The Authentic Experience: 7 Virtual Video Libraries for Learning Real Italian
Videos are very effective language learning tools.
In this post, I’ll give you seven awesome places where you can learn Italian through videos.
But before that, I’d like to prepare you by looking into three very important mindsets you’ll need to have in order to maximize your time with the material.
- The 3 Must-have Mindsets for Learning Italian through Videos
- 7 Unbeatable Online Places to Learn Italian With Videos
The 3 Must-have Mindsets for Learning Italian through Videos
The three mindsets that I’ll discuss here are powerful and work for language learning in general, regardless of the material you’re dealing with, whether podcasts or audiobooks. We’ll appropriate them for videos in this post.
All three point to the fact that, when you’re employing videos to learn Italian or any language for that matter, active watching is the name of the game.
Delight in Repetition
The cornerstone of all learning is repetition.
It’s true when learning a new language, and it’s true whether your material of choice is a blog, a podcast or an app. If you’re going to be watching your way to Italian fluency, be ready to repeatedly watch the videos suggested in this post until the cows come home.
That’s really the secret. If you already have a brain that delights in repetition, and you practice it to the hilt, then there will be no stopping you from learning this beautiful language.
You need to overlearn the lessons in these videos. That means watching even when you already understand the topic. Yes, that means watching in order to cement the lessons in your head so that, even when weeks have gone by, you won’t forget stuff.
But make no mistake, it’s not unconscious, mindless repetition we’re talking about here. It’s mindful repetition.
Golfers hit all kinds of impossible shots, and Olympic runners bolt like the wind because they’ve been repeating the same movements over and over and over, consciously. They’ve consciously gone over the mechanics, studying each swing of the club, each stride during practice. Now they don’t have to consciously think about it to the same extent anymore. They just rely on muscle memory and let loose.
So, don’t ever think that a mere repetition of material will work magic. When learning a new language, you need to engage in mindful repetition. That means you’re actively watching the video, noticing the twangs in the pronunciation, discerning the differences in verb forms, catching the subtle nuances of the languages and the gestures that go with it.
It means every time you catch an authentic Italian video, you have a specific goal in mind, a linguistic target. So, for example, you could be listening and watching for vocabulary one time, then adjective phrases the next and then maybe you’d be observing sentence construction later on. In every iteration, you’re learning and focusing on a particular element of the language.
This is the kind of repetition that works like magic.
Michael Jordan once said, “I’ve failed over and over and over again in my life and that is why I succeed.”
Mistakes, errors and failures—they’re all part of the territory. They’re a subset of what successfully learning a new language is all about. I’m saying all this so that you don’t get easily discouraged by the mistakes that are sure to come, and instead adopt a healthier attitude about them.
Now, you may think that because you’re watching a video you can’t make mistakes. How hard can it be?! It’s as easy as opening your eyes and ears and taking in what’s offered on-screen. But remember that you’re watching actively and you’re viewing the video with a goal in mind. And when you look more closely, you’ll notice that there will be elements in the process that point to you failing at some task, something that could easily discourage you from forging ahead.
For example, you may not even understand the lesson in the first place. A teacher might have a thick accent, or she might be speaking too fast. You could be watching for minutes and not understand a thing! You may have a hard time memorizing the vocabulary words featured in the lesson. You could get the grammar rules jumbled or be confused with the different verb forms. You might sit down to actively watch a beautiful Italian film and not understand what’s going on.
You could be getting discouraged by the minute and it seems that the harder you try, the less you understand. Self-doubt could easily creep in, regardless of the language learning material you’re using. Yes, even in the simple task of watching videos.
Instead of being weighed down by your perceived inability, the attitude of giving yourself some slack would be more productive in the long run. Celebrate mistakes, failures and errors. This is an attitude that will come in handy in those moments when you think you’re not getting anywhere.
Don’t lose your motivation. So what if you don’t understand the video lesson even after watching it a few times? Who’s counting, anyway? Sure, you never seem to recall the videos just one day after you watch them, but don’t let that bother you to the point of surrender.
Expect mistakes, then move on. Celebrate your linguistic bunglings from mispronunciations to grammar violations. Laugh at your humanity, and learn from those mistakes. They’re a natural part of the process.
