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Monday, December 21, 2009

Improving your Italian with Maxmondo

Recently, I stumbled across an excellent resource that is geared mainly for advanced beginners or intermediate students (even advanced students, too!). Maxmondo is online resource that focuses on students who have acquired knowledge of Italian and are looking to improve their listening comprehension and build their vocabulary.

As I've said before, building vocabulary and attaining any kind of fluency in Italian requires that you work beyond making word lists and studying word matrices in Italian language and grammar books. As you do with your native language, you acquire new words every day just by interacting with the language, speaking it, and, most of all, reading and listening to it. If you've reached a crossroads in your language skills, the best way to continue on "your journey" is to read more and listen to the language as much as you can.

This resource will enable you to do just that. They have a lot of free resources on the site, but the gem of the site is their online magazine, Incontro Italiano. You can become a subscriber or purchase issues individually (4.95 euro/issue or 37.95 euro/year for a 12 month subscription). Each issue comes with an audio file and a pdf transcript that you can download and follow along. There are also exercises and lists of words -- the great thing is that the author(s) of the magazine don't give you straight translations, but make you work at understanding the Italian by having you work with the context of what you are reading. This is a superb way to build vocabulary and engage with the language!

Each issue talks about Italy so not only are you learning more language and improving, but you're also learning about Italian culture, current events, history and more! Head to their site and try out a free issue. If you've used this resource, leave a comment and let others know what you think.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Life isn't a film...or is it?

I never laughed so hard after watching this piece. This YouTube video was created by a very clever and creative Italian. Check out some of his other videos -- according to YouTube, he's got quite an audience! Let me know what you think. If you have any questions on what he's saying, I can try to help, too! :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Italian Food Net is an online cooking resource that is packed with some very delicious recipes, but with this site, not only do you get the great recipe, but you get cooking demonstrations, too. Most of the videos last anywhere betwen 4-6 minutes long, some shorter, and teach you some basic as well as some not so basic recipes.

There are three chefs who demonstrate various recipes: first and second course dishes, antipasti, desserts, breads and more. The demonstrations will leave your mouth watering as these chefs serve up some great meals. The videos are in Italian, but many of them have subtitles. Even so, the Italian used is standard, the chefs speak well, and even if you're not completely fluent, you shouldn't have any trouble following their instructions. With the help of a good dictionary and some study, it won't take you long at all to get through these recipes. Plus, it's a great way to practice your Italian and your listening skills while learning how to serve up some authentic Italian dishes at the same time!

Buon appetito!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Tell your friends...

It's no surprise that Berlusconi's government dislikes the show, Annozero, because it gives a voice to many of Berlusconi's critics. Television stations in Italy are refusing (or perhaps, it's better to say that they are unable) to air television commercials that are annoucing the return of this wonderful program.

Anyone interested in Italian language and culture would do well to watch this program. I watch it as often as I can (online), and I find that it can be a wonderful source of entertainment as well as practicing and improving your Italian comprehension.

Here's an email I received (as I'm sure thousands of others) -- check out the spots (adverts for the show's return) and read the email I received below:

Buongiorno Keith,

Cari amici, sono Michele Santoro e ho bisogno del vostro aiuto. Mancano pochi giorni alla partenza e la televisione continua a non informare il ...pubblico sulla data d'inizio di Annozero. Perciò vi chiedo di inviare a tutti i vostri amici e contatti su Internet gli spot che abbiamo preparato a questo scopo e che non vengono trasmessi.

Qui trovate i nostri spot

Su Youtube:

Primo spot:

Secondo spot:


E come sempre il nostro sito

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Passaggio a nord-ovest

While many programs take a break in the summer in Italy, there are some that continue, and these programs are generally quite good and are useful in helping to improve your listening Italian skills. One of my favorite shows is Passaggio a Nord-Ovest -- you can watch the episodes through the PC through Rai's web site or, if you're lucky enough to be in Italy, it's on TV on Saturdays at 5:45 PM.

