Learn Italian by listening to songs? (Case Study)

Over the past months, I have conducted an experiment: I’ve been teaching Italian using a new approach I personally designed, based on listening to songs (I’m a native Italian tutor).

I did this because I know every student’s dream is to be fluent and master conversation with native Italian speakers… but when they try to engage in a real conversation, they are able to understand very little or nothing of what they hear, because native speakers speak too fast.

This happens to many students, even to the most advanced ones.

This is why I had been thinking for a while about how I could help them to improve their listening skills…and that’s how I ended up creating a new approach to learn Italian based on listening to songs.

I’ve conducted my experiment on the language learning platform italki.

It lasted 12 months and it involved dozens of students from all over the world, for a total of more than 900 60-minute individual lessons.

I tested my method with students from the United States, Canada, Australia, Korea, Brazil, United Kingdom, China, France, Saudi Arabia, Malaysia and Norway.

In this post, I’ll share with you the results of this experiment, and also the “pros” and “cons” of this new approach based on listening to songs to become fluent in Italian.

But first, why Italian learners struggle to understand what native Italian speakers say?

The problem is native speakers speak very fast… so fast that you can hear what they say but your brain can’t associate those sounds with any word.

And it doesn’t matter if you know hundreds of words or grammar rules: if your mind can’t link those sounds to the words, all those rules and vocabulary are useless.

The majority of Italian learners suffer from this problem simply because classical methods to learn Italian don’t teach you how to associate the sounds you hear with the words you know.

That’s the problem: associating sounds to words.

So I asked myself if there was a way to help my students develop this skill…and I found it: listening to songs is the perfect way to train your brain to recognize the sounds of the Italian language!

I’ve tested this method with dozens of students. It works.

This new approach has many “pros”, such as:

  • Being enjoyable and engaging
  • Being effortless
  • You can use it in any moment of the day and in every situation

But there are some “cons” too…

The first one is that not every song works well for this purpose. I had to choose carefully which songs to use in my lessons, because:

  • Some songs are extremely fast, so it’s too difficult for the student to understand them
  • Some singers use vocal effects that alter their voices, or they have a strong accent that makes it difficult for students to understand them
  • Other songs have very long lyrics that can easily make students feel overwhelmed because they are flooded with too many new words.

So, to overcome these problems, I devoted a lot of time and effort to the search of the right songs to use: they had to be clear, not too long, and not too fast.

I also selected some songs specifically for my beginner students (many of them are absolute beginners), and I selected others for intermediate students. I wanted every song to be challenging and motivating for the student, neither too easy nor too complex.

Another “con” of this approach based on songs is that it is indeed extremely effective, but it’s not enough by itself to really learn a language: being able to listen and understand another language is not that useful if you are not able to express your thoughts into words too.

This is why in my lessons I integrated listening to songs with dedicated grammar and pronunciation study sessions.  By doing this, I saw my students making huge improvements in every skill: listening, pronunciation and building sentences to express themselves.

After 12 months and more than 900 lessons with students from all over the world, these are the conclusions I’ve come to:

  • Listening to songs is the perfect way to train your brain to recognize the sounds of the Italian language
  • It works for both absolute beginners and intermediate students (if you use the right songs for each student)
  • It’s enjoyable and engaging: music keeps your enthusiasm high and motivates you to keep learning
  • Listening to songs is effective but it’s not enough by itself: you do need to integrate it with grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation. The experience with my students proved that, by combining those 4 skills together, you definitely get the most potent and effective system to learn a language!

If you too are learning Italian and you would like to try out this new approach, you can either:

  1. Book one-on-one Italian tutoring lessons with me via Skype (here’s how to book a trial lesson for just $1 instead of $19.50 – the lesson is conducted on Skype and lasts 60 minutes)
  2. Or you can take my Italian online program to learn Italian by yourself, at your own pace, whenever and wherever you want

I can’t wait to have you among my students!

Valentina Stella,

Native Italian Tutor

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