Prioritize Active Engagement
Actively participate in the little tasks that the teacher asks you to do in the video. For example, if the teacher wishes you to enunciate some Italian word aloud, then do so. Don’t just sit back and act like you’re too cool to be mumbling Italian with your headphones on. You shouldn’t be passively munching on popcorn, but rather you should be intent on articulating the words and getting a feel for how Italian rolls off the tongue.
This is one of those times when you don’t have to be silent when watching something. You’re very much permitted to talk and verbalize the lesson. Listen closely to how your teacher says it and mimic her speech. (Mimic her gestures if you have to!)
Again, this points to active watching, that is, watching with a purpose, watching with an end in mind.
If the teacher video gives an assignment or issues a “challenge” to learners, like looking for real-world opportunities to apply what you’ve learned, then make it a point to do so. If she asks you to write 10 sentences showing how a particular rule of grammar works, then do it.
A video can only do so much. It’s incumbent upon the learner to take the video and run with it.
A misconception about this kind of learning material is that the lesson ends as soon as the moving pictures stop. Not so.
Think of it this way: Videos are the starting point. They give you leads, language leads. It’s up to you to follow up and follow where they ultimately lead you.
If you’re going to squeeze every learning opportunity from any Italian video, it means working hard at it even when no video clip is playing in front of you. It means furiously writing and rewriting notes, doing Google research and confirming grammar rules with other learners.
It means converting your notes to flashcards or Post-its, practicing aloud, alone in your room, in the middle of the night, and yes, even in the bathroom.
Let me ask you, how do you know that a movie has hit the right notes with you?
Simple. You can’t stop thinking about it, about the characters, how it ended. You can’t help but talk to your friends about it. You blog about it, tweet its dialogues and find out as much as you can about the actors portraying the characters.
It’s the same with language learning videos. Try integrating the lessons in your routines. Try to live them. For example, you can use Italian vocabulary and intersperse it with English every chance you get. Exclaim and curse in Italian while watching shows or driving. Mumble Italian to yourself while doing any everyday activity.
Keep these three mindsets close to your heart as you watch the videos on offer in the next section. They’ll take you to the promised land.
7 Unbeatable Online Places to Learn Italian With Videos
“La Mappa Misteriosa” (BBC)
This is a multimedia language series that could very well set the gold standard for immersive and interactive learning. “La Mappa Misteriosa” is an Italian learner’s dream—a mystery adventure that provides the needed context for a language lesson.
Imagine this, you find a mysterious map that leads you to an engaging jaunt through Italy in search of a precious recipe. In this 12-episode series, you meet an interesting band of characters, uncover a secret and discover delicious food.
A narrator serves as your guide in your progress through the different tasks and situations in the video. Because the platform is interactive and the story told from a first-person point of view, you’ll have to choose from among a given set of options how the story will proceed. It’s so immersive you’ll feel like you are indeed inside the screen and part of all the action.
You’ll feel supported by their many vocabulary and grammar videos—animated lessons that focus on particular Italian words or points of grammar used in the main video. There are language exercises, usually in multiple choice format, that challenge your memory as well as your grasp of the lesson.
FluentU houses what may well be the largest collection of language learning videos online—and the Italian program is here!
FluentU takes authentic videos—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and turns them into personalized language learning lessons.
FluentU features videos that have interactive scripts dedicated to help language learners, and even has an iPhone app and Android app for mobile learning.
Let’s say you have a music video of an Italian song. FluentU not only gives you the lyrics to the song, it does so much more. Before, when you saw a word or a phrase in the lyrics that you didn’t understand, you hit “pause” and interrupted your study flow to do some online research about it. With FluentU, you only have to click on the mystery word in the interactive captions and out comes everything you need to understand the word—including a translation, contextual definitions, pronunciation guides and even sentence examples from other videos in the program.
FluentU truly proves that, with a wise use of our available technology, online immersion isn’t only possible, it’s within easy reach.
One World Italiano
This is one site that’s obviously proud of its heritage and wants to teach the world its way of speaking. (And somehow, hanging around One World Italiano’s site can give you the munchies for a hot brick oven pizza!)
