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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Il Caffè on RaiNews24

Looking for that morning "pick me up" with the jitters? Check out Il Caffè on RaiNews24. It's a morning Italian news program that interviews important Italians about important issues - from human rights, to politics, and other current events happening in Italy. The topics vary daily, and the show is produced weekdays and airs on RaiNews24. You can watch the episodes online live as they happen if you can be up at 8am Italian time as well as watch the episodes from the archive via Windows Media Player:

Monday, December 1, 2008

November Issue of Il Bollettino Online

The November issue of Il Bollettino is online!

You can view it here:

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Telegiornale -- TV News

The news in Italy can be easily watched online and is a great way to improve your Italian while at the same time keep abreast of current events in Italy and the world. Italy has several news broadcasts -- Tg1 broadcasts the news several times a day, with the first newscast starting at 800am (30 min. Monday through Friday) then again at 1:30pm (30 min.), 5pm (10 min) and then the last edition usually comes at 8:00pm (another 30 min).

There are several teaser editions of the news that follow in the morning and throughout the day that provide lead-ins for various stories and are usually only a few minutes in length. Sometimes these shorter editions are the best ways to practice your listening skills as there's not a lot to take in and are short enough to promote learning.

Tg1 is a good site because not only can you watch the various news broadcasts throughout the day, but there are also various "channels" on the web site where you can view special stories and more in-depth reporting on various other topics, such as culture, crime, international events, economy and more.

There are several other news broadcasts: Tg2, Tg3, Tg Parlamento (with all the news from the Senate and Chambers), Tg Regionale (where you can view local news broadcasts from all over Italy), and Tg Sport (with all the latest news updates in the sports world).

You're bound to find something interesting on any of these sites!


Sunday, November 2, 2008

Learning Italian with YouTube

If you're looking for Italian listening resources, check out YouTube. Many of the Italian television stations are starting to post their content on YouTube. Sign up as a subscriber to their updates and receive a weekly digest of the new clips that they have added.

You can also set YouTube to display in Italian -- another great way to practice your language skills by navigating the site in Italian and reading the comments left.

Below are some YouTube Channels with content updated on a regular basis:
Those are just a few channels. YouTube has thousands of videos of Italian shows that have been uploaded by more casual users, so if you're looking for something specific, give YouTube a search - you'll be surprised at what you can find.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Radio Arlecchino

If you're looking to brush up on your Italian or become more familiar with some of the subtleties of the language, I encourage you to check out Radio Arlecchino. This blog of podcasts contains lessons on specific grammar points in Italian (check out the lesson on the passato prossimo/imperfetto -- it is one of my favorites ones, and you'll learn a lot!).

Radio Arlecchino is a product of the University of Texas at Austin and was developed by their Italian faculty and language assistants. It's a pretty innovative program that hopefully more universities will adapt!

One of the great things about this site is that:
  1. You can listen to the mp3 files directly from the site or you can download them to your computer (and put them on your Ipod or other portable music device)
  2. There are pdf transcripts and grammar explanations that you can also download
Currently, there are 18 lessons and hopefully in the future there will be more lessons. Test drive the site and practice with some of their podcasts! If you know of any other schools or university that have created something like this, please leave a comment and let us know.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Beppe Grillo

Anyone interested in Italian culture and current affairs in Italy certainly should be familiar with the Italian comedia turned social critic, Beppe Grillo.

Grillo is probably one of the Italian government's most harshest critics, and he uses his blog and ability to draw large crowds as a way of educating people about the abuses of power going on in his country. While the message of his blog can sometimes be controversial, his main motive is informing the people what their government is doing, has done and what they should and shouldn't be doing. It's a classic case of textbook activism that many others would be well to emulate.

Grillo's blog is a mixture of blog posts, videos and interviews. Many of his posts are translated into English, but the site is a great way to practice your Italian while at the same time learning about Italy, the political problems as well as the players involved in doing something about it. As a learning tool, you can practicing your read as well as your listening and listening comprehension skills. Some of the interviews are subtitled in Italian so if you have trouble understanding a certain speaker.

