How to use

Anita says:
You are right about not looking up the words – I used to do that and had lists and lists of words and the translations. Did I remember them? No!! So now I don’t do it.

Jose says:
I also used to look up every word I did not understand, which made it difficult to read Italian texts. Now I am following your advice and doing much better. is based on a site I used for my own language learning (not Italian) and which, once I’d got used to the odd formatting, I got into the habit of reading and listening to every day.

Within a few months, my comprehension of spoken and written texts had improved considerably, though I still didn’t understand everything I heard and read.

No matter – listening and reading each day gave me the exposure to the language I’m learning that I wouldn’t otherwise have had, perhaps hundreds of hours in total.

And these days I read ‘real’ newspapers, and listen to ‘real’ radio. I still don’t understand everything, but I’m used to that.

Why you shouldn’t look up unknown words before you read/listen

Anita and Jose realised that checking all the words they didn’t know was a bad idea. Here are some reasons why:

  • Using a dictionary each time you encounter a word you don’t know is unrealistic. You can’t stop and look things up when you’re watching TV or having a conversation. Or in an exam.
  • As preparation for using Italian ‘in real time’, you’ll need practice figuring out the big picture from the fragments of speech and text you manage to make sense of. That’s basically what this site is for.
  • Time you spend looking words up is time you are NOT spending listening and reading, probably to the detriment of your progress…
  • A lot of the unknown words might be infrequent anyway. So learning them would be a poor investment of your time and energy.
  • And the ones which ARE frequent? Those you’ll see again, soon. And each time you encounter them, your chance of working out what they mean increases. Some words are stubborn and hard to learn, but with a lot of them, given enough examples, one day the meaning will just pop into your head!

How to use

If you have a low level in Italian and don’t read or listen much, this is what I recommend you do to build good habits:

  1. Listen the first time while following the text. Don’t pause the audio. Your aim is to get to the end, that’s all.
  2. Now do that again. Try and concentrate more this time, but if you don’t understand something (or everything!) that’s fine. It’s doing you good anyway. Be cool.
  3. The third (and final) time, try listening WITHOUT the text. You should have some memory of the content, or at least the general topics. The pictures and known information (names of people and places, for example) will help you orientate yourself. Listen and don’t worry about not-understanding. In a way, that’s the point. To get used to that feeling. It’ll stand you in good stead one day…
  4. Now stop. Go do something else. Drinking beer is fun.
  5. Do the same with the next edition of Currently we publish each Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. Make a note in your diary. Or, if you’d like to get each edition via email (it’s free), fill in the form in the sidebar of the site and it’ll be sent to you as soon as it is published.

Obvious variations on the above include:

If you can read the texts with little difficulty but want to work on your listening, then start by just listening, without the transcript. When you’ve squeezed as much out of the audio as you can, listen WITH the transcript (it helps a lot!)

If you don’t feel comfortable reading in Italian, read and listen once, following the pace of the audio. It gets you to the end quickly. Then go back to the start and read the text again, this time without the audio. You could set yourself a time-limit, and gradually reduce it each time you read a new edition. N.b. avoid looking up words in a dictionary…

If you’re the super-confident type, pick one or two stories that interest you and follow the links below them to read the original material. It’ll be harder, but that’s not a bad thing. A combination of simplified and ‘authentic’ reading and listening can work well for some people.