Conversation blends together speaking and listening skills.
Tuning up your listening in Italian is as vital as training your pronunciation and speaking.
If you are serious about improving your Italian listening skills, my number one piece of advice is to prioritize it for some time. If you want to make dramatic progress in a specific language area, the way to go is to focus on that one area for a couple of months. You avoid, like this, spreading yourself too thin on several different tasks.
Read this before choose you favorite listening resources.
Be consistent. Don’t make a salad of all the possible resources. It would be counterproductive. Choose one or two listening sources that peak your interest. Work with them until you are comfortable listening to and understanding that type of source.
The language acquisition theory of comprehensible input
My best tip, and the one that I share with all of my students in my Italian private classes, refers to the language acquisition theory of comprehensible input by Professor Krashen (University of California).
According to his theory, to acquire a language naturally and not consciously, the input must be comprehensible. Comprehensible input means 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 to learn the language naturally.
Instead, it would help your natural language acquisition by listening to an audio source that is a little bit above your level. This way, you will understand the “missing parts” of 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 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.
Free Listening Resources for Italian Beginners
Italian Pod 101 (for all levels)
Using Italian podcasts is the best way to get acquainted with the real language and catapult you towards Italian fluency.
There are a myriad of learning Italian podcasts out there, and picking the right one for you is not always easy. That’s why I sorting here the resources I use and I like by levels.
If you don’t yet have a level allowing you to catch an entire conversation, I recommend using ItalianPod101, where you can find plenty of beginner dialogues with transcriptions and translations, grammar explanations, and the option to slow down the pace of the audio.
Examples of Italian beginner conversations on ItalianPod101
Improve your listening skills dramatically by practicing active listening. Listening to Italian songs can be an enjoyable pastime, but you don’t internalize the new combinations of words until you listen actively.
How can you do it? Go to www.lingoclip.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, but I think that the most fun and productive approach is to use one of their features that allows you to fill in the gaps with the missing words in the lyrics. This is a killer method, that, other than helping you to reinforce your Italian grammar and learn new expressions, will also help you to improve your ability to recognize sounds.
When you go to Italy, you will be immersed in and surrounded by Italian dialogues. It is not rare to hear my students frustrated by not understanding what is going on in a conversation at the reception of their hotel or at the cash register at the grocery store, even though they can understand the Italian news pretty well. If this happened to you too, it does not mean that your Italian is poor. It means that you haven’t been exposed to day-to-day Italian conversations, and so, you are not familiar with the every day Italian ways of interacting.
The onlineitalianclub.com audio section has a long list of mini-dialogues covering the most frequent Italian ordinary situations, and they come with transcriptions.
Free Listening Resources for Italian Intermediate Learners
At this level, I recommend using:
Easy Italian is a free Youtube channel where you can find natural and spontaneous Italian conversations and small-talk. This is good for those who want to practice and learn “street Italian,” as all the videos are in the shape of mini-interviews conducted by a native Italian to native Italians.
Easy Italian News
Easy Italian News is the best free audio news source accessible for intermediate or upper-intermediate Italian learners, in my view. Why? Because it’s easy to use and doesn’t overwhelm you.
Every audio episode is about five minutes long and covers a variety of Italian and international news events in a clear and succinct manner. The audio files are also accompanied by free transcriptions.
Coffe Break Italian
Coffee Break Italian is another famous podcast in English and Italian that covers everything from Italian dialogues to more advanced Italian cultural-related topics. The input is presented in Italian and, in a second step, translated and analyzed in English.
Listening Resources for Italian Advanced Learners
News in Slow Italian
This is a good product for advanced students. The news are not slow indeed and discuss about the subject in depths with upper-intermediate vocabulary. Use it just if you have already a solid knowledge of Italian.
News in slow Italian is a famous podcast that reports in several languages, including Italian, the top world news, in slow Italian. There is both a free membership that includes just the audio version and a paid membership that provides transcriptions and extra learning tools.
Authentic Italian Podcasts
If your level of Italian is somewhere between upper-intermediate and advanced, you should consider using only authentic listening material. The podcast industry is booming in Italy too, and I am sure you can find an Italian podcast that piques your interest.
Ideally, at this point, you should use Italian as a tool to access and learn about your hobbies and interests. For example, I have recently started to listen to a podcast about spirituality in German. In situations like this, it does not seem to be that I am learning German; rather, it seems to me that I am using German. That’s by far the best way to improve your Italian too, at home.
Italian TV channels or Netflix Shows
To watch Italian TV no matter where you are in the world, I recommend using a VPN service (like CyberGhost VPN) that can help you stream Italian TV and Netflix shows at a cheap monthly rate.
Italian YouTubers and Instagramers
If you can follow an Italian conversation with ease, you should consider using the Italian youtbers and instragrmaers to get more familiar with a more informal way of speaking. For instance, if you like healthy cooking, look for an Italian guru in this field and follow her live streaming, stories, etc. in Italian. YouTubers tend to use informal, day-to-day language that will help you get used to street Italian without living in Italy.