Beppe Grillo and his activities are often not reported by the mainstream Italian media so his site and foreign new site are best places to go to learn about him and his message.

Other links:
Beppe Grillo @ YouTube

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Radio Deeyjay

With the summer holidays in Italy coming to a close, many of the major radio and TV personalities will be returning to work...

With that in mind, I introduce you to one of my favorite Italian radio station, Radio Deejay.

Located in Milan, this radio station broadcasts all over Italy and has some unique programs and personalities. If you're not in Italy and still want to listen, you can listen to the station live through your PC with streaming audio.

The author/dj/actor Fabio Volo has his own show, Il Volo del mattino, on Radio Deejay that can also be downloaded as a podcast. Deejay chiama Italia is also a fun program, and one of Italy's most listened to radio programs! A full list of the shows is available on their web site, and these shows can be downloaded as podcasts and relistened to at your leisure. Many of the shows often interview important personalities in the Italian cultural and entertainment scene, and you can learn a lot about what is happening in Italy through listening to Italian radio. Also, many of the announcers also have their own blogs which can make for some interesting reading and can also be useful sources of information.

The radio is a good way to practice your listening skills because it's fast and furious. Radio tends to have a strict time schedule so the language, while a bit faster, is a great way to train your ear. Don't be dissuaded by the fact that everyone is "talking fast". Over time, you'll adapt, and the point is not translate what is being said word for word but to understand the jist of what is being said.

If Radio Deejay isn't your cup of tea, check out some of the other radio stations listed in the sidebar to the right.

Saturday, August 16, 2008


Passaparola is an initiative of Beppe Grillo and Marco Travaglio. Each week starting at 2pm Italian time, Marco Travaglio talks about the political situation in Italy. Travaglio and Grillo are two of the harshest critics (and rightly so) of the Italian political class and the Italian government which borders at times on the ineffectual. Travaglio is one of Italy's most celebrated journalists. He made waves a few months ago on the program Che tempo che fa, and it seems that now he has his own program hosted online.

Right now, the transmission is on break for the summer holidays but plans to return in September.

The good thing about these podcasts are:
  1. You can watch the videos anytime you want as a podcast through Itunes or you RSS feed reader.
  2. All of the podcasts feature subtitles so if you don't understand something, you can read as you follow along with Signor Travaglio while he talks. You can also follow along with the transcript of the video if you have trouble seeing the subtitles.
I recommend this program/video because it gives you a look into the Italian political situation. Travaglio is known for his honest journalism and straight talk. And now you can practice your Italian while learning something important about Italian culture at the same time.


Saturday, August 9, 2008

Alberto Moravia's 'Gli Indifferenti'

A great way to practice your listening and reading skills is to read books in Italian while you follow along with the speaker. Last year, Bompiani released Alberto Moravia's Gli indifferenti with a reading by Toni Servillo of one of Moravia's greatest works. This book includes six CD's and a complete reading of the work -- now you can read and listen to this great work. Practice and follow along with the book or listen to the CD's on their own.

If you already have a copy of the work, you can listen to the reading from RAI's Terzo Anello.

Reading along or listening on your own is an excellent way to improve your ear.

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Questa casa non è un albergo

If you have children or enjoy listening and learning about family matters, dealing with your children's problems and general advice on getting along at home, then you will enjoy this podcast, Questa casa non è un albergo.

Hosted on Radio24 by Nicoletta Carbone and Alberto Pellai, this show can be heard live every Saturday at 2pm, or you can pick up the episode later as a podcast. Each week the presenters discuss various topics all of which revolve around family life, children's issues, and other matters relating to the home and family.

The program generally last just under an hour and features guests who range from authors on child psychology, psychologists, teachers and other competent professionals. The show generally has a light atmosphere and often times callers are encouraged to call in with concerns and questions which help provide further content for the show.

I enjoy this show immensely as it can be fun and humorous while at the same time addressing serious topics. Like most podcasts, it generally requires a pretty decent level of Italian. The show also has substantial archives of episodes from past years.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Exit with Ilaria D'Amico

Exit, a program of La7, is a great way to give your ears a workout.

