English LingQ 2.0 Podcast #23: Learning Italian with Davide of Podcast Italiano

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Davide runs the awesome Podcast Italiano. In this chat with Elle he shares the things that make learning Italian tough, the different dialects of Italian and how they are viewed in Italy and he also shares some tips on starting a podcast.

Elle: Hi everyone and welcome to the LingQ podcast with me Elle. Today I am joined by YouTuber and podcaster Davide of the Podcast italiano. How are you Davide?

Davide: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

I’m very, I’m very well. How are you?

Elle: Excellent. I’m great. Thank you. I’m doing well. Um, so you’re joining us today from Italy. Whereabouts in Italy are you?

Davide: I’m in Turin or Turin. I’m never quite sure how it’s pronounced in English. It’s a city in the north Western part of Italy, not too far from France and that’s where I was born. And I’m still, still living here.

Elle: Excellent. And how has May in Turin?

Davide: How is what sorry?

Elle: How is May, how is it right now there, the spring?

Davide: Oh, the month of May?

Elle: Yeah.

Davide: Um, it’s a bit rainy, to be honest. Um, and also, I mean, in terms, if we’re, if we’re talking about COVID, uh, I think it’s good. It’s getting a little better because that’s the main topic, the topic of convo… conversation. These days, it’s been a little better.

Uh, some restrictions have been lifted all over Italy. So, yeah. You know, that’s a bit better. It’s it’s been, it’s been tough these last couple months here in Italy, the whole COVID situation was pretty bad. Vaccination… vaccine rollout was pretty slow. Now it seems we’re, you know, we’re getting a little bit… it’s getting better.

We’re seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. So yeah, we’re more optimistic about the whole situation, but yeah, today it’s raining. So that’s always, you know, a little sad.

Elle: Yeah.

Yeah.

It sounds like, well that’s May in Vancouver, too. That’s that could be any time in Vancouver where I am. It’s very rainy. So that’s great to hear about COVID because of course Italy was in the news a lot and just some really, really sad… stories coming out of Italy, but that that’s good to hear that things are, things are looking up. So Podcast Italiano, uh, you’ve been running it since 2016, right?

Davide: Yeah exactly, yeah.

Elle: Congratulations. Um, what inspired you to start the podcast?

Davide: Well, I was, uh, I was into language learning. Um, I had been for a couple years, so… and I have to say that LingQ played a big part in, in my language learning process because it helped me a lot, especially with Russian.

Um, so yeah, I was already into language learning and I thought, why not create something that can be useful for people learning Italian? Uh, create some interesting, useful content in Italian. That’s not in English or any other kind of, um, you know, like, you know, oftentimes people will explain another language in English and I don’t like that.

You know, I, when I’m my, my idea right from the start was to create content that’s a hundred percent in Italian and that’s hopefully interesting, which is the philosophy that, you know, I think you, you’re trying to pursue with LingQ, you know, having content that’s, that’s interesting and that you can read and, and, and listen to.

And that’s what I did. And that’s what I’ve been trying to do for the past couple of years, I started out with a podcast and then one year later I opened the YouTube channel and I would say nowadays I’m more focused on the YouTube channel, which is called Podcast Italiano because that’s, you know, the podcast came first, came first.

So the name stuck, uh, on the YouTube channel as well. But yeah, so I’m, I guess I’m, I’m probably more uh, focused on the, on the YouTube channel now, but yeah, but yeah, I’m still making lots of content. Um, and yeah, hopefully people will find it interesting.

Elle: Well, I mean, the channel’s doing really well, so I think they are, I was looking around earlier and it’s a real treasure trove.

I’m not studying Italian, but for anyone who is, it’s a real treasure trove of, uh, of advice, information, and, uh…

Davide: yeah. One thing I wanted to say is that my channel is, and my podcast is probably more for people who are at an intermediate level or even at an advanced level. I would say it really depends on the type of video or podcast episode, but most of my content is not for beginners.

And my goal is to create something that can help bridge the gap between beginner con… beginner’s, con beginner content and something that’s for native speakers. So 100% authentic content. So I guess, I guess that’s my philosophy. And I know Steve always talks about the need for that type of content. And that’s what I’ve been doing.

Elle: What would you say to someone who’s just starting out in Italian then? Are there any resources that you think are great for beginners that then they can start with and then move on to your, to your content?

Davide: Good question. Um, I’m not sure actually where, what I would use if I were starting out with Italian.

I know there’s a, there’s a, there’s um, a book called “Italian by the Nature Method”, which is pretty old, but I think it it’s pretty, it’s pretty good because it’s, you know, it’s this idea of learning Italian with, you know, just by pure input, listening and reading a little bit, like what you do with LingQ, which of course is always, is also a great place if you’re looking for content with your mini stories.

Yeah.

uh mini-stories, you know. It’s a little bit like that, actually. It’s a little bit like mini stories with audio, but it was done in the sixties I think. And it’s all up on YouTube for free. So that’s something you could use, but I don’t know actually where people start when they’re, when they want to start out with, um, learning Italian.

Um, yeah, I don’t know. There’s a lot of YouTube channels, uh, that are great for people who have an intermediate level, but it really depends where you’re coming from in terms of your languages, which languages do you know? Because like, if, if you already know Spanish, you can understand most of my videos.

