I often think to myself that this must be the golden age of language learning. The existence of the internet, social media, and portable technology makes learning and practicing a new language easier and more accessible than ever. As long as you have an internet-connected device, you can access nearly unlimited resources to study your language of choice, anytime and anywhere.
While I believe that live, in-person instruction and, if possible, complete immersion, are the best and most effective ways to learn a language, I also believe that it is important to highlight the effectiveness, affordability, and accessibility of digital and online resources.
In my post, Learning Italian in Italy: The Role of Language in Easing Our Transition to Life in Turin, I reflected on the linguistic hurdles my family faced when we moved to Italy in 2018, how we overcame many of these hurdles, and how we continue to speak Italian (to varying degrees) today, nearly 2 years after returning home to California.
Retaining Italian in a mainly English-speaking setting requires intention and effort. Today, some of my Italian practice comes in the form of watching shows or movies in Italian on streaming platforms and occasional exchanges with my family; but most of my Italian practice comes from listening to Italian language podcasts.
Today I'm writing about one of my favorite (free!) Italian language-learning resources: the podcast Italiano Automatico.
Italiano Automatico: Why I Love Listening
Alberto "Albi" Arrighini, the host of Italiano Automatico is one of a number of hosts of Italian instruction podcasts/YouTube channels that offer free content online. In fact, there are so many choices out there that it can be difficult to find the best fit.
Italiano Automatico stands out from other Italian-language podcasts because of Arrighini's bright personality and enthusiastic presentation of Italian. Perhaps because Arrighini is from the northern city of Brescia (two and half hours east of Turin), I find his way of speaking very familiar and easy to understand.
Arrighini clearly loves what he does, and is an avid language learner himself. His enthusiasm surrounding language learning makes him a great teacher because he understands what makes Italian (and language study) difficult and what areas students might struggle with most. His tone is encouraging and helpful.
He seems to have mastered three things that make his podcasts especially engaging: the first is that he speaks clearly and slowly - not remarkably slow - but slowly enough for an Italian learner to distinguish each word. The second thing is that he is able to create episodes completely in Italian, while still making them accessible to people who are not advanced Italian speakers. He does this by breaking down concepts and definitions in simple Italian; examining the etymology of a word; offering synonyms, or providing the context of when that word or expression would typically be used.
The third thing that Arrighini does is that he selects particularly useful topics, with an emphasis on spoken Italian. One such episode is: "Episode 476: 50 Frasi in Italiano Che Userai Quotidianamente | Imparare l'Italiano" (50 Phrases in Italian that You Will Use Daily). After spending two years in Italy, I am happy to say that I knew (and frequently used) the majority of the 50 phrases featured, but it took months of living in Italy to learn and add these phrases to my Italian. Since I no longer use Italian on a daily basis, listening to episodes such as this one is a great way to stay connected to the language I once used in my everyday life. For anyone moving or traveling to Italy for an extended amount of time, these expressions are essential.
The Advantages of Listening to Podcast Episodes
The vast majority of my experience with Italiano Automatico is through episodes of the podcast. Although I have seen episodes on Youtube, I prefer podcasts that allow me to incorporate language practice smoothly into my day. Podcasts keep me company while I drive, cook, clean, or do laundry. (When I write, I only listen to music without lyrics.) I can also focus better on podcast episodes, which allow me to steer clear of YouTube altogether. One advantage of the YouTube episodes is that they are subtitled.
In addition to language instruction, Italiano Automatico also offers episodes covering a number of subjects such as personal development, morning routines, and everyday life in Italy. Listeners who are primarily interested in learning and practicing Italian can use the blog tab (on the website) and playlists on the YouTube channel to find collections grouped under different themes related to learning Italian language and culture.
Catering to an international, multi-lingual audience, episode titles and descriptions are in Italian. If you prefer to only use a podcast app, you should look for episode titles containing words like: "parlare" (to speak), "grammatica" (grammar), "espressione/i" (expressions), "parole" (words), "frasi" (phrases), "pronunciare" (to pronounce). You can also use the playlists on YouTube to locate the episodes you would like to listen to, then listen to them on a podcast app.
A frequent guest on Italiano Automatico is Arrighini's grandmother Nonna Elide, often referred to simply as"la nonna". If you've read my piece Pasta Grannies: A Heartwarming Peek Into Italian Home Kitchen, you might guess that my fondness for Italian grandmothers is real. The dynamic between grandmother and grandson is very sweet and fun to listen to, and hearing her reflect on life in Italy over eight decades adds an interesting dimension to the episodes in which she is featured.
You can often download transcripts and other PDFs containing material linked to each episode for free. Italiano Automatico's website also features full Italian courses that can be purchased directly from the site.
Where You Can Find Italiano Automatico
"50 Frasi in Italiano Che Userai Quotidianamente" 50 Phrases in Italian That You Will Use Daily
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