable Scot, and lasts for only about five minutes.
If you have a few months to prepare for a trip to Italy, you can religiously devote a few minutes of your day to listen to these lessons. This audio resource will properly orient you on the basics of travel, like how to order food or how to get around in the city or town.
This is perfect for beginners. The target words and phrases are repeated and spoken slowly, so even if you know next to nothing, you’ll be able to gain the confidence and competence to communicate with native speakers by sticking with this audio resource.
Let’s Speak Italian
Learning Italian doesn’t have to be a tough slog. It just takes a little bit of consistency in your studies and practice time to make serious headway. In only five minutes a day with Let’s Speak Italian, you can actually pick up a lot of useful Italian words, phrases and grammar.
With the Let’s Speak Italian podcast, you’ll learn the basics of the language, which includes lessons on common phrases and pronunciation. You’ll also enjoy some cultural tidbits that’ll prove useful when you get the chance to interact with native speakers or visit the country.
BBC Languages has varied content on major languages like French, German, Spanish and Italian.
Admittedly, it’s not as in-depth as many students might want it to be, but similar to ielanguages.com, it offers topically relevant audio content that’s a quick fix for when you simply want to hear words or phrase related to a certain theme.
Say you want to hear essential words and expressions related to food, shopping or celebrations; you can quickly access this specific audio material.
BBC Languages is best suited for those who have learned Italian before and simply want a quick review of what they’ve learned in the past.
Open Culture is a curator of all things free. If you’re studying one of the 48 languages that it supports, you’re in luck.
Open Culture’s Italian page features a collection of websites with offerings that include free audio resources that you can either stream online or download in a heartbeat. Because all of these resources have already been collected for you, learning Italian is not only free, but it just got even more convenient.
Learn in Your Car: Italian
This is an Italian language learning series that’s designed to turn the temperature-controlled confines of your car into a language classroom. With this one though, you don’t have any classmates to copy from, but also no classmates to be embarrassed in front of. It’s just you and Henry, the language teacher.
There are three levels to this audio program in Italian, with level one starting you on the most basic vocabulary. Levels two and three build on the level one foundation and proceed to teach you sentence structure and important grammar concepts that’ll gradually increase your grasp of the language.
Learn in Your Car: Italian gives you clear audio and useful conversational and situational examples.
You don’t have to wait until you get in your own car though, in fact, you don’t even have to own a car to utilize this Italian listening course. All you have to do is download it to your smartphone and press play wherever you want to listen to it.
Il Punto Podcast
The Il Punto podcast is full of short audio clips of news commentaries and interviews circa 2014. So if you fancy yourself an advanced learner and just want to have something to keep your Italian comprehension in tip-top shape, you can enjoy this free Italian audio resource.
Listen to the latest news with one of Europe’s largest independent radio stations: Radio Popolare.
Established in Milan in 1976, the radio station is known for supporting progressive and liberal policies. You can get your Italian fix by listening to the news, podcasts and music. This is as authentic as you can get without actually being in Italy.
Native speakers listen to this broadcast to get the latest happenings in the country, as well as enjoy an eclectic array of experimental music.
While Radio Popolare is considered more niched and counterculture, Radio Italia is the beating heart of the Italian mainstream. Here, you’ll get to listen to pop music, as well as to interviews with Italian music icons and film stars.
Radio Italia can help you get properly oriented on what’s cool and what’s trending in the country. If you want authentic listening practice that can also give you fodder for conversations with native speakers, Radio Italia is a good place to go.
Eye On Italy
This podcast is like a gift for those interested in learning the language, as well as for getting a sense of Italian culture, food, arts and history. If you need more reasons to love Italy and its people, you’re going to find a thousand of them in this podcast.
The hosts are Italophiles themselves: Jessica is a travel writer from Portland, Michelle is an Italian blogger and Sara is an American writer living in Rome. They talk about and introduce you to interesting artisans and experts in a wide range of fields.
The wonderful thing about this podcast is that it supplements the episodes with awesome pictures and articles that help you understand what that day’s episode is all about.
The podcast is perfect for advanced Italian learners who are done with the basics of grammar and vocabulary and are intent on honing their Italian studies towards more authentic content.
It’s been a while since this podcast has produced new material, but the content that’s already on the site is a haven for lovers of all things Italian.
Your source of entertainment can also be your source of education. Spotify, while requiring a monthly subscription, houses a roster of Italian podcasts, many of them free, that can further immerse you in the language. In addition to language lessons, there are programs covering issues from politics to sports, and you can quickly jump from one program to another.
YouTube is ground zero for Italian videos—whether they’re the instructional type that tackles grammar basics or vloggers who simply wanted to show you what it’s like living in the Eternal City. As a bonus, with non-copyrighted material or if you have the permission of the YouTuber, you can quickly convert YouTube videos into audio files so that you can savor just the audio component of YouTube’s vast video collection.
Now that you have your list of 20 audio-centric, free online resources, get ready to take your Italian to the next level.
Consistency is the name of the game.
The more often you listen, the sooner you’ll be correctly producing the sounds of Italy.