Conversation blends together speaking and listening skills.
Tuning up your Italian listening skills is as crucial as training your pronunciation and speaking.
If you are keen on improving your Italian listening skills, my number one piece of advice is PRIORITIZING it for some time.
If you want to make significant and fast progress in a specific language area (e.g., conversation, writing, or listening), the best way to go is focusing on that one area for a couple of months. You avoid, like this, to spread yourself too thin on different tasks.
So, to take your Italian listening skills to the next level, it would help more devoting three months to listen to Italian listening content, rather than doing a little bit of listening now and then.
Efficient tools to improve your Italian listening skills
1. Lyrics Training
You can Improve your Italian listening skills dramatically by active listening. Listening to Italian songs can be an enjoyable pastime, but you don’t internalize the new combinations of words until you listen to it actively.
How can you do it?
Go to www.lyricstraining.com
How does it work?
- You pick an Italian song
- You set your level of Italian (beginner, intermediate or advanced)
- As you watch the music video that you have chosen, the lyrics are presented below
You can listen to the song and read the lyrics. Nice…and boring. The most fun and productive approach is to fill the gaps with the missing words in the lyrics. That’s a killer method, that other than helping you reinforce your Italian grammar and learn new expressions, it will help you better your ability to recognize sounds.
2. Italian Podcasts
Using Italian Podcasts is the best way to get acquainted with the real language and catapult you towards Italian fluency.
How to use a podcast as a learning tool for beginners
If you don’t have yet a level allowing you to seize an entire conversation, I recommend you to use yabla.com or ItalianPod101, where you can find plenty of beginner dialogues with transcription and translation, grammar explanations and the option to slow down the pace of the audio.
Another excellent free audio source is alma.tv, where you can find plenty of instructive videos about the Italian language and culture with subtitles.
How to use a podcast as a learning tool for INTERMEDIATE STUDENTS
At this level, I recommend using any free source you can find on YouTube (e.g., Easy Italian) or the Podcast News In Slow Italian or Coffee Break Italian (they have both a paying and free membership), the European News Channel in Italian Euronews.com
How to use a Podcast a learning tool for ADVANCED STUDENTS
- Browse iTunes and pick a Podcast on a topic of your interest in Italian.
- Listen to an episode at least three times. You will understand more and more as you listen to the episodes repeatedly.
- Start a Google Doc where you write down new Italian words or combinations of words.
- Talk about the episode with your Italian tutor or coach by using the new words and expressions.
3. TED talks in Italian
Use Ted talks in Italian (you can find my talks of this genre on YouTube), to get inspired and train your Italian at the same time. The videos often include subtitles.
Intermediate and advanced students may also use the Italian TV at raiplay.com or watch Italian movies (check a comprehensive list of the best Italian movies ever here).
4. Italian YouTubers
Blend your interests with Italian language learning: the rule of thumb of smart language learning is surrounding yourself with exciting and meaningful Italian learning content.
Let’s say you want to learn about ceramic or macrobiotic cooking? Why not learn in Italian on an Italian Youtube Channel?
All you need to do is looking for an Italian channel that discusses your topic of interest. The best about this strategy is that the language is not the aim anymore, but the tool you access and enjoy your very interests.
Audiolingua is a fantastic learning tool to help you merely better your Italian language skills. On Audiolingua, you will find short Italian recordings (1 to 4 minutes) registered by native Italian speakers. This listening content is excellent because it comes in bite-sizes, and the topics are very spontaneous and easy to assimilate.
The recordings are on different levels, from beginners to upper intermediates, you need to select your level before choosing your audios.
I love working on this website with my students because it gives a digestible opportunity to work on Italian listening without ending up overwhelmed like it usually happens after long podcasts or videos.
Be consistent. Don’t make a salad of all the possible resources. It will be counterproductive. Choose one or two listening sources that pick your interest. Work with them until you are comfortable listening and understanding that type of source.
The questions of the questions: shall I watch a movie with or without? If I listen passively to a video or podcast and I don’t get most of it, will it work?
I am afraid, it won’t.
The language acquisition theory of the comprehensible input
As a language coach, and even before an avid language learner myself, I support the language acquisition theories of Professor Krashen (University of California).
According to his theory, to acquire a language naturally and not consciously, the input must be comprehensible.
Comprehensible input is that the listener can understand it despite not understanding all the words and structures in it. So, it would help if you listened to something a little above your level. If you don’t have an adequate level, watching any Italian audio source without understanding most of it (say 70%) won’t help you learn the language naturally.
Instead, it would help your natural language acquisition, listening to an audio source that is a little bit above your level.
This way, you will understand the “missing parts” from the contest.
Your native language
Boosting your listening skills will also depend on your native language. If your native language is Spanish, it means that you might be able to pick many sentences out of Italian TV without even without knowing a lot of the language because the words are transparent (they have the same Latin root). If your native language is German, it might take a while before you can watch a movie, as most words are entirely different.