Exit is a current affairs program hosted by Ilaria D'Amico. The show tackles current events and the guests typically are well-placed officials and persons in Italian society. The show brings together guests who take different stands on certain issues, and then questions are posed and discussion ensues.

I really enjoy this program because it touches upon some really hotbed issues facing Italy -- trash concerns of Naples, food safety, immigration, politics...among many others. Many of the past episodes can be viewed online, and Exit also has a blog where you can leave comments after watching an episode.

You also get a good mix of accents and ways of speaking, and it's a great way to learn new words. This is a great program for the Italian learner at any level and an even better way to stay connected to Italian current events and culture.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Improving Your Italian With Podcasts

Podcasts are a great way to improve your Italian because you can take them with you when you leave your house and listen to them. I drive a lot to and from work so I can plug my Ipod (or any other mp3 player) into the car and listen to them through my car's sound system. Or if you're like a lot of people, you take a lot of public transport. You can listen to them to help pass the time. Or you could also listen at your desk at work. There's lots of ways to listen to podcasts. Just remember that you don't need an Ipod or any other mp3 device to listen to them. You can even listen to them on your own computer. Some programs can even burn them to a CD so that you can listen to them in a regular CD player on your computer, car or CD player.

I like to classify podcasts into two types:
  1. educational/teaching podcasts

  2. other
Educational/teaching podcasts are podcasts in which you learn a particular something about Italian. It could be a lesson or a grammar point illustrated with the podcast. One of my favorite sites for learning Italian on the go is This site has tons of podcasts which feature a beginner's program, intermediate program as well as advanced lessons and audio phrasebooks. They also have a supplement to their podcasts where for a small fee you can have access to the audio transcripts, exercises and more. I find their site to be very comprehensive, and I listen to their podcasts all the time, especially when I'm at work.

The other is everything else and mostly includes previously aired Italian radio or television programs. This is a great way to keep in touch with Italian news and culture. You can see a list of various programs and offerings in the list of podcast links. If you're looking for a podcast that will keep you in the know, check out one of my favorite radio programs, Radio Anch'io, which is produced by RAI. Radio Anch'io is an audio program where issues in Italy are discussed and then people can call in and their reactions are then responded to by experts or people familiar with a particular area or problem.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Princeton Dante Project

There are a lot of resources on the web when it comes to the work of Dante.

One of my favorites is the Princeton Dante Project.

There's a tutorial if you want to learn how to best navigate the site. Click on 'Enter' to begin using the site.

One of my favorite things about this site is that you can listen to the entire Divina Commedia while reading along with the text. You can have the Italian and English versions side by side which make reading this wonderful work a true pleasure. If you've ever struggled to read the entire Divina Commedia, this site will certain make it more fun.

There's also an English language reading of the site, but it is not yet complete.

You can start the work from anywhere you wish as well as search the text -- quite a useful resource!

You can also read (no audio, yet) other works by Dante online too. There is also a plethora of links and other resources on the site that are worth checking out, such as lecture, bibliographies, images and other forms of multimedia.

Monday, June 2, 2008

BBC Italian Steps

If you're new to the language, and you want to learn the basics at a speed that is comfortable for you, check out BBC Italian Steps, a multimedia and interactive online based language program. Hosted on the BBC's web site, Italian Steps follows Giovanna Vaccaro through 24 lessons in six self-contained units. Each unit addresses various grammar principles as well as vocabulary building exercises along with opportunities to practice your speaking and writing.

Each lessons starts off with a short conversation between Giovanna and various people she encounters on her trip to Italy. The conversation is presented in small segments. You can listen to the Italian and repeat each sequence if you don't understand. There are options to read the Italian and English while listening or simply listen alone to the dialogue. At the end of each dialogue, there's an option to hear the entire dialogue uninterrupted. At the end of some dialogues, there will be a multiple choice question. After listening to the last small segment of the conversation, you have to guess what was said.

After that, there's opportunity to practice the new vocabulary that you have encountered. A flash program will help you to practice speaking the words and expressions aloud and hear them being spoken. You can repeat the word or expression as many times as you wish, and then you will be presented with three choices. Choose the correct word that matches with the word or expression shown. It's simple but effective!