The host of the program is Alberto Angela, a well-known journalist and television personality who often hosts television programs on archaeology and culture (along with his father -- Alberto also holds a degree in Natural Science from La Sapienza). In this program, Alberto Angela crosses the globe visiting cultural sites as well as visiting some unique sites in Italy. There's also a very informative show on the giant squid, its history and research into this unique and amazing creature. The programs aren't always about history and archaeology but a true exploration of our planet into areas and sites that often don't receive a lot of attention.

I've watched about a dozen episodes - they last between 5 minutes to as long as 15 minutes. Alberto Angela is easy to understand, speaks well, and brings a passion and love for what he does -- not only can you listen and improve your Italian, but you can also learn something, too!

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Summer of Podcasting (and Listening)

Ciao a tutti!

As the summer approaches (or winter, as is the case with our friends in the southern hemisphere), I want to remind everyone that it is important to practice your listening skills in Italian as much as it is studying grammar and vocabulary. Learning all the words that you can and knowing all the rules will only get you so far -- all that knowledge will get you nowhere if you can't understand the Italian being spoken to you.

I implore and encourage all of you to spend this summer listening (and speaking whenever you can). During the American summer, a number of Italian classes adjourn for the summer - especially if you're at university or taking classes in a school. While your structured learning may end, you can still be learning on your own, and you'll be surprised how much you can improve your Italian simply by listening! Listening can be enjoyable, and there are a lot of options out there for everyone's tastes. If you like sports, there's no end to the podcasts and programs that you can listen to and watch. If you like art and culture or movies there is also a lot on offer. No matter what your tastes, find something that you like and listen, listen, listen! By listening to programs or podcasts about subjects that you know, you'll have some context about what is being said and that can really help as you listen and learn.

I recently purchased an Ipod Touch, and it has to be one of the coolest gadgets that I've ever purchased. I'm not a gadget fiend, but I really like the possibilities that this device can have for learning and listening. If you have an Iphone or Ipod Touch, there are lots of possibilities in the way of apps and podcasts that you can download. Now there's no excuse for not listening - next time you head out for a coffee or are sitting on the plane, whip out your Ipod and listen to those podcasts or stream some audio from an Italian radio station.

If you know of a program/podcasts or other online media, leave a comment. Also, if you've listened to any of the content below or have a comment about your experiences learning and listening, please leave a comment -- I like to know how people listen and study Italian.

Have a great summer!

Useful Ipod Touch/Iphone Apps:
  • Wunder Radio
  • Radio DeeJay
Favorite Podcasts:
(I know that many Italian programs adjourn for the summer, but many of the sites have archives of past programs that you could listen to)
Favorite Rai.Tv programs:
Favorite Streams:

Monday, April 13, 2009

Tutti pazzi per amore

Continuing the current thread of Italian television, I want to turn you onto a humorous TV show called Tutti pazzi per amore starring Stefania Rocca and Emilio Solfrizzo, who play the characters Laura and Paolo, respectively. Paolo is a widower raising a teenage daughter while Laura has two children, a sixteen year old son and a young daughter, whose husband has left them and gone to America. I like to think of this show as a quasi-Brady Bunch with two families coming together, although more modern and with an Italian bent.

Laura and Paolo eventually come together but must hide their romance since their two older children are schoolmates who dislike each other and other characters from the past and present come together to create interesting dramatic moments and comedic surprises!

The show is billed as a commedia sentimental-femiliare, a sentimental comedy with a family focus. Many of the situations are comical but there are serious moments. It's a well done show, and I think that its difficulty for comprehension is not so high that it is impossible to understand the characters. It's a great way to practice your Italian while learning some new Italian words and phrases, especially from the children in the show.

There are currently 13 episodes of the show which can be watched online at

Friday, April 10, 2009 -- the new Rai Click

Rai Click is no longer and has been supplanted, thankfully, by Rai TV which functions, in my opinion, much better than Rai Click. If you're in Italy, you can watch TV directly through the site, otherwise, for us non-Italians overseas, we'll have to make do with the many programs and specials that can be watched as streaming video through the site. The video playback feature seems to work much better and is less buggy, and I've had no problem watching programs in the morning, afternoon or evening in the US (Eastern Standard Time). You may experience slowdowns during peak periods but nothing like was experienced with Rai Click.

