How to Improve Your Language Skills by Watching Italian Movies
Watching Italian movies is not only a great way to work on your listening skills but also to improve your understanding of the country. In this post you will learn how to effectively watch Italian movies for language learning, where to find them and which movies you could start with.
Watch Italian Movies and Learn
I am sure I don’t have to convince you that movies can be a great form of entertainment. At some point during my language learning adventures I realized that watching movies can also be extremely helpful in developing comprehension skills and building useful vocabulary. However, in order to truly benefit from this activity, you cannot just passively watch films. Let me share with you a few things I have learned about this.
First of all, the aim of such language exposure will differ depending on the level of your Italian.
It is a success to just manage to pick up a few words you know and learn a few new ones thanks to the movie when you’re a beginner. At this level I suggest you watch films with English, not Italian, subtitles. Seeing and hearing a lot of vocabulary you do not understand may be discouraging. Please remember that Rome wasn’t built in a day!
I would recommend watching movies with Italian subtitles for intermediate learners. If for whatever reason this is not an option, try not reading the English subtitles all the time to check your comprehension (a fair warning: it is tough!). Ideally watch the movies in the comfort of your own home, where you can hit the pause button every time you need to write a new word down.
It is easier to remember words with the context so make sure that your notebook contains the word itself as well as a phrase in which it is used or even a sentence. Can you guess what the meaning is? Make sure you have not misunderstood by confirming your assumption with a dictionary.
It is time to get rid of the training wheels on your bicycle! Switch off subtitles and rely on your listening skills. You can rewind a particular scene a few times, in case you’ve missed something. Do not give up at the sight of difficulties. In certain movies you may hear regional accents or even dialects, so it’s not surprising that this may be challenging. I remember struggling when watching “I Cento Passi” due to the Sicilian accent present in the movie and occasional utterances in the Sicilian dialect. If this is why your comprehension is failing, you may want to watch a particular movie with Italian subtitles and then re-watch it without them, once your ear is more acquainted with a particular accent. Such challenges make the learning experience more rewarding.
Where to Find Italian Movies
Getting access to Italian movies may be easier than you think. Last year, for instance, it was possible to see the movies “La Pazza Gioia” and “Perfetti Sconosciuti” in cinemas around the world. They may also be available on streaming services such as Netflix (depending on your location) or in your local DVD store. A shop attendant should be able to help you find other Italian movies, especially the old classics by Federico Fellini or Sergio Leone.
Another idea is approaching language schools in your area, which may organize Italian events with movie screenings. You can also try to find your local Italian Institute or contact the Embassy/Consulate. Even if they do not have their own media library, they could have some other recommendations for you. Last but not least, make a list of Italian movies you would like to watch and remember to have it with you during your next visit to Italy. If the trip means a long-haul flight also check the movie catalog, as the newest Italian films are usually available there.
Here are some Italian movies to help you improve your skills:
Nuovo Cinema Paradiso
Cinema Paradiso is a beautiful film. In 2 hours and 30 minutes, its director Giuseppe Tornatore tells the story of a filmmaker, Salvatore, who returns to his home village when he hears about his friend’s death. We learn, through a retrospective narrative, Salvatore’s love for cinema was a byproduct of a friendship between him as a little boy and a cinema projectionist.
La Vita è Bella
This gem is a story of a father who tries to protect his son from the evils of a concentration camp. He tells his child that their gruesome reality is nothing but a game… If you watch the movie and enjoy it, you may also want to watch a more lighthearted film by the same director, Johnny Stecchino.
A twelve-year-old boy falls in love with a beautiful woman. You cannot blame him as Malèna is played by the stunning Monica Bellucci! This coming of age tale is a product of the same director as Nuovo Cinema Paradiso.
“Parlami d’amore” is a love story and honestly not the best Italian movie under the Sun (4.8/10 IMDB rating). It is, however, easy to understand, which can make watching it a rewarding experience for a language learner.
Io Non Ho Paura
Nothing will be the same for the 9-year old Michele after he discovers that another boy is held hostage in an abandoned farmhouse. This Italian movie has it all: drama, thrills, suspense, you name it! It is an adaptation of a brilliant Italian novel by Niccolò Ammaniti.
Directed by the master of Italian horror, Dario Argento, “Profondo Rosso” is considered by many to be a cult movie. It is one of the most famous representatives of giallo, an Italian thriller-horror genre.
Magdalena Osiejewicz-Cooper has lived in Bologna and Palermo. Apart from Italian she speaks fluent Polish and French. She is currently self-studying Spanish.
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