Each unit has sections on grammar, and then you are given the opportunity to respond to the dialogue as well as practice speaking -- that is, saying what you would have written. And finally, there's an important fact file which teaches you something relevant about Italian history, culture, customs, etc.

The program is geared for beginners, but it can also be a fun review for more experienced learners. There are glossaries and other helpful tools that accompany Italian Steps. Check it out!

NB: I find that Italian Steps works best with Internet Explorer. With other browsers, you may encounter bugs or other strange oddities.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Che Tempo Che Fa

Che Tempo Che Fa is sort of like the late show in the United States (with David Letterman or Jay Leno, etc). Hosted by Fabio Fazio, he interviews various guests from Italy and abroad about things that they are doing, things that they have written or things that they have said.

The show recently was host to a bit of scandal when Marco Travaglio was a guest on May 10th. Travaglio made some comments about a certain Italian politician and his link to the mafia and organized crime. People from both sides of the spectrum weighed into the debate and leads to further criticism that the media in Italy is free to do as it wishes without the government chasing their heels. More disturbing, at least in my opinion, was that the next day, the show's host and producer both apologized to the audience leaving one to wonder how much pressure the government exerted on the show "to force" such an apology. Why should the host and producers of the show apologize for the beliefs of another?

Anyway, whatever you may think, the show is entertaining and informative. You can search the show's archive for specific interviews with specific people (the one with Roberto Saviano is worth watching). Some of the show's episodes are available as a podcast. The streaming video is quite clear and the sound quality is good. Will probably require at least an intermediate level of Italian to follow, but no matter what your level, you're bound to learn something new.

PS--If you want to watch the Travaglio episode but it becomes deleted, check out Youtube.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Al Cinema! -- Part 1

Here's part 1 of my list of recommended movies that I think that you will enjoy. The Italian, in my opinion, is pretty accessible and make for excellent practice opportunities. I'll list the titles in English when provided along with the original Italian title:

This movie, Facing Windows (La finestra di fronte), by Ferzan Ozpetek, is a strange love story about two people who always seem to be "two ships passing in the night". I don't want to talk too much about this movie because I don't want to give away the story, but I think that this is a movie that you will enjoy very much. The language is very approachable.

The movie is currently out of print in the US but readily available in Italy from Internet Bookshop Italia.

Another wonderful film that I'm sure you will enjoy is My Best Enemy (Il mio miglior nemico) which debuted at the Italian Film Festival in 2006 in Australia. This wonderful comedy features noted Italian comic, Carlo Verdone. If you wish to purchase this film, check out IBS or Palace Films as part of the Italian Film Festival DVD set. Palace Films operates out of Australia so be sure to check that any purchases made will work on your DVD player in your home country. The Palace Films version has subtitles.

Also from that same film festival comes the mystery (giallo), Quo Vadis, Baby? -- based on a book by Grazia Verasani of the same title. In the story, a private detective receives a strange collection of home movies of her dead sister and decides to find out once and for all the truth behind her sister's death. I haven't had a chance to read the book, but I found the movie to be compelling and arresting, and the story had several unexpected twists that I did not anticipate. You can purchase it from IBS or from Palace Films as part of the festival DVD set.

One of my favorite films of all time is Un sacco bello. This film you'll only find from an Italian vendor (I've given the link for IBS, but you can probably find it from another preferred vendor). This delightfully funny film features Carlo Verdone playing three different characters in three different situations in the film. From hippy, to playboy to the bumbling fool, Verdone pulls off this funny and quirky film. The language used can be a bit tough at times, but it's not impossible, and I guarantee that you will enjoy this film.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Rai News 24 - Streaming Live on your Desktop

If you're stuck at work for 8-9 a day like I am, but you don't want to give up practicing your Italian for some part of the day, check out Rai News 24 (in diretta).

Think of this an the internet version of an Italian CNN -- 24 news streaming on your PC. You can listen and/or watch the news (there's a streaming video and audio feed) while you work if you're at your desk.

