Italian Listening Practice Made Easy: Essential Tools and Strategies (2023)

When I went on a study trip to Berlin in August 2013, little did I know that I would have had a hard time understanding native German speakers. The language sounded different to me, what-kind-of-sorcery-is-this different. I had a crisis every time a cashier told me my total! I had only ever learned the language through standard courses.

The same problem applies to Italian listening skills.

Why is Italian listening practice so important?

It is essential that your Italian listening practice includes many sources and many different media, because if you rely too much on Italian language courses or don’t put much effort into listening, you will have trouble understanding natives when you finally get out of your comfort zone and listen to people who are not professional speakers.

The standard Italian accent in language courses is also used on TV and in dubbing, but not in everyday life. People slur words, background noise can overlap voices. In everyday life, everything is so fast that you can’t tell whether a person is talking or a machine gun is firing.

Understanding Italian can be difficult, but don’t fret. In this article, I’ll cover many Italian listening practice activities and resources to train your ear to the natural flow of the language!

Tips and resources for a successful Italian listening practice

Quality, not quantity. How often have you heard this expression? But when it comes to listening to Italian, quantity is just as important as quality.

Think about it: when you listen to your native language, you don’t really make an effort to understand all the words. You have been listening to this language for years and your brain has become accustomed to hearing certain fixed structures: have you been…? how many…? or I would like a glass of water. This is because you’ve heard the same sentence hundreds of times already. So listen to as much material as you can.

That said, let’s see what resources you can use for your Italian listening practice.

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A passive background noise is better than nothing

As you know, it takes months for a baby to utter a sound. Children learn their native language by imitating adults. They listen to adults for months before they can form complete words and sentences.

Even though mimicry abilities are at their peak during the childhood years, one of your main Italian listening practice activities should focus on keeping Italian shows, movies, and music in the background while you’re busy doing other things.

A great resource for passive Italian listening practice is podcasts, such as those from Coffee Break Italian and ItalianPod101. You can also keep some Italian YouTube channels in the background, like:

  • Learn Italian with Lucrezia (learning; vlogs and subtitled videos to learn Italian)
  • yotobi (comedy, no subs; his older videos featuring reviews for bad books and movies are gold)
  • Ratorix (funny videos, no subs)

Use Italian audiobooks

This is another simple activity you can include in your Italian listening practice. If you enjoy long drives or have to commute to work, take advantage of audiobooks. You can subscribe to a service like Audible, which has thousands of Italian audiobooks available.

I recommend that you listen to audiobooks that you are already familiar with in your native language. Listen to books that you are sure you will enjoy.

Listen carefully, then repeat

You should start listening to Italian from day one. In the beginning, it’s perfectly fine and recommended to focus only on clean, slow Italian recordings with professional speakers and no background noise. This is because you need to learn how to pronounce the sounds.

If you are still having trouble pronouncing Italian, the first step in your Italian listening practice should be to listen to slow audio and repeat it. Record your voice, listen to yourself and notice how your pronunciation differs from the original, then work on the differences.

Double the speed!

Imagine this scenario: a friend of yours has just sent you a 10-minute audio on WhatsApp. I bet your first reaction is often the same as mine: Oh, come on! Then you play the recording at twice its original speed.

Do the same with your favorite standard Italian recordings to get a taste of how they might sound in everyday speech. Fire up an application like the free VLC Media Player, available for both desktop and mobile devices, which allows you to speed up any audio or video without distorting the pitch (you can also slow it down!). See if you can still hear every word, and listen as many times as you like.

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Remember: Italian only sounds fast because you are not used to hearing it in real life.

If there’s silence around you, make some noise

More than anything else, audio recordings of standard Italian courses are artificial because they often have no background noise. If you are not used to having some background noise during your Italian listening practice, you will have serious trouble understanding what an Italian cashier or bartender might be asking you.

You should work in a quiet environment while you are learning to pronounce the language, but then you should immediately work on listening with some background noise.

You don’t want to choose a recording that’s too difficult for your level, but you also don’t want to choose something that’s too easy on your ear because you won’t learn anything from it. Listening should always be a conscious effort, unless you’re listening passively, in which case any recording will do.

Listen to Italian radio, watch movies and TV programs

Listen to Italian radio channels in the background. Watch a lot of Italian movies, and if you have to use subtitles, make sure they are in Italian.

Movies are great to use during your Italian listening practice, but my tip is to also watch Italian programs such as quiz shows like Chi vuol essere milionario? (Who Wants to be a Millionaire?), which is available in many clips on Youtube, and telegiornali, the news (telegiornale literally translates as “TV newspaper”).

