Over at our sister website, EasyItalianNews.com, we regularly get people commenting that the simplified news bulletins would be even more simple if it were possible to stop the audio after each mini-news story, ‘rewind’ and listen to that segment again, and again, until each has been fully understood.
Which is true, but is entirely besides the point. The entire purpose of EasyItalianNews.com is to train its users to listen to ‘long-form’ audio, such as news broadcasts on TV or radio, WITHOUT having to pause all the time, listen again, look things up in the dictionary, and so on.
There are lots of websites that offer listening material with transcripts, including our very own OnlineItalianClub.com, which has an entire index of listening material organised by level. Level-graded material is perfect for people who want to work on building their listening skills. Start easy, build up gradually, level by level. Bu that’s a DIFFERENT process.
‘Long-form’ broadcasts are not aimed at a general student of Italian who wants to improve her listening skills, for the obvious reasons that they are not graded to a specific level (so could be too easy or too hard), and that they are LONG – seven to ten minutes on average. Which is much too long for most students at most levels, unless they are specifically training for long-form listening tasks…
There’s an explanation of how you should use EasyItalianNews.com on the ‘Advice‘ page. Read it, disagree with it if you will, but do me the favour of not writing to me to suggest ways of making it ‘easier’, or more suited to people who have some entirely different purpose, or who have unsophisticated attitudes to their own learning.
Summary: long-form listening in Italian (like authentic TV or radio news broadcasts) is going to be harder, so ideally you’ll need to build your skills before tackling it. If you are lucky enough to have access to suitable practice material, FOR FREE, complaining that it’s not structured for an entirely different purpose is, well, rather silly.
Which brings me to this week’s TWO ‘eBook of the Week’ offers!
In an irritated mood this morning, after having approved yet more of the website comments alluded to above, I decided to pick out a couple of ‘easy Italian readers’ that are, in terms of their level, ‘easy’ but relate the stories of classics of Italian film and literature that are quite definitively difficult. Take that!
We get reviews along the lines of ‘This was a very confusing movie, with no real plot’ and ‘This novel is very long and difficult to read’. Well yes, exactly! Fellini (an Italian director, if you didn’t know) is famously difficult. Everything he did was difficult. Twenty or more years ago, when I watched ‘La dolce vita’, I was expecting to be entertained with beautiful actresses and tales of the hedonism I was missing out on. Instead I was challenged, confused, and perhaps eventually provoked to appreciate that a movie can be more than what I thought I’d be getting when I’d paid for my ticket, or DVD in this case.
Ditto with last spring’s ‘Book clubs’, when we read various classics of Italian literature together, either the simplified versions, or the originals for those who were up for a challenge (both in my case, though I was initially unenthusiastic…)
‘Difficult’, like Fellini’s films, indeed they were. Also long, boring in places, but yet, once a certain point was reached, I found them all utterly, utterly memorable. All of the novels I read during the first lockdown have stayed with me. All were tough-going at the time (I confess, I didn’t finish ‘I promessi sposi’ in the original, as the lockdown had ended by then…)
‘Difficult’ is the point, you see. Most of you probably already knew that, but for those who didn’t (and I include my recent self in that latter group), be aware that ‘easy’ is likely to be glib, superficial and forgettable, whereas ‘difficult’ may be unfamililar, a challenge but ultimately satisfying.
Not difficult for the sake of it, of course, but difficult as in new, as in ground-breaking, as in unlike anything you’ve watched or read before.
So yes, this week’s ‘eBooks of the week’ are confusing and hard – that’s the point. Really I should be charging you double the usual price, rather than half…
Directed by the brilliant Federico Fellini, ‘Amarcord’ is a masterpiece of Italian movie history. The title means “I remember” in dialect. The movie is Fellini’s heartfelt homage to his hometown, Rimini. Through the eyes of Titta – the young protagonist – we meet some of Rimini’s characters and live through a typical year in the town’s life in the early 1930s.
Italo Svevo’s self-published 1923 novel takes the form of memoirs written by his protagonist, Zeno, a sick young man who is undergoing the new therapy of psychoanalysis and writing down his thoughts – on the instructions of his doctor, who later betrays him – as part of that process.
Follow poor Zeno as he explores his addictive personality, acquires a wife and later a lover, grieves for his dead father, fails at business, and eventually, many years later comes to the realisation that…
N.b. Both of these are approximately the same level, around an intermediate, which makes them much ‘easier’ than the original movie/book, which is of course the point.
However, if your level is much better, why not go directly to the originals? The text for the novel is available free online, though the film is still rights-protected, so might be harder to find…
And if you’ve still taking the first faltering steps with your Italian? Then check out our Catalog page, where you’ll find everything we have to buy, listed by type and in level order.
But why BUY anything? We have masses of free stuff, thousands of pages in total. Go explore!