To the right of the main video player is a list of the important stories of the day, which you can watch as videos. So if you tuned in after an interesting story, just click on the link, and the video will load in the same player as that of the live news. To get back to the live news, just refresh the page.

The great thing about this live feed are:
  • There's nothing to download.
  • It's always on (although I've noticed there are times of the day when it doesn't work, usually late at night and during the afternoon around lunch time in Italy)
  • You get a mix of different presenters which represent the entire country, thus getting an exposure to different accents and regions of Italy
  • News presenters tend to be very good speakers with good diction
  • Stories will give you a good idea of what's going on in Italy
One downside is that the live feed does require a good deal of bandwidth. It might take a few minutes if you're using a wireless connection for the feed to get started. If you're connected via ethernet, you shouldn't notice any slowdowns.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Podcast Profile: Essere e benessere

One of my favorite podcasts that I enjoy listening to every morning on my way to work is the radio program, Essere e benessere (translated as: Being and Wellbeing), with Nicoletta Carbone. The show airs Monday through Friday at 11:00 AM Italian time on Radio24 and typically lasts an hour. If you listen to it live (starting at 10am in London, 5am on the East cost of the USA, 2am on the West coast of the USA), you'll have to bear with the (sometimes entertaining) commercials and traffic reports.

This informative program is a call-in program in which listeners with questions about the current topic call in -- typically it's in reference to a medical/health condition that affects them or someone they know. Callers can phone into the show and ask questions to the guests who are either in the studio with Nicoletta or who call in. Callers also can email or text their message to the show if they can't get through on the lines or don't have the courage to ask their question on live radio.

I think this show is great to practice your Italian with for several reasons:
  1. Since the show features guests and listeners (ascoltatori) from all over Italy, you'll run the gamut of accents, giving your ear a good "workout".
  2. Radio announcers tend to speak very clearly (although somewhat fast at times) - Nicoletta is easy to listen to
  3. The show is informative - each day they cover a different ailment, health concern or health issue; the guests she invites on her show tend to be very well informed and experts in their field. It's also interesting to note the difference in the approaches of health and health care between your own country and Italy.
The web site for the show tends to feature additional information if callers and listeners want to learn more information. The show tends to run between 40-50 minutes depending on commercials and other interruptions of the show. The podcast is generally put on the web site quickly after the show, and you'll find you can probably listen to it at your desk when you arrive at work in the morning.

I try to read about the episode on the web site before I listen to it so that I have a better idea of the context of the show. Knowing that the show is about heart problems, skin conditions or athlete's foot certainly helps as you try to comprehend the Italian being spoken.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008


To the right in the sidebar, you'll notice a list of podcasts.

The links will take you to the sites of these various Italian programs. It might take some hunting to find the necessary XML code that you can use to receive the podcasts via RSS. If you have any questions on how to do this, drop me an email. I recommend that you use Itunes to manage your podcasts because it will automatically download and delete items as you listen to them as well as make them easy to send to your Ipod, if you have one.

If you use a non-Ipod mp3 player, then there are other tools out there. Watch for future posts. With Itunes, I manage my podcasts with "Smartlists" that automatically add new episodes as they are downloaded. Podcasts do not advance when you listen to them. So if you start with one episode, it will play and then stop, and you will have to advance it to the next episode. However, with a smart list, it is like listening to a CD. All the tracks will play until you tell it to stop. Each method has its pluses and minuses depending on how you listen. I listen while I drive, so I don't like to fiddle with the Ipod behind the wheel. :)

You can also listen to many of the programs past transmissions right from the sites so if you want to avoid the whole podcast thing, you can just pick and choose and listen at your leisure.

If there's a podcast that we've missed here, please feel free to leave a comment about it so that we can add it to the list.

Another great newsreader is Wizz. With Wizz, you can listen to podcasts right from the Wizz add-on which works with Firefox - you don't have to worry about a huge memory intensive program like Itunes running in the background.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Movies and Language

Some of the best movies ever made have come from Italy, but as resources for improving your language, you have to be careful what kinds of movies you decide to watch.

