Listening to radio is, and has always been, a major activity in many countries around the world. Live digital radio, online radio, podcasts, all radio stations offer different content, from ABC Radio to Triple J. Italy is no exception, with around 34 million people tuning into the radio. For Italians, hearing the local radio isn't just about music, but also hearing about current affairs, sports, horoscopes and so much more.
With the advent of digital and online stations, international radio is so accessible, that anyone from Sydney to Roma can download an app or open a site on the internet to start playing the best radio stations of any country. Having access to this range is a great thing for Italian students around the world.
Can Italian radio stations really help you learn?
The short answer is YES! Playing the radio can be very useful to students who are trying to get more practice in any target language. When used along with a variety of other learning tools and resources, listening to the radio can be an easy way to review and assimilate vocabulary and grammar structures. Check for good Italian courses to complement your radio time!
Of course, simply hearing the radio in a passive way won't take someone from beginner to fluent in a short amount of time. What it can do for learners is expose them to native speakers talking with each other in a natural and free way. In language courses, students don't always get the opportunity to hear this type of language. Recordings used in classes are generally written for specific reasons and the speakers don't always talk in a natural way.
So why is it important to be exposed to this type of conversation? If you're taking the time to learn a language, it's probably because you need it for work, study, travel or to live in a particular country. Given that, it's important that students are able to understand and talk with native speakers. But if the only Italian you've ever heard has been your teacher or classic audio recordings, then you'd probably be in for a bit of a surprise!
Just like English speakers, Italians shorten words, use borrowed words from other language, have regional accents and so much more that makes their natural conversation quite different from what you hear in class. Listening to the radio allows students to experience this type of quick fire talk and national radio stations often feature a range of local Italian accents.
Listening to music, funny conversations, quizzes and so much more is really engaging, and you'll probably find yourself singing along or trying to talk along in no time. You can also find out some Italian with motivating sayings while listening!
Is it enough if I just put on the Italian radio in the background while I do something else?
This is where many students can make a mistake. It's important to remember that learning languages is an active pursuit where you need to engage your brain and be aware of the information you're taking in. Unfortunately, if you're only half paying attention to what you're hearing, it's probably not going to be the most helpful activity in the world, especially for beginners.
To get the best out of the time you spend plugged into the digital radio, follow these helpful steps:
1. Choose stations or programs that you're interested in
There are so many Italian radio stations that broadcast a range of programs online throughout the day. This can make the choice of what to listen to pretty overwhelming, but there are a few key things to consider. Firstly, what are you interested in? It doesn't make much sense for someone who hates sports to download a program about football!
The more interested in the topic you are, the more likely you are to both actively pay attention to the discussion and to take notes about words you don't know. Of course, it also means that you'll probably have more opportunities to use the vocabulary that you collect, as we often like to talk about the things that we're most interested in.
2. Plan when and where you're going to listen
It's really easy to say that students should listen to the radio to practice, but more difficult to put in practice with our busy lives. Making a plan to listen means you're more likely to actually do it, especially if it becomes a normal part of your daily routine.
Also think about how long you have to listen each day. If it's 15 minutes, maybe a short news broadcast is the top thing for you. Finally, try to listen at a place and time where you probably won't be disturbed by others.
3. Do a little research on the website
The majority of radio stations have lots of online information from current news to breakdowns and transcripts of their programs. Being able to read this information on the screen can help you understand as you play the audio. You might also be able to find recordings of past programs, so you can download, rewind and listen to something more than once.
4. Make time to listen twice
Hearing things more than once is a big part of learning to listen accurately! The first time you listen to a program, just focus on the bigger picture. Can you understand the general gist of what the people are saying? If yes, then you're doing great! Try not to pause or rewind the program on your first listen, because you want to play and listen to it in as natural a way as possible.
Your second listen is the time where your can get some more details, like jotting down some vocabulary you don't understand to look at later. It's important to deal with new vocabulary in the right way. Just looking up and copying the translation of 20 words from a 10 minute broadcast probably isn't the best way to go about learning new words.
5. Learn and assimilate some new vocabulary
During your second listen, you can make a list of words that you don't understand, but don't pause to look them all up straightaway. First, check to see if you can understand the sense of the word from the context and other words around it. Try to use the context to understand as much as you can. Doing this can help you avoid translation, and you'll probably remember the word more easily too!
Also, you should only look up about six to eight words each sitting. It's unlikely that you'll remember any more than this, so you'll waste your time otherwise. Choose the top words that are most relevant to the topic, that are repeated often or that are stopping you from understanding what someone is trying to say.
What to do once you've found six to eight relevant and useful words that you really don't understand from context? Keep track of them in a notebook. It's a good idea to have a notebook just for vocabulary, or you can use the back of your notebook.
Another useful tip is to group new words into topics. You can have a page for family vocabulary, another for shopping and clothes, another for adverbs etc. This means that the words you are learning are organised in your mind, and linked in a kind of web, making you much more likely to remember them.
Also, when you write out a new word, don't put a translation, but explain the word in Italian and include an example sentence. Here's an example entry for the word mela (apple):
- mela- una frutta tonda, dolce e rosso o verde, che si usa spesso per fare dolci. Esempio: Una mela al giorno toglie il medico di torno.
Here's the translation:
- apple- a round, sweet , red or green fruit, that's often used to make sweets. For example: An apple a day keeps the doctor away.
By doing this, you're taking the time to think about the word in Italian instead of translating it, and seeing how it's actually used in a sentence.
If you follow all of these steps while playing the radio in Italian, you'll find that you learn new and interesting words and phrases, and quickly get used to hearing native speakers.
The Best Italian Radio Stations Ranked!