A popular news program is Studio Aperto, which focuses more on pop culture, while if you want something more serious you can stream SkyTG24 online. There’s also a language quiz show I like called Lingo, which is basically the Italian live version of Wordle and is great for learning new words!

In general, you should focus on programs with many contestants from different parts of Italy, so watch quiz shows and the news. When journalists interview people on the street for a TV report, their language is as natural as possible. You will be exposed to a wide variety of accents.

Listen to Italian music… and write down the lyrics

Listening to music is not only a great passive Italian listening practice, but it’s also very useful for improving your understanding of Italian.

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Because music has a lot of background noise (the music track itself), understanding the words is difficult. For more active listening, here’s a tip: you can practice writing down all the words you think you hear in a song, and then compare your notes to the official lyrics. If there are gaps in your notes, ask yourself why you didn’t hear that word.

You can start with a few songs by Francesco Gabbani, then you can move on to the internationally famous Maneskin. If you want to listen to very catchy older songs with clean vocals, check out 883. One of their songs, Hanno ucciso l’Uomo Ragno, was a hit when it was released in 1992. You can find many songs for free on YouTube and Spotify.

Even better, watch videos of the annual Italian music competition in Sanremo and listen to what the hosts say during the show!

Apps for Italian listening practice

Apps are great for Italian listening practice. They rely on gamification, so you won’t get bored easily. Here are some suggestions.


LyricsTraining turns listening to lyrics into a fun game where you fill in the missing words of a song. There’s a web version and a mobile app, so you can take it with you wherever you go. There are quite a few songs available, so give this app a try!

Depending on your level, you can also choose the percentage of the lyrics you are asked to fill in (starting from 10% at beginner level and 100% of the lyrics at expert level). If you have trouble understanding a word while the song is playing, the app will automatically stop the video and play it again as soon as you fill in the word.


Clozemaster is an app that lets you do cloze exercises (fill-in-the-blank exercises, just like LyricsTraining) through sentences of increasing difficulty. What makes it different from other apps is that it focuses on contextual learning: you don’t learn single words without context, but common sentences.

If you want to improve your listening skills, you can use the cloze-listening feature, which uses text-to-speech technology to let you listen to a sentence and then type in a missing word. There is an even more useful feature called Cloze Listening (with capital letters), where you can listen to sentences recorded by native speakers. This is a tool you can’t do without in your Italian listening practice.

Signing up is completely free, and you will get a number of free sentences to practice every day. If you are a serious learner, I recommend getting a Pro subscription. It’s cheap and gives you access to unlimited practice.

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Duolingo is the #1 language app in the world, but it’s pretty weak when it comes to Italian listening practice, and it’s not really useful after you reach an intermediate level. The voices are slow and may not sound completely natural. However, there’s one really useful feature: Duolingo stories. They feature real-life situations and high-quality audio. You have to fill in the blanks and do comprehension exercises, so they force you to listen actively.

Duolingo is completely free to use, but if you want to remove the ads, you can subscribe for a monthly fee.

Italian listening practice: Wrapping up

As you have seen, there are many resources you can use in your Italian listening practice. Whatever resource you use, remember to be consistent. And if you feel like you’re not making enough progress, also remember that learning a language takes time!

Looking to start improving your Italian listening skills right away? Check out this 30-minute YouTube video packed with spoken Italian sentences, perfect for honing your listening comprehension.

Have fun studying! Buono studio!

Learn Italian faster with Clozemaster 🚀

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Clozemasterhas been designed to help you learn the language in context by filling in the gaps in authentic sentences. With features such as Grammar Challenges, Cloze-Listening, and Cloze-Reading, the app will let you emphasize all the competencies necessary to become fluent in Italian.

Take your Italian to the next level. Click here to start practicing with real Italian sentences!


Can I learn Italian by listening? ›

If you don't have an adequate level, watching any Italian audio source without understanding most of it (say 70%), won't help you to learn the language naturally. Instead, it would help your natural language acquisition by listening to an audio source that is a little bit above your level.

How can I learn Italian fast on my own? ›

  1. Put new words into practice. How fast can you learn Italian? ...
  2. Master the pronunciation first. ...
  3. Language immersion. ...
  4. Listen to Italian music and podcasts. ...
  5. Watch Italian movies and TV shows. ...
  6. Make your learning practical. ...
  7. Read Italian children's books. ...
  8. Follow the Italian news.
Jul 10, 2022

How can I improve my listening practice? ›

How can you improve your active listening skills?
  1. Consider eye contact. ...
  2. Be alert, but not intense. ...
  3. Pay attention to nonverbal signs, such as body language and tone. ...
  4. Make a mental image of what the speaker is saying. ...
  5. Empathise with the speaker. ...
  6. Provide feedback. ...
  7. Keep an open mind.
Mar 9, 2022

Can you become fluent in Italian in 3 months? ›

Pretend you are learning Italian as a full-time job — actively studying for 8 hours a day. You would reach the necessary 480 hours of study at this pace in 60 days, approximately 2 months. For a group 2–4 language, you would be looking at around 3 months to reach basic fluency.

