Italian listening comprehension

An Italian listening comprehension exercise: “La casa perfetta”

Understanding Italians when they’re talking can really be a nightmare. You never know what they’re talking about, they speak too fast and you lose track of the conversation before you even realize it. Why is this even happening? You know some words, after all.

You should be able to pick them up.

Well, not exactly. You see, our first language sound system tricks us all the time. If nobody ever taught you how words truly sound in Italian, you will be tempted to pronounce them like you would pronounce them with the sounds of your first language.

Similarly, you would expect to hear Italian words as you would pronounce them, with your first language sound system. And when that doesn’t happen… well, here is where expectation doesn’t meet reality. And, you guessed it, your head turns into a minestrone.

This is why I decided to create a sample sequence to help you with that.

In the next lines, you’re going to find an Italian listening comprehension task that will help you become aware of how words truly sound in Italian and have a better idea of what you can expect when you hear Italians talking.

Please, don’t take this sequence as a substitute for a lesson with a teacher. Nothing can replace feedback. This is just an extra tool to give you more knowledge and more awareness of how Italians sound during their conversations.

Having said that, let’s get started!

Useful words to help you listen

These are some of the words that you will find in the short recording that you’re going to hear.

  • Luminosa = bright
  • La camera da letto = bedroom
  • Il salotto = living room
  • Prendere il sole = (to) sunbathe
  • Quando fa bello = when its’ nice (when the weather is nice)

Here is what to do with them: if you don’t know them, you can create a mental picture for each of them, or you can write a sentence for each word, or even a short story with all of them. If you want, you can also make a gesture that will help you remember those wods.

Listen and complete

Let’s not get practical. Here are a few sentences taken from the audio track. Listen to it 2 or 3 times and complete these sentences with the missing words.

  1. La casa è grande e ________.
  2. C’è anche un ________ molto piccolo
  3. È la casa ________ per me e per la mia famiglia.

Now you can check your answers:

  1. La casa è grande e luminosa.
  2. C’è anche un giardino molto piccolo
  3. È la casa perfetta per me e per la mia famiglia.

Here is the text

Now you can check the whole text and compare it with the English translation. It will help you have a better idea of what the text is about and how sentences are built in Italian compared to English.

ITALIANOINGLESE
È una casa grande e luminosa. Ci sono due camere da letto, una cucina, un bagno e un salotto. C’è anche un giardino molto piccolo ma con tante piante e tanti fiori dove possiamo prendere il sole quando fa bello. La casa è molto bella e mi piace molto. È la casa perfetta per me e per la mia famiglia.It is a large and bright house. There are two bedrooms, a kitchen, a bathroom and a living room. There is also a very small garden but with many plants and flowers where we can sunbathe when it’s nice. The house is very nice and I like it very much. It is the perfect home for me and my family.
Italian listening comprehension

Read and listen

Now, to help you better understand, play the audio track and listen to it while reading the transcription.

È una casa grande e luminosa. Ci sono due camere da letto, una cucina, un bagno e un salotto. C’è anche un giardino molto piccolo ma con tante piante e tanti fiori dove possiamo prendere il sole quando fa bello. La casa è molto bella e mi piace molto. È la casa perfetta per me e per la mia famiglia.

Word stress

Let’s now go a little bit further. Here is the transcript with a few letters in bold. It’s where the word stress falls. Play the track again while reading the transcript and bring your attention to the stressed letters.

È una casa grande e luminosa. Ci sono due camere da letto, una cucina, un bagno e un salotto. C’è anche un giardino molto piccolo ma con tante piante e tanti fiori dove possiamo prendere il sole quando fa bello. La casa è molto bella e mi piace molto. È la casa perfetta per me e per la mia famiglia.

Italian listening comprehension

Blending sounds

In this step, you’re going to see how vowels blend together.

In Italian, when a word ends with a vowel and the next word begins with another vowel, you will often hear one single sound made of these two vowels.

This happens with different vowels, but also with the same vowel.

There are moments where sounds blend together even if they’re not made of the combination of two vowels. This is because the are single-letter words (like “e” or “è”) that are close to other words. In this case, single-letter words tend to be “absorbed” by the longer words.

Here is the text with all the blending sounds. Read it carefully and then play the track as many times as you want while you focus on the sounds in bold.

È una casa grande e luminosa. Ci sono due camere da letto, una cucina, un bagno e un salotto. C’è anche un giardino molto piccolo ma con tante piante e tanti fiori dove possiamo prendere il sole quando fa bello. La casa è molto bella e mi piace molto. È la casa perfetta per me e per la mia famiglia.

Italian listening comprehension

Shadowing

Now it’s time to shadow. What do I mean by that? You simply listen and repeat, but this time without reading the transcript. You can do it as many times as you want and you can pause, rewind, and play again any time that you need it. This time, focus on the sounds and not on the meaning. The goal of this exercise is to help you become familiar with the Italian sounds.

What can you do next?

To help you understand even better, you can play the recording again and pause as many times as you need while you transcribe, word by word, what you hear. It will help you build a link between spoken words and written words and recognize Italian words when you hear them.

To test yourself, you can also try and listen to this audio track without reading the transcript. See how much you can catch and, if you need it, repeat this exercise a few times and over a period of a few days.

Sometimes, we just need more time to process something new, so don’t be afraid if you can’t catch everything today. Come back tomorrow and try again.

References

Chládková, K. & Šimáčková, Š. (2021). Distributional learning of speech sounds: An exploratory study into the effects of prior language experience. Language Learning. www.doi.org/10.1111/lang.12432

Huang, X., Kim, N. & Christianson, K. (2018). Gesture and vocabulary learning in a second language. OASIS Summary of Huang, X., Kim, N. & Christianson, K. (2019) in Language Learning. https://oasis-database.org/concern/summaries/5d86p020k?locale=en

Lethaby Carol, Mayne Russell, Harries Patricia, An Introduction to Evidence-Based Teaching in the English Language Classroom – Theory and Practice, Pavilion ELT, 2021

Mark Alberding, Building listening skills through the basic emphasis pattern and sentence focus, The Language Teacher – Issue 28.6; June 2004, Available at: https://jalt-publications.org/tlt/departments/myshare/articles/708-building-listening-skills-through-basic-emphasis-pattern-and-se

Nation Paul, Newton Jonathan, Teaching ESL/EFL Listening and Speaking, Routledge, 2009

Nation Paul, What do you need to know to learn a foreign language? School of Linguistics and Applied Language Studies Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand, 2014

Pegoraro Chiara, Fonetica pratica della lingua italiana: come pronunciare corretamente l’italiano.regole ed esercizi, ALMA Edizioni, 2020

Thornbury Scott, Z is for Zero Uncertainty, An A-Z of ELT, Scott Thornbury’s blog, available at: https://speakita.com/i-can-understand-italian-but-i-cant-speak-what-to-do/

Yo Hamada, Shadowing Procedures in Teaching and Their Future, The Language Teacher – Issue 45.6; November 2021, Available at: https://jalt-publications.org/sites/default/files/pdf-article/45.6tlt-art3.pdf

Yo Hamada, The effectiveness of pre- and post-shadowing in improving listening comprehension skills, The Language Teacher – Issue 38.1; January 2014, Available at: https://jalt-publications.org/sites/default/files/pdf-article/38.1tlt_art1.pdf

2 thoughts on “An Italian listening comprehension exercise: “La casa perfetta””

  1. Fred Oliver

    Grazie mille Gloria! Mi è piaciuta molto questa lezione. È stato molto utile.
    Grazie ancora,
    Fred (Ti ricordi?)

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