Search for programs or podcasts by searching thematically or by the name of the show (Cerca tematica or Cerca programma, respectively). The buttons for doing this are located in the upper right hand corner of the screen.

The site pulls together podcasts, streaming video and more into one site so that all your favorite programs and podcasts can be listened to (and in some cases, downloaded) onto your own PC, Ipod or other mp3 device. It's better organized, and you'll find using this site a much better experience over Rai Click.

If you've watched a show on it, leave a comment and let us know how it worked.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


My Italian teacher turned me onto an interesting show produced by Rai, Raccontami. I like to describe the show as an Italian version of The Wonder Years, that follows the trials and tribulations of an Italian family during the 1960's! You can watch all the episodes of the show on

The show is based on a similar show produced in Spain that profiles a Spanish family during the years of Franco's dictatorship. The Italian version, of course, focuses on the events of the time in Italy and is a wonderful looking glass at family dynamics during the 60's and their response to things that happens in their own lives as well as their response to changes in Italy - such as the advent of television, wars, terrorism, economic problems, as well as the problems of raising children in a forever changing time.

Like The Wonder Years, the show is narrated by one of the characters of the show who is now grown up and reflecting on the past, in this case, the youngest son, Carletto. The show starts off with Carlino almost plunging to his death as he tries to watch a television in an apartment in another building, but luckily falling into a truckful of wool. The family then buys their own television to the dismay of the show's grandmother, who thinks the new device is a waste of money and time.

Watch episodes of the show on Learn more about the show from its web site.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Parliamo Italiano on Rai!

Beginners and intermediate students will find this program on Rai International, Parliamo Italiano, quite useful. Hosted by Gloria De Antoni e Oreste De Fornari, the program brings together other non-Italian speakers who have learned the language who come on the show and are interviewed.

They also review Italian grammar questions that are answered live on the show along with examples, which are answered by Giuseppe Patota, a noted Italian linguist who has published several useful books on Italian grammar and usage.

The great thing about this show is that the hosts speak slower and more deliberate, and they do their best not to run the words together. If you're looking for a place to practice your Italian listening skills without all the pressure of trying to catch all the words, then this is a good show to practice with. There are dozens of episodes online that you can watch. They also sometimes have actors and other famous Italians appear on the show to illustrate certain points and themes.

The show is a great resource is has been specifically designed for foreign students learning Italian. The aim of the programs is to help you to improve your ability to understand and communicate in Italian! If you've listened to the show, leave a comment and let me know what you think of it.

You can watch episodes in two ways:
  1. (do a search for Parliamo Italiano)
  2. Rai International's web site

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Monday, March 23, 2009

Corriere della Sera: Corriere TV

It's not surprising that newspapers in Italy are providing more multimedia content. CorriereTV is a selection of news videos that one can watch and listen to on the Corriere della Sera web site, one of Italy's leading newspapers.

There are dozens of channels, and viewers can watch news stories about events in Italy, international events, economic news, cinema, and more!! It's an easy site to navigate, the videos have great clarity, and the audio files are crisp and clear. There is also a section called Appuntamenti in which various staff of the newspaper do videos on special topics. The Italian journalist and writer, Beppe Severigni, does a show called Punto Italians, and there are segments on health and film by other correspondents of the paper. There are also Telegiornali segments on general news and a Telegiornale segment dedicated to economics and business (i.e., stock market, business news, etc.).

What I like about this site is that the news stories are a decent length (just a couple of minutes or less, although some of the Appuntamenti are longer) which is a great way to practice your listening skills without drowning in a sea of words and expressions you might not know.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Practice Italian With Audiobooks! (updated)

The great thing about audiobooks is that not only can you practice your listening skills but you can also read along if you have the book as well. This can be a great way to double check your comprehension of anything that you've listened to. I think that it is important to hear Italian being spoken by as many different kinds of accents and voices as possible since the way language is spoken is different just like it is in your own native language. I think that this throws people who are learning Italian because they don't always recognizes the differences in their own language.