So without further ado, here is our ranking of the best Italian radio stations, to create the best radio culture!
1. RTL 102.5
This station is the most listened to in the whole of Italy. It was founded in the mid 70s, and originally only broadcast in the northern regions of Italy. Since then, it has expanded greatly, has headquarters in Milano and Roma and is listened to by nearly 7 million Italians, anywhere from Trieste to Palermo.
It's one of the more commercial stations, and you'll hear a lot of English music as well as the newest Italian hits. There are lots of opportunities to listen to native speakers, and the presenters often take calls from people all over the country, which can expose you to a great range of regional accents.
2. Radio Dimensione Suono (RDS), Italian Pop Music
In both digital and FM radio, Radio Dimensione Suono is one of the most popular radio stations in Italy. Created in 1976 by and directed by Eduardo Montefusco, it was the most listened to frequency in Roma when it first came out.
With the motto 100% grandi successi ("100% great hits"), Radio Dimensione Suono also supports humanitarian projects such as Save the Children and Exodus di Don Mazzi, and continues to be in the hearts of Italians, ranking again and again in the top 3 of citizens' favourite radios.
Its musical programming is mainly in the world of pop music, but also major Italian hits. It should also be noted that traffic news is broadcast every 20 minutes, with horoscope and weather reports as well. Sports news is also present on the grid, which makes this radio provider a good balance of information and music.
3. Radio DeeJay, Private Italian Radio
Founded on February 1st, 1982, Radio DeeJay has been part of the Editorial l'Espresso group since 1989. The main private Italian radio station, it broadcasts all kinds of variety shows and has the 'DeeJay Television' television programme where it shows some of the newest music videos from around the word. Watching Italian radio on TV can also help you improve your fluency.
4. Radio Italia, The National Station
The fourth most listened to radio in the country was created thanks to composer Mario Volanti. Radio Italia, whose motto is "Solo Musica Italiana", or Only Italian Music, is a private channel, whose label organizes events and concerts related to Italian music. You won't hear any English music here, which some students will probably prefer as you can instead listen to any genre from jazz to rock.
In fact, an innovative new hit is featured every week, in order to promote the work of Italian artists. For one to two weeks, the titles are rotated and then promoted over the radio air time. In short, Radio Italia is an FM radio and a web radio, of which the 3,776,000 listeners can be proud, and promotes their connection to their beautiful country!
5. RAI Radio 1, The First Radio Station In Italy
Rai Radio 1 is the successor to Italy's first radio station, which began programming on 6 October 1924 in Roma. Still based in the Italian capital, Rai Radio 1 quickly became the first Italian general public radio provider belonging to the RAI group (RAdiotélévision Italienne), its motto is "In diretta con l'informazione", or "Live with info".
Broadcast nationwide by internet radio or satellite, it is also available abroad and offers a very rich and varied set of programmes. This includes news about current affairs, debate programmes and sports information, but also a popular musical programme spanning jazz, classic and rock, which is particularly popular with Italian citizens today.
This option could be better for upper intermediate and advanced students, who would like to learn more about what's happening in Italy and how the culture is developing and changing.
6. Radio 105 Network: The Italian Radio In Milan
Based in Milan, and owned by Radio Mediaset, the 105 Network was founded on 16 February 1976 by Alberto Hazan and Edoardo Hazan in a studio in Via Tito Vignoli. While the group to which the this provider belongs also owns Virgin Radio or Radio Monte Carlo, Radio 105 Network has not always been called that.
Originally called Radio Studio 105, this was a reference to the early days of the private station. This used to be the most listened to radio provider in Italy, and is still widely loved. The programmes, appreciated for their variety, include "Lo Zoo di 105" which is very popular with Italians, as well as its great selection of rock music. Its slogan "Proud to be different" perfectly illustrates the state of mind of this radio station, which is on display at the Milan Museum of Science and Technology.
7. Radio Kiss Kiss, the Italian Radio From Naples
Radio Kiss Kiss is based in Naples and is one of the most listened to Italian radio stations (the seventh, to be exact). Created in September 1976 by Ciro Niespolo, the free Neapolitan radio station has its origins in disco and also has offices in Rome and Milan. A true image of Italy that we love, but with a touch of originality that is not to be underestimated!
Spanning musical genres like funk or soul, the artists are as diverse as the audience it brings together, you can listen to some of the best Italian songs. With the motto "Play everywhere", this is one of the most popular radio stations in Italy.
8. Radio Capital and M2O
These two stations form part of the same editorial group that publishes the national daily newspaper La Repubblica and the weekly magazine L'Espresso, both of which are highly ranked news sources around Italy. This group also owns Radio Deejay.
Radio Capital is a popular and private radio frequency, whose leader is Massimo Giannini. Since 2018, the channel's editorial line has developed considerably, leading to more information and analysis of Italian social issues.
M2O's programming is more focused on modern, contemporary, dance, or dab music, making it the first to do so. Created in 2002, this radio station based in Rome has also released CD compilations, which show off some of the greatest music featured.
9. R101, A Popular Italian Radio Station
Founded on March 10, 1975 in the city of Milan by two couples of two younger brothers (Angelo and Rino Borra and Piero and Nino Cozzi), R101 another favourite radio station of Italians. This Italian radio mainly broadcasts music, although some news and current affairs are also at the heart of the programming. With both retro and contemporary music, R101 satisfies a great number of people, with quality programmes that keep the audience tuned in.
Italy is rich in culture, popular and musical references. Radio is a type of media that brings all these values together in the most beautiful way possible and provides a complete picture of this beautiful country. Playing the radio in Italy is like feeling the heartbeat of warm people, whose identity never ceases to amaze us! Ah, the radios of the world, the best trip ever!