How quickly can you be fluent in Italian? ›

How Long Does It Take To Become Fluent in a Language? There's no definitive answer to this question since it depends on each learner's language proficiency, motivation, and learning style. However, on average, it takes around 500 hours of study to achieve a solid “basic fluency” level in Italian.

Is Duolingo enough to learn Italian? ›

If you don't speak any other foreign languages and you want to have some fun learning new words in another language, then Duolingo might be a good option. However, if want you to want to become fluent and be able to talk to Italians, then Duolingo is not enough.

What's the best free app to learn Italian? ›

Duolingo is the best free app to learn Italian because it offers a comprehensive course that includes vocabulary, grammar, and all communication skills. It's ad-supported, and sometimes the ads can interrupt your learning, but it's a great app overall.

What is the first step to learn Italian? ›

Start with the alphabet and sound system

Unlike many other languages, Italian pronunciation rules are consistent. Most words are spoken the way they are written. The exceptions are few, so once you learn the rules, you'll be able to talk and read with confidence.

How can I learn Italian easily for free? ›

The five easy ways to learn Italian for free include listening to Italian audio, reading Italian short stories, studying Italian grammar lessons, taking an online Italian test, and following an Italian language blog.

What are the 5 skills for improved listening? ›

Make sure to:
  • Maintain eye contact and face the speaker to give them your attention.
  • Don't be judgmental while listening.
  • Don't interrupt the speaker.
  • Employ active listening techniques.
  • Think about what the other person is saying and not what you should respond with.
Dec 5, 2022

What are 3 ways to build good listening skills? ›

Ways to improve your listening skills
  • Maintain eye contact with the speaker. ...
  • Visualize what the speaker is saying. ...
  • Limit judgments. ...
  • Don't interrupt. ...
  • Wait for a pause to ask questions. ...
  • Ask clarifying questions. ...
  • Empathize with the speaker. ...
  • Pay attention to nonverbal cues.
Feb 3, 2023

Do Italians speak faster? ›

Italians are some of the fastest speakers on the planet, chattering at up to nine syllables per second. Many Germans, on the other hand, are slow enunciators, delivering five to six syllables in the same amount of time.

Which is easier to learn Spanish or Italian? ›

To sum up, while Italian is easier in terms of pronunciation, Spanish is simpler in terms of grammar. It seems this Italian vs Spanish thing is not as easy as we thought it would be. If you speak English, Spanish will be definitively easier than Italian for you because there are more similarities.

Which language is harder Italian or French? ›

All in all, difficulty probably shouldn't be a major factor in your decision, because they're fairly equal in that regard. But you'll probably find that Italian is slightly easier than French. Grammar-wise, they're fairly similar in complexity.

What is the hardest language to learn for Italian speakers? ›

French. French is more difficult for Italian speakers to understand and learn than Spanish. That being said, French is also a Romance language and has several similarities with Italian, including the way verbs are conjugated and the variation of nouns according to gender and number.

How many words is considered fluent in Italian? ›

As for purely domestic Italian vocabulary, you will need about 3,000 words to communicate with native Italian speakers. This will enable you to hold a conversation on general topics, and once you are able to speak about simple things, you can increase your level of knowledge to 5,000-6,000.

How many words does the average Italian person know? ›

But have no fear. Italians with medium-high education have a vocabulary of around 47,000 words. That number is even lower for the words that make up basic Italian communication.

Which is better Babbel or Duolingo? ›

The biggest difference between Babbel and Duolingo is the approach to language learning. Babbel is a better option if you want traditional language instructions through modules and lessons. By contrast, Duolingo works great if you need a playful, gamified experience.

What level of Italian is Duolingo? ›

By itself, Duolingo's Italian course could probably get you to an A2 level in reading and listening (so long as you're doing enough passive learning as well).

What level of Italian does Duolingo get you to? ›

At Duolingo, we're developing our courses to get you to a level called B2, at which you can get a job in the language you're studying. Reaching that kind of proficiency requires dedication, varied practice opportunities, and a lot of time.

