My (Italian) wife speaks excellent English.
Like really, really well.
Americans tell her she has a British accent (though they aren’t being complimentary…)
However, when as a family we sit down to watch the latest thrills on Netflix, she insists on having the subtitles on.
Otherwise she “doesn’t understand”.
Becoming this sub-title-dependent is not a good thing.
‘Understanding’ is, in any case, a subjective thing.
You’ll never understand everything you hear, even in your own language, and certainly not in a foreign tongue.
So why worry?
The earlier you get used to it, the better.
That said, subtitles are indubitably useful.
If they’re available, I tend to use them.
Why, given what I’ve said above?
- because they make me feel confident
- because seeing the words written down helps me remember them
- because it’s great for consolidating my grammar. I see, for example, a passive form and think: “Ah, yes..!”
However, when subtitles are not an option, I’m equanimous:
- life doesn’t have subtitles, right?
- seeing the written words shifts my focus away from ‘pure’ listening. Without them, I concentrate better on what I am hearing
- human brains are programed to fill in any gaps in what we hear, but that skill takes time to develop
So, to subtitle or not to subtitle, that is the question!
Well, in a typical day, I’ll try to include BOTH types of listening.
Which rather hedges my bets.
And interestingly, paying attention to the mental processes involved, it feels that neither is necessarily ‘harder’.
They’re just different.
Reading, after all, is reading.
And listening, with no text support, is listening, even in a foreign language.
Doing both at the same time is a rather unusual experience which feels like neither entirely one thing or the other.
Why are we talking about this today?
In part because of the feedback I got from club members about Monday’s post, the one about watching the news on TV.
Working along the spectrum of your suggestions, from ‘pure listening’ to ‘supported listening’, Javier and Lisa both suggested Italian radio.
Javier recommended RaiPlay Radio. There are ten channels to choose from.
My wife likes Radio 2, which to me is garbage. I like to listen to GrParlamento while I’m driving. That channel specialises in live parliamentary debates, which are not nearly as mad as you’d imagine, given the dsytopic state of Italian politics.
Lisa suggested http://italia.fm/. I found that site rather slow to load and advert-heavy. But it does provide an overview of, and gateway to, Italian f.m. radio stations. Pick a few and discover the channels’ own sites, which are likely to be more professional and faster..
Clearly though, just as on the Internet no one need find out you’re really a dog, with radio you’re unlikely to see a subtitle button to press. The written word is irrelevant – listening is the whole point!
That’s less true for the next suggestion. Alan wrote in to tell us that “there is a RAI News app that includes the latest written news stories and some videos. So, good for reading and you can run the video news item many times to catch the meaning.”
Fair enough. If you’re into apps, that’s something to take a look at. And it’ll have more text than radio, at least.
Andy, who’s been a club member since the year dot, emailed to remind me that Italian is also an official language in Switzerland, and that therefore RSI (Radiotelevisione Svizzera Italiana) should be worth a look.
This was a first for me, but yes, why not?
The site covers both TV and radio, so all bases really. And Swiss Italian seems basically the same as Italian Italian (better probably, but don’t tell anyone here I said that…)
Talking of Switzerland, Leslie, who lives there, wrote in with the URL of a site that promotes language courses across the country in the four national languages.
They have an Italian podcast, she wrote.
And there are loads of them!
And they’re rather good!
Do take a look, she urged.
So I did.
And she was right.
The podcast is called ‘Al dente (Italiano)‘, the brackets in case you were to confuse it with Albrecht Dente, the Swiss-German speaking sausage-manufacturer, or Albert Dentè, the Swiss-French brand of luxury watches.
To take a look, click here.
I picked a recent podcast to listen to:
On the right of the page there’s a control panel to play the audio.
I spent ten minutes clicking on > and cursing.
>> must be a Swiss thing.
For everyone else in the world it means ‘fast-forward’ but in the Alps it stands for “Hit me with the podcast, Alberto”.
So now you know: click the >> to play the podcast, not the more obvious > button.
As the audio unfurls, the words you hear are highlighted in pink in the transcript on the left-hand side of the screen, which is handy.
You can print the transcript, too. Press the ‘Stampa il testo’ button, which you’ll find under the audio controls.
So thanks for that, Leslie, and everyone for your suggestions, published here or otherwise.
Buono studio a tutti.
Cavolo, nearly forgot to try and sell something to pay the club’s bills. Bet you can tell, my heart’s not really in it, today.