Here you’ll meet teacher Veronica whose exuberant personality reminds you why Italians are loved around the world. She’ll be your guide on a basic video course that will teach you things from introducing yourself to describing appearances and using some basic Italian verbs.
The site also has movie trailers that sharpen your Italian. But the thing that separates One World Italiano from other video resources is the abundance of grammar exercises that use music videos as a basis for learning and practice. So for example, on the topic of Italian adjectives, they picked a song with lyrics containing a rich array of adjectives. They then blanked out those adjectives on the lyrics sheet and ask you to fill in the blanks by closely listening to the song.
There’s a “check” feature to see how well you’ve done, as well as a “hint” function to help you out. It’s a great way to hone your Italian listening skills!
Nope, this isn’t the classic movie by the revered Fellini.
Instead, it’s a YouTube channel that talks about the Italian language and culture (not necessarily high culture).
It covers a wide array of topics like the Italian alphabet, useful common expressions and days of the week. And because it discusses culture, you’ll get a dose of videos like Italian gestures, as well as “5 Ways to Piss Off Italians.” And you’ll also get some recommendations on the best places to visit in Italy.
The videos are bite-sized lessons that are spoken in Italian and very little English. But don’t fret. You’ll be aided by English graphics that pops up every now and then. You’ll find the lesson very easy to contextualize and understand. (The fact that Italian is a heavily gesturing language doesn’t hurt!)
The hosts are friendly, playful and don’t take themselves too seriously. So you shouldn’t too!
ItalianPod101 is presented by Innovative Language—a leader in creating dynamic and authentic content. This site also offers lessons in other languages like German, French, Spanish and Russian.
ItalianPod101’s videos are complete with all the aids that a language learner might want. You have accurate translations and subtitles, which is really a hard thing to find even in this day and age. You also have colorful cartoons and graphics to illustrate the lesson and help you follow what the hosts are talking about.
It’s one of the richest video resources online. You have Desiree, Consuelo and Ilaria as teachers and they cover different topics or programs. Desiree presents the Top 25 and Top 10 lists, Ilaria gives the “Italian Words of the Week” and Consuelo presents “Italian In 3 Minutes.”
If you love these videos and find yourself picking up Italian quickly—and something tells me you might—you should probably consider investing in their complete ItalianPod101 course. This has audio and video lessons combined with interactive learning features. You can also take their free trial for a spin!
Italian Language & Culture (edX)
EdX is an online platform that provides university-level courses covering a wide range of fields, topics and specializations. It has tie-ups with distinguished institutions like Harvard, MIT and UC Berkeley.
This Italian Language & Culture course is for beginners and taught by Daniela Bartalesi-Graf of Wellesley College’s Department of Italian Studies. Here you’ll learn basic, everyday Italian communication skills and basic grammatical structures. In addition, you’ll immerse yourself in Italian culture through its focus on food, film and travel.
You’ll learn a lot of diverse Italian words and phrases from the different types of videos in this course. You have situational videos where you follow eight Italian students as they go about their everyday chores and activities. You also have video interviews where native speakers discuss their rich Italian culture and traditions. And of course, you have videos of classroom lessons where you focus on different parts of speech and how they function in the language.
The self-paced course is free. Just create an edX account to log in and... begin!
Oh, and when you’re done, you can proceed to their intermediate and advanced programs which offer more of the same for students at higher skill levels.)
Speak Italian With Your Mouth Full (MIT Open Courseware)
MIT Open Courseware is an initiative by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to put actual class lectures and lessons online, for free.
This particular series by Dr. Paola Rebusco uses the activity of cooking in order to teach Italian. It’s actually an experimental and experiential class where novel methods of teaching and learning are explored.
Each class session will teach students how to cook a healthy Mediterranean dish. For example, lesson number one is pasta, lesson number two is risotto and lesson number three is pizza. Along the way, some Italian language lessons are thrown into the mix, but mainly you’ll learn by immersion.
So, if you’ve fallen in love with Italian because you’ve fallen in love with Italian food, then this 13-part course might just be perfect for you!
You now have seven resources for some of the best online videos for learning the Italian language. Combine them with the three explosive learning mindsets that we’ve talked before, and you have a combo that makes learning Italian practically unstoppable.
So, what are you going to do about it?