How do you train language listening skills? ›

How to Improve Listening Skills in a Foreign Language
  1. Know What You're Listening For. ...
  2. Set Language Listening Goals. ...
  3. Practice Active Listening. ...
  4. Use Passive Listening. ...
  5. Do Plenty of Extensive Listening. ...
  6. Utilize Different Audio Pacing. ...
  7. Use Visuals for Extra Impact. ...
  8. Combine Listening and Reading.
Jan 2, 2023

What should I listen to when learning Italian? ›

Italian Podcasts For Language Learners
  • News in Slow Italian. ...
  • Caterpillar. ...
  • 4 Verticale. ...
  • Learn Italian With Music. ...
  • La Bottega di Babbel. ...
  • Senza Rosetto. ...
  • La Linguacciuta. ...
  • Camposanto.
Jan 29, 2022

How can I become conversationally fluent in Italian? ›

Speak fluent Italian with confidence: 7 top tips
  1. Listen to Italian music. Music is a great way to help us remember. ...
  2. Feed your brain. ...
  3. Make Italian your lingua franca. ...
  4. Make mistakes. ...
  5. Talk to your pet in Italian. ...
  6. Bring Italy to you. ...
  7. Build a routine.

What are the five techniques for teaching listening skills? ›

Here are five ways that I got my students to actively listen that summer.
  • Get to Know Your Students. ...
  • Create Simple Commands. ...
  • Listen More and Talk Less. ...
  • Give Students a Listening Task. ...
  • Listen for a Purpose. ...
  • 5 REALISTIC Ways for Teachers to Get Healthier This Year.

What are the six techniques for effective listening? ›

10 tips for active listening
  • Face the speaker and have eye contact. ...
  • “Listen” to non-verbal cues too. ...
  • Don't interrupt. ...
  • Listen without judging, or jumping to conclusions. ...
  • Don't start planning what to say next. ...
  • Show that you're listening. ...
  • Don't impose your opinions or solutions. ...
  • Stay focused.

What are the nine 9 ways to improve listening skills? ›

These nine steps will help improve your listening skills:
  • Stop talking. It's the first and most important step. ...
  • Listen to understand, not to respond. Let's admit it: We're all tempted to finish off a person's thoughts to contribute our own. ...
  • Mute the monkey. ...
  • Put devices away. ...
  • Show 'em. ...
  • Clarify. ...
  • Engage. ...
  • Respond.
Jul 20, 2021

What are the 3 A's of active listening? ›

Listening is a conscious activity based on three basic skills: attitude, attention, and adjustment. These skills are known collectively as triple-A listening. Maintain a constructive attitude: a positive attitude paves the way for open-mindedness.

What are the 3 R's of active listening? ›

The art of active listening is based on the three Rs: Repeat, Reflect, Respond: Repeat: Repeating the things we've been told demonstrates, at the very least, that we're attuned to what we're hearing.

What are 5 qualities of a good listener? ›

12 Traits of an Effective Listener
  • Listens without distractions.
  • Keeps eyes on the speaker to communicate interest.
  • Concentrates on what's being said.
  • Doesn't pre-judge the message(s)
  • Avoids interrupting.
  • Interjects only to enhance understanding using “what” and “how” questions.
  • Summarizes for clarity.
Jun 25, 2019

What is the hardest thing about learning Italian? ›

  1. Complicated Conjugations. Italian verbs are conjugated for person and number, meaning that verbs take numerous different forms depending on who the subject is. ...
  2. Numerous Verb Tenses. As stated before, Italian verbs are conjugated by person and number. ...
  3. Confusing Pronoun Rules. ...
  4. Exceptions Galore. ...
  5. Rolling Your Rs.
Nov 18, 2020

What should I learn first when learning Italian? ›

To learn Italian we suggest you start with:
  • The alphabet. No matter which language you are studying, you always have to learn its alphabet first. ...
  • The numbers. ...
  • Greetings and introducing yourself. ...
  • Date and hour. ...
  • The weather. ...
  • The articles. ...
  • The adjectives. ...
  • The verbs and their conjugations.
Oct 6, 2021

What is the 80 20 rule language learning Italian? ›

This means that if you know the most basic and commonly used 3,000 words in a language, you should be able to understand 80% of a conversation. We can assume that, in most cases, context would be enough to understand the remaining 20%.

What level of Italian is considered fluent? ›


Can express him/herself fluently and spontaneously without much obvious searching for expressions. Can use language flexibly and effectively for social, academic and professional purposes.

What is the easiest Italian accent to learn? ›

As we mentioned above, standard Italian is based on Tuscan, more exactly Florentine, so it is an easy dialect to get the hang of. It spread through the country as the language of the arts, with famous Florentine writers like Dante Alighieri or Niccolo Machiavelli hailing from the city.

How many years does it take to learn Italian fluently? ›

However, on average, it takes around 500 hours of study to achieve a solid “basic fluency” level in Italian. Of course, you can learn more or less depending on how much time and effort you put into your studies.


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