How To Learn Italian Vocab From Andrea Bocelli

A few days ago, we discovered a way to use music to learn a new language. Today, we're going to try it out first-hand.

First, choose the song
As I am learning Italian, there are countless well-known songs I would love to understand. I am somewhat humbled to discover that my first two choices weren't actually Italian! I tried O Sole Mio and then Funiculì, Funiculà, only to discover that bother are actually written in Neapolitan, which is a dialect of Italian just different enough to make my task more difficult!

So, as much as I would love to learn both of those songs, I'm going to have to do it later, after I know enough Italian to prevent confusion. For now, let's look at one of my favorite songs in any language: Con te partiro.

Listen one time and see what you recognize
Now that I have chosen a song, I am going to listen through it once or twice, and just try to pick out words I already know. This not only gets my brain ready for what I'm about to do, but also gives me a little confidence boost when I feel the excitement of knowing something that I didn't know before I started studying.

I'm pretty sure I heard him say le parole which I know means "words", because that's what I'm going to search for in a moment on Google. And thanks to my LiveMocha lessons, I've also learned this word paesi. I'm also hearing other words that I know: io, con, non, strada, adesso... actually, I'm quite excited at how much my ears are already picking out.

Next, find the lyrics
The next thing I'll do is read through the lyrics once or twice without the music. Just as I let my ears try to recognize things a moment ago, I'm now going to let my eyes do the same thing.

_Quando sono solo sogno all’orizzonte e mancan le parole,
Si lo so che non c’è luce in una stanza quando manca il sole,
se non ci sei tu con me, con me.
Su le finestre mostra a tutti il mio cuore che hai acceso,
chiudi dentro me la luce che hai incontrato per strada.</p

Con te partirò.
Paesi che non ho mai veduto e vissuto con te, adesso si li vivrò,
Con te partirò su navi per mari che, io lo so,
no, no, non esistono più, con te io li vivrò.

Quando sei lontana sogno all’orizzonte e mancan le parole,
e io sì lo so che sei con me,
tu mia luna tu sei qui con me,
mio sole tu sei qui con me,
con me, con me, con me.

Con te partirò.
Paesi che non ho mai veduto e vissuto con te, adesso si li vivrò.
Con te partirò su navi per mari che, io lo so,
no, no, non esistono più, con te io li rivivrò.
Con te partirò su navi per mari che, io lo so,
no, no, non esistono più, con te io li rivivrò.
Con te partirò.

Even though I don't understand much of what I'm reading (though it's remarkably similar to Spanish and I'm actually understanding quite a bit more than I should), what's important here is that my brain is marking where words stop and start.

Let me say that again. Even if you don't understand what you're reading, the fact that you are reading it helps your subconscious learn to distinguish words. You know how to read already, so sound out the words. Let them sink into your brain.

Finally, some meaning
Okay, in spite of the fact that I've been dying to get to the meaning of this song, I've waited because this is the way that works best. But now that I've given my brain the exercise it needed, I'm going to find the translation. Nothing hard about this, just paste those lyrics into Google Translate and read the results. And don't forget to clarify individual definitions by plugging single words into WordReference.

Now associate the translation with the song
At this point, it's probably quite a bit more than I'm going to remember, but what's important is that I've been through these lyrics, I've been through the translation, and I've looked up individual words and found meaning. Even if I don't remember everything, it's been filed into my brain, so it can go to work in my subconscious.

Now, I'm going to listen to the song again, and imagine the meaning while I read and listen to the words.

Now, just let it simmer in your head
That's it. Now, every time you listen to that song, it will help to reinforce new words in your vocabulary. Don't expect miracles, of course — you're going to forget some things and you're going to have to look some things up again. But this exercise is going to have a profound effect on your learning. It will help you with hearing individual words, and it will help you with remembering lots of new vocabulary.

So what song did you learn? Share some new vocabulary in the comments!

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Author: Yearlyglot
I'll lead you through a 12 month journey from knowing absolutely nothing about a language to having professional fluency.

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  • Randy Yearlyglot

    Where do you find music in various languages? I've been looking for music in Czech and have had awful luck finding anything at all, let alone something I like. I know it's a country of only 12,000,000 or so people, but there must be something out there!

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    The first result of a Google search for "popular Czech music" was this page:
    It looks like a pretty comprehensive list for a small country.
    Also, I see a lot of results if I search Google for "populární hudba".
    Have you tried that?

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    This is exactly the method I have been using with Italian, and it works great! Find some music you like, find the lyrics and translate the parts you don't know, and let the meaning of the song sink in. You end up really connecting with the music because you've examined it so closely.
    Two Italian artists I really like are Negramaro and Adriano Celentano. They have some great songs and the lyrics are fun to learn. Good luck with your Italian!

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    It's kind of funny. I never did any reading on this or anything, but I have also been using exactly the same method for some songs.
    I remember doing this for Felicità too (I was not really deliberately trying to learn Italian and I was only interested in the song (although I have tried to learn some Italian before)).
    You could try it Felicità. It's a nice old Italian song with not too difficult lyrics:

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    ho sentito questa canzone tante volte nel passato, ma stasera era la prima volta che l'ho ascoltato veramente. Mi sono goduta le parole e ho le lacrime negli occhi! Che bella canzone di amore.
    Pero' vai piano con le canzoni...proceed cautiously with learning the language through with poetry there are a lot of creative liberties taken, and they don't always follow normal grammar structures and with artistic flights of fantasy they can lead to confusion. But if you are a poet at heart...then go for it!

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    I want to be a part of it loving bocelli the way that I do. He has a profound effect on my soul.

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    Try listening to Questa Notte, by Bonaparti. LV. A Latvian eurovision song contest entry, which is sang in Italian. I love the song and I too use it to pick out words, sentences that I understand.

  • Randy Yearlyglot

    Questo e` un metodo fantastico sto usando quest'estate per imperare la lingua italiana! I have a notebook in which I write the Italian lyrics in one color, double spaced, highlight the words, phrases I don't know (finding I started with an average of 9 words to look up a month ago, am down to 3 or 4, as many words are used often in most songs).Then in the spaces below my colored Italian lyrics, I write in finer ink the translation, grammatical notes, etc. (i.e. "avevi" being imperfect indicative of avere as in "Avevi ragione" - "you were right" in Riccardo Cocciante's "Cheleste Nostalgia").I shocked myself last night as I used this for at least 3 songs a week, and was singing the entire "Col Nome Giusto" by Carmen Consoli (slow, easy to pick out the words) while cleaning my kitchen - somehow I learned the words, the meanings, the translations, the rhythm, the intended emotions - and believe this will take my conversational Italian to the next level.I hope this works for others!

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