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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.