So where do you find audiobooks?

There are several places that you can find them. Some of the RAI sites have them online that you can stream and listen to. The links for those (Terzo Anello) can be found in the sidebar. Another great site for audiobooks is Il Narratore. Some of them are free to download while others must be purchased. If you're looking for a larger selection, check out an online bookstore, such as Internet Bookshop Italia. To do a search for audiobooks, simply type the word audiolibro in the search box, and you'll receive hundreds of hits.

Another up-and-coming place to purchase audio books is from Lapo Art Films, a company based in Tuscany. They currently have a very enchanting and well-done version of Pinocchio for purchase and, as they have informed me, are in the process of creating future audiobooks. In the meantime, you can listen to excerpts through Itunes (do a search for Pinocchio published by Lapo Art Films) or on their web site (also via RSS feed here:

I've listed below some audiobooks that you might find interesting to purchase (you'll probalby have difficulty finding them in American libraries so they'll have to be downloaded or purchased):
Many English books are translated and then made into Italian audiobooks. By doing the search that I mentioned above, you might find many Italian audiobooks for works that you might have already encountered in English.

If you know of another place to find purchase or download audiobooks, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Omnibus Life

A show that I recently starting watching online is Omnibus Life with Tiziana Panella and Enrico Vaime and is one of the many captivating programs that La7 produces.

Omnibus Life is a morning show, beginning around 930am in Italy, which talks about current events and interesting happenings, usually with a more social and/or cultural bent. The episode embedded here is from March 11, 2009 and discusses the business around tarot cards and tarot readings, which are extremely popular in Italy but are often used to prey on innocent people by extracting money from them.

Many of the guests are writers, commentators, lawyers and officials from the government, and the show attempts to discuss issues of the day. If you're looking for other video topics, click on the link "Tutti i video" that is located in the left sidebar on the Omnibus Life web site. The show runs for about thirty minutes. It's a great way to practice your Italian listening skills, pick up some new vocabulary, as well as learning about current events in Italy.

Monday, February 9, 2009


If you're looking for some lively debate "all'italiana", then check out a very popular RAI television show called AnnoZero - a program which brings together guests from all aspects of Italian politics and current events for lively debates on current events and important issues. This is a great program, and previous episodes can be watched online or live on the web site, and it is one of the few programs that those outside of Italy can watch through RAI's web site without having to be in the country.

Last week's program (on February 5, 2009) discussed a controversial law that seeks to limit wiretaps on telephones and to punish those who publish such converations in the press. The debate proved to be quite "lively". An archive of past shows can also be watched online. The sound and picture quality are quite good, and you're bound to learn a lot watching these programs. Not only will you get a good "language workout" but you'll learn a lot about issues facing Italy and Italians at the same time!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Divorzio all'italiana

Marcello Mastroianni plays the role of "cornuto" very well in Pietro Germi's Divorzio all'italiana (Divorce, Italian Style), and this film is certainly a testament to his skills as an actor and as an artist.  If you're looking to improve your Italian listening skills, what better way than with this exquisite film by Pietro Germi.

This black-and-white film is a comedy on so many levels and vascillates between serious and comedic at various intervals throughout the movie.  Brilliant are the flashbacks and dream sequences, as well as certain sections where the protaganist, Ferdinando (played by Mastroianni), reminds the tape only to see the action of the film "rewound" for the viewer, who is privileged not only to hear by to see the events as they happen.  Flashbacks provide comedic interludes, such as when Ferdinando dreams of his wife being engulfed in quicksand while buried under beach sand or when he wishes her dead, stabs her and then drowns her in the very soap that provokes her anger. 

The film is a flashback of events that happened three years from the "present day" in which the film begins, and we sit back and watch the events unfold through the character of Ferdinando, which provides a unique perspective of the film's events. The story is a silly one on so many levels and begins with Mastroianni's character longing for a divorce from his suffocating wife so that he can marry his cousin, the beautiful Angela.  With divorce being illegal and Mastroianni's character of some importance, he must play the situation carefully.  Mastroianni orchestrates for his wife to fall in love with another so that he can finally be free of her.

