I’m pretty sure I’ve written this article before. And I’m 100% sure I’ve written something very like it, many, many, many times in reply to polite comments left by EasyItalianNews.com readers.
But as we marketing wizards know, you have to keep repeating the message if you want to get it acrosss.
So here it is again.
Let’s say that plenty of students find listening to authentic news bulletins, on the TV or radio for instance, impossible at first.
Well, a conventional response would simply be not to bother, so continue conjugating verbs and learning lists of unknown words in the HOPE that, somehow, magically, that sort of studying will result in improved listening skills, along with the depth of ‘cultural knowledge’ required to actually understand what you hear.
Or, um, duh, well… you could keep at it, keep listening, untill eventually, what you hear does begin to make sense. That will likely happen very graduallly at first, but then faster and faster, until one day you’ll be listening but forget that you are actually doing this to learn a language, because what you’ll be doing is following the news, and nodding along, or tut-tutting, just as you do in your own language.
But, you notice, quite correctly, that authentic listening material, while there’s loads of it on the internet (Italy has hundreds, maybe thousands, of radio and TV channels), is actually HARD, especially at first.
True. And when things are hard, people quit, so don’t learn, so don’t reach their potential, which is a shame, don’t you think?
Let’s now say that some kind and hugely-experienced language teacher, having searched around for ‘transitional’ material for his own language learning – that is to say, something that would prepare him to listen to the news in, say, Swedish, but is put together specifically to help low-level learners – found something that worked well for him and decided to replicate it for learners of Italian.
Here’s an eight-to-ten-minute bulletin of ‘easy’ news stories, he told them. There’ll be another on Saturday, and another on Tuesday.
What you do is listen to the whole thing, while reading the text. Then, if you wish, you can read it again, more slowly, without the audio. And/or you can listen again without the text.
How you use the material depends on your strengths and weaknesses, and your objectives, all of which will mutuate over time.
But don’t worry, in not too many months, you can abandon this baby stuff and get on with real radio and TV transmissions.
Now get to it!
What could be clearer?
The nice man put together, and paid for out of his own pocket, regular news bulletins with transcripts, something that wasn’t available elsewhere. Because he believed that that particular format would help students transition to live, real-time audio, as it had for him.
But then the poor fellow began to be pestered by students who wanted to know why there wasn’t the option to easily listen to each section of the bulletin separately? They wanted to listen to just that one extract that interested them, again and again, without having to bother dragging the cursor back and forth.
And why can’t there be a ‘slow down’ button? The audio is too fast.
And why can’t you do it so that I only have to click a word on my iPad and a translation will pop up?
And why are there always such depressing news stories? You wrote about Ukraine last year, do we have to hear it again?
Also, you should tell the truth: Covid vaccines are a plot to enslave citizens, Trump won the election, Jews control the world economy!
My answer to these questions is usually some variation on “It’s not for that.”
Want to transition from the point at which authentic news bulletins are too hard for you, to the point at which they’re still hard, but no longer completely unmanageable?
We created this to help you.
Want something else?
Then, by all means, go elsewhere to find it.
Or, if you persist in using the wrong tool for the job you have in mind, like using a hammer to get beer out of a bottle, go right ahead.
But do please resist the urge to write and tell me about it.
N.b. The club website has masses of SHORT listening extracts. They aren’t hard to find. Play them as often as you wish. Again and again, until the end of time, or until you vomit out of sheer boredom. Whichever comes first.
But EasyItalianNews.com isn’t for that.
They publish three new bulletins each week, so a hundred and fifty-six eight-minute recordings with transcripts each year, for FREE.
There’s no need to hoard them, no need to try and understand every word, no need to listen to every single word again, and again, and again, and again, until you can hear it ‘properly’.
Follow the tips on the Advice page, and leave me in peace.
Thursday’s FREE bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news is here.
P.P.S. Turandot-25% Final Reminder
Don’t forget, the launch offer on this week’s new ‘easy reader’ ebook, a simplified version of Giacomo Puccini’s famous opera Turandot, ends Sunday night.
First performed in Milan in 1926, only after Puccini’s death from cancer, the story is set in a mythical Peking, capital of China. The ferocious, but fantastically beautiful Chinese princess, Turandot, daugher of the aged emperor, is set on avenging an ancestor who was kidnapped by a foreign prince. With the reluctant agreement of her father, she sets a condition for her own marriage: any man who wishes to marry her must come to the palace and beat a gong, then answer three riddles. If he succeeds, he wins a bride, and an empire! But those who cannot answer her riddles correctly will have their heads chopped off, already the fate of many would-be suitors…
Begin with this ‘easy reader’ ebook before watching the actual opera, or simply use this original Italian reading/listening practice material to add a little variety to your study program.
- .pdf e-book (+ audio available free online)
- .mobi (Kindle-compatible) and .epub (other ebook readers) available on request at no extra charge – just add a note to the order form or email us
- 6 chapters (based on Puccini’s Act/Scene structure) to read and listen to
- Comprehension questions to check your understanding
- Italian/English glossary of ‘difficult’ terms for the level
- Suitable for students at intermediate level or above
- Download your Free Sample Chapter (.pdf)
Buy Turandot (B1/B2), £5.99 | Free Sample Chapter (.pdf) | Opera | Catalog
How do I access my ebooks?
When your order is ‘completed’ (normally immediately after your payment), a download link will be automatically emailed to you. It’s valid for 7 days and 3 download attempts so please save a copy of the .pdf ebook in a safe place. Other versions of the ebook, where available, cannot be downloaded but will be emailed to people who request them. There’s a space to do that on the order form – where it says Additional information, Order notes (optional). If you forget, or if you have problems downloading the .pdf, don’t worry! Email us at the address on the website and we’ll help. Also, why not check out our FAQ?
OnlineItalianClub.com | EasyItalianNews.com | EasyReaders.org (ebooks) | NativeSpeakerTeachers.com (1-1 lessons)
I read an article on a website that re-iterates what you say about listening and reading rather than doing grammar rules and conjugations.
It involves A.I., a computer that “reads” everything and eventually can make sentences without knowing any grammar rules.
Here’s the site it came from.
It’s pretty obvious when you think about it, and especially if you have a small child around to observe. However, the detate on how children learn their first language is fairly ‘academic’, in the sense that they almost always just do.
When it comes to learning a second language though, there are real-world payoffs, in terms of designing syllabuses, learning materials, and so on, more effectively.
Kids in Italian schools get, at the very minimum, many hundreds of hours of English teaching during their school years, with poor results. Yet stick them in front of an English language TV series or video game and they just suck it in.
But teachers need to ‘teach’, so education systems are slow or impossible to change.
Adult learners, on the other hand, and especially if they already failed to learn a language at school, are free to learn in a more content-orientated, meaningful way. If they so choose!