In my opinion, your best bet is to watch movies that are more current and movies that do not involve dialect. There's nothing wrong with Italian dialect, but for beginner and intermediate students of Italian, I just don't see any benefit from struggling to watch a movie that is entirely in the dialect of Naples or Rome. You'll spend too much time referring to subtitles and at that point, it might just be better to be reading a book.

So my advice:
  • Try to pick movies that are more current (1980's onward) -- the language will be more accessible, and hopefully there's little dialect.

  • Pick movies that will interest you -- you're more likely to pay attention and be attentive if you will enjoy the story. If romances and overly dramatic love stories are not for you, then don't watch a movie just because it's in Italian. You won't appreciate it, and you will probably have trouble following the story. Interest plays a huge part when learning anything.

  • I advise not using subtitles when you watch a movie, or at least try. I know that Italians speak fast, but then they think English speakers speak fast as well. :) Do your best to at least understand the situation. If you're still in the dark, try again with subtitles. You might be surprised to see that you understood more than you thought.

  • Movies are good to watch to improve your Italian because it involves seeing and listening. When someone says something that seems unintelligible to you, but you still understand what they said, how is that so? The answer is "context". Having a context in which you watch something allows your brain to make associations based on what characters are doing or not doing.

    For example, if a character is in the kitchen and cuts themselves and then yells a lot, chances are they aren't happy and are not in a good mood. You can probably guess that they're swearing or yelling at themself for being so clumsy. While you might not have understood what the word meant, you know how it was used in that context and can probably infer the meaning.
Coming soon will be a list of new and old movies that make good learning tools!

Thursday, May 1, 2008



The purpose of this site is to serve as a repository of links and reviews of sites that you can use to improve your Italian, with a heavy focus on listening and speaking resources.

If you're looking to improve your grammar, learn new words, then check out my list of links related to those areas. This site isn't going to teach you Italian, but it will point you in the right direction for resources - both on- and offline to help you with your Italian.

A recent article on by the Italian expert, Michael San Filippo, talked about how students spend too much time on grammar, vocabulary and workbook exercises and not enough time using their Italian in the real world. Maybe this blog can help you change that by showing you what resources are out there.

Learning Italian should engage all of your senses. Reading helps you to build your vocabulary. Writing allows you to express yourself in a new language and helps you to put the grammar that you've studied into practice. Listening will help you appreciate all the hours you've spent studying grammar, sentence structure and all those vocabulary words as well as train your ear to understand the language "on the go" and help you to become a better speaker. And speaking will allow you to communicate in Italian, forcing you to use all of your abilities to make yourself understood. At the end of the day, if you can't speak the language, how will it ever serve you?

It's important to practice all of these areas but placing a slightly greater emphasis on your weakest strengths. If speaking is easy for you, but you can't write well, don't stop speaking. Keep practicing both and try to identify areas where your writing is weak and practice - write letters to friends and family, join an Italian forum or chat room -- whatever you need to do to improve your writing. If reading and writing are easy, but you have trouble speaking, then find ways to talk more in the language. Often times, we avoid things that we do not like because we are afraid to fail, afraid of embarrassment or just plain old shyness. Whatever the reason, learning a language can help you overcome that. Learning a language is about taking risks, and the risks that you take with learning a new language and by putting yourself out there will have its rewards.

Get out from beyond your books, workbooks and staid dialogues/conversations and appreciate Italian as it was meant to by watching Italian movies, listening to Italian music, watching Italian TV and news, listening to podcasts, logging onto Skype and finding a new Italian friend to talk with or joining an Italian conversational group in your area.

All the while as you do these things, remember that you can't translate every word or phrase from English to Italian. As you listen, read, write and speak, try to think as an Italian would. Don't think in English and then try to translate. You won't have time in a social situation to do that, and it's a bad habit to get into. Keep your Italian simple and become more complex as you become more proficient, and understand that when you first begin studying Italian, you can't speak Italian as you speak English.

Be realistic. Know your limitations. Identify your strengths and weaknesses and work around them. Don't give up. Don't get discouraged. Practice, practice, practice!