I got an email from Jenny this morning, which I thought would be of general interest.
It’s a follow up to the recent post on learning languages by watching TV.
You mentioned in your email that you listen to the news on Swedish TV, and even to a simplified version of the news (which sounds ideal for language students) and you recommend followers of your Italian courses to do the same, well listen to the Italian news of course.
I do sometimes put on Rai Uno and try to follow the programme but one of the problems is how do you find out what is on? Do you know if there is any sort of simplified news programme? Can you tell me what time the news programmes come on in the morning?
I know it is a good idea to expose your brain to the sound of a language even though you can’t understand much; after all that’s how I learned Dutch, by living here and hearing it all around me. I recognize your experience of suddenly realizing that things are making sense. Alas, I haven’t yet reached that stage in Italian!
So, to take Jenny’s points in order, I’m afraid I don’t know of a simplified news program. There’s a website that does it, but that’s weekly, and it’s not cheap.
You can find live, continuous news on the RAI site, here (click on the box in the top right-hand corner…)
However, if you’re not in Italy when you try to watch it, you’ll see this very polite message instead of the latest news:
Siamo spiacenti. RAI detiene i diritti per lo streaming del contenuto esclusivamente per connessioni dall’Italia.
This being RAI, which is lavishly funded by taxpayers, there’s also a very professional translation (by which I mean it’s not word for word, but is in an appropriate register and neatly conveys the meaning):
The streaming of this content is available in Italy only. We apologize for the inconvenience.
That’s called geo-blocking.
If you’re wondering how to get around it, scroll down to the third section of the Wikipedia entry, ‘Legality of circumvention for online video’, where it states:
…the use of VPNs and similar services to evade geo-blocking by online video services is a violation of copyright laws…
What’s a VPN?
Jenny’s next question is easier: what’s on RAI at the moment?
http://www.raiplay.it/dirette/ will show you the current programs. Just click the channel that interests you and start viewing!
And http://www.raiplay.it/guidatv/ has the day’s schedules. There’s news at regular intervals, plus the usual daytime TV rubbish (I never watch Italian TV…)
So, depending on her location, attitude to copyright law, and general technical savvy, Jenny can now watch the news on whichever channel she chooses, or watch the live news channel linked to above.
Personally, though, I don’t think news is the best choice for language-learners.
IF you’re going to watch it, it’s probably a good idea to watch the news in your own language first, THEN in the language you’re learning.
That’s what I do.
But I usually suggest picking out some other kind of program. Ideally something with a strong plot line, memorable characters and NOT TOO MUCH DIALOG…
If you have, for example, a box set of ‘Game of Thrones’ lying around at home, look at the small print on the back to see if it’s dubbed into Italian.
If it is, you’re in business!
You’ve got knights, maidens, dragons, and plenty of blood and gore.
TV series are ace for improving your listening.
Unlike a film, which is over in a couple of hours, a good TV series will run and run, so enabling you to get to know the characters, their motivations and interactions.
Which makes it much, much easier to figure out what on earth is going on!
Just as in real life, if you have a clear idea of who someone is and what they might want, understanding what they’re actually saying becomes much easier.
Think of, for example, Tony Soprano, or Cersei Lannister.
Now imagine one or the other of them having a conversation.
What might they be talking about? With who? What do they hope to get out of the conversation?
Bet you have some ideas.
See what I mean?
To a great extent, it’s the background knowledge and the context that make detailed understanding possible.
So much of meaning is assumed, based on our understanding of what is likely, rather than stated clearly and unambiguously.
For example, “I don’t really want a beer” could mean:
- I had too much yesterday evening and would rather not compound the error
- If you’re having one, I guess I could keep you company
- Scotch would be better, if you have any handy
(Talking of Tony Soprano and Cersei Lannister, imagine them having a conversation together!)
But anyway, the point of listening practice is to gradually develop your comprehension skills, rather than understanding every word, which is likely to be impossible.
Given that we’re talking long term, here, it’s clearly going to be much the better if, despite not understanding much, you’re having a good time.
You know the famous quote from ‘Wall Street’, ‘greed is good‘.
Well here’s one from me:
‘Boring is bad’.
If you’re not having a good time, you’re not doing it right…
So grab some popcorn and a cold beer, bung in the DVD for series 1 of whatever takes your fancy, and you’re good to go.
Sofa and chill!
If your partner or kids comes in and wants to know what on earth you’re up to, just reply:
“I’m building my Italian listening-comprehension skills!”
By the way, did you know that the Game of Thrones dragons were designed by a Swedish guy?
Got that from Swedish TV yesterday afternoon!
OK, but what if listening to unsimplified, authentic Italian is not your thing?
You think banging your head against a brick wall is pointless.
You sure that flogging a dead horse will hurt you more than the horse.
You have a hunch that something written and recorded specifically for a student at your level would be more effective.
Well then, there’s loads of material on the club website, 100% free and open to everyone.
Find material organised by level here.
And/or you could invest in some easy readers, though these aren’t free.
Each volume has a free sample chapter.
Just click the link next to material designated as being for your level.
What if you don’t know what your level is?
Then go back to the catalog to browse some free sample chapters at or around your level.