The story is so masterful and creative that to reveal it all here would not do it justice.

As a student of Italian, this film provides a plethora of opporunity to test your language skills as well as learn new words as well as experience a wonderful gem of Italian cinematic history.  It's so fun to watch a film without the aid of subtitles, although there were a few instances where I was lost and used the subtitles briefly.

Criterion's web site has an excellent essay on the movie, and I would also recommend the Criterion edition of the film, as it has been restored (although the subtitles, if you need them, are useful but not always completely accurate).  The Italian version (in PAL format) is also available, too.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Saturno Contro

I recently saw the movie, Saturno Contro (IBS or Amazon), by the director Ferzan Ozpetek, which came out in 2006 and was recently released in the American market by Strand Releasing. This is a wonderfully directed and beautifully shot film about the lives of friends who suffer an immense tragedy when one of their friends, Luca, suffers a hemorrage, falls into a coma, and ultimately passes away. Throughout all of this, each of the friends suffers further setbacks as each comes to terms with losing such a dear friend while, at the same time, dealing with their own personal problems - from infidelity, to coping with loss, to realizing that the last words you had with your departed friend were bad ones...

I dare not say more as not to ruin the story or the nuances of the film, but, this is, by far one of the best films of this director and one of the best films that I have ever seen. This is also a great film with which to practice your Italian. The language spoken is quite approachable -- intermediate students and above will get a great "workout" with this film. Even as a beginner, perhaps with the help of subtitles, you can enjoy and improve your Italian by watching this film. Watching films is one of the best ways to improve your Italian and better your listening comprehension -- and with movies, if you get stuck or think that you're missing something, you can turn on the subtitles and sort of check your understanding.

Even the music of the film is quite luscious with songs by Neffa and Carmen Consoli. Check out the soundtrack here -- IBS or Amazon.

Monday, January 12, 2009

La Storia Siamo Noi

If you're interested in recent Italian history, check out La Storia Siamo Noi on Rai Education's web site. This web site features many videos of shows that have aired on television. Many of the episodes that you can view on TV feature additional articles that often accompany the video episode. Sometimes the video doesn't play on cue and can require a bit of patience, and the videos are best to watch with a high speed connection to ensure continuity.

The episodes can be anything from events in Italian history to events that have had an impact on Italian society and Italian history as well as important international events, such as the Cold War, the Kennedy/Nixon debate among others.

The episodes are fun and challenging, and you might find at times that they are hard to follow, especially with those speakers who talk extremely fast or with accents/dialects that might be difficult to comprehend. This diversity and its the range of accents and the range of people interviewed should certainly provide a good workout for your listening skills not to mention learning more about the icons and figures of Italian history and culture.

Some episodes to consider:
  • Corrado...e basta - learn about this important television personality and presenter, an icon in Italian culture and the history of television
  • Il Massacro del Circeo - learn about the killing of the Italian writer and director, Pier Paolo Pasolini
  • The Great Debate - get an Italian perspective on the Nixon/Kennedy debates
Watch the videos on their web site or through RaiClick.

And a thank you to my friend Adriano for putting me onto this awesome site!

Friday, January 9, 2009

Spot 80

You might laugh when I say this, but listening to and watching Italian TV commercials can be an interesting (and often humorous) way to improve your Italian. The great thing about Italian TV commercials is:
  1. They're short - no listening for hours and getting frustrated.
  2. They don't require a huge amount of your attention span and can make learning more compact.
Check out this site, Spot 80 -- a collection of Italian TV commercials from the late 70's to early 90's. Lo spot or a television ad can really add some fun and humor to your Italian learning. Some of them are even considered iconic among Italians (such as the ones embedded below!). Explore the site and try to listen to the commercials to see what products are being pushed, how they are being advertised, and try to see if you can understand what is being said.