I actually, even if they’re targeted at intermediate or advanced learners, you can understand most of it. At least that’s what I hear from Spanish speakers. They write in the comments. “Oh, I understand. I don’t know why, but I can understand almost everything you’re talking about.” If you’re, I don’t know if you’re an English speaker and maybe Italian is the first language you’re learning, you should probably start with something that’s a little bit simpler. Yeah, LingQ is a, is a great place for that actually, you know, that’s my, and that’s been my philosophy, like, you know, focusing on input, um, and, uh, You know, and that’s why I don’t like apps like Duolingo or those kinds of beginner apps that, you know, are not very enticing.

Um, so, so yeah, beginner content.

Elle: And what about, um, you’ve of course you get, you get so much engagement on your channel and, um, in comments and your podcasts, what are some of the issues that kind of jump out at you that people are having with Italian? What are some of the common, uh, difficulties?

Davide: Uh huh. So you’re talking about the grammar mainly?

Elle: Uh, sure. If that’s something that jumps out, is, is that an issue that people… or is it like pronunciation that generally people are asking you more about?

Davide: Well, I wouldn’t say pronunciation is too hard compared to other European, you know, you’re talking about the, the main languages that people learn at least here in the west.

Um, I don’t think Italian is that difficult when it comes to pronunciation. Um, yeah, so there’s one thing that might be a little that’s, you know, that’s peculiar here in Italy, which is we have, we have dialects. Um, we have lots of dialects, but what we mean by dialects is, is not what English speakers mean by dialects, because I think in English, the way dialect is used is to refer to varieties of English.

So like you have, you know, varieties in the US or in the UK or in Australia or in South Africa. In Italy, we have a lot of sister languages… so languages that are, that were born from Latin and that developed alongside Italian. So they’re actually different languages, but we called them … for historical reasons.

And so people are often afraid that they will go to, I don’t know, Sicily and people will speak Sicilian to them and they will not understand. I don’t think it’s that big of an issue, uh, these days, because everybody in Italy speaks Italian or Standard Italian, if you will. But there’s, there are still a lot of people, especially in certain parts of Italy who, who speak  and who will kind of code switch between or code mix between Italian and the, the regional language or dialect.

The terminology is always confusing because, you know, we don’t mean the same thing with dialect. So, um, I, so yeah, if you go to Sicily, people might speak in Italian, but use some regional words here and there. So that’s something that people are, you know, scared, scared of, but I wouldn’t say, you know, I’m not really sure if people should be scared of that really, because it really depends. And I know that like where, where I live, it’s not that big of a deal at all because they’re, the dialect is not used at all almost. So maybe it might differ a little bit, if you go to other parts of Italy, but yeah. That’s something that comes up a lot.

Something else that, something else that comes up a lot is, um, and I think you wanted to talk about this a little bit, so it might be a segue to a different question, is like sometimes, or oftentimes people go to Italy and try to speak Italian with Italians and they will receive, you know, Italians will speak English to them.

Um, not always, but it is a, uh, it is a common problem problem. I think, especially when I would say, especially in very touristy places and tourist destinations. That’s, that’s common. And also, especially if you have a very strong accent and you come to Italy and you try to speak Italian, and it’s very, it’s very clear that, you know, you’re from, I dunno, the US or the UK.

You know, sometimes, sometimes you might, you might run… run against that problem of Italians answering in, uh, replying in, in English, maybe because they want to practice English. So yeah. So getting Italians to speak Italian with you and not English. Um, yeah. And then, you know, there are grammar, grammar, things that are hard and there are, that are peculiar, um, that maybe other languages don’t have, I don’t know if you want to get, get into that, but, um, it might be a little bit technical.

Elle: Sure. Maybe..Yeah, maybe just one, one grammar point. I’m interested. For sure.

Davide: Yeah. There are two, two particles, which are… two words, uh, that are quite tricky in Italian, which are …  to give you an example, if you want to say something like, um, so if you want to say, what do you think about this? In Italian you’re going, you’re going to say … which is “what” … which is “about this” in one word and … which is “think”. … so this … particle alongside with … is complicated because it’s, um, like a substitute for certain preposition.

So in English you might say to think, “what do you think about”, or “of this? It’s like, if, instead of saying, um, “…about this?” you would have another word that would substitute “…about this”. So, because we can say “about this” as well. …”what do you think about this?”

But you can also say … so it’s like, um, it’s like a, it’s like a pronoun of it, of a preposition. So instead of the full preposition, you’re using this weaker form, if you will. Didn’t do a very good job of explaining what it is, but, you know, uh, that’s something that, um, you don’t have in Spanish, that you have in French, actually. If you know French, by the way, I think you think you’re learning French, right?

Or you mentioned… so yeah. Yeah.

You have the same thing in French because you have …. So, so, so … so that’s the same thing that you have in French, which is pretty tricky if you’re learning French too.

Elle: So again, it depends on what, like you mentioned before, language you’re coming from.

Davide: Yeah, exactly. If you know French, if you know French, that’s pretty easy. Um, Yeah, … I think you would say in French … to think of something, I’m not sure, actually, if that’s how you would say it … So I’m going there …  so that’s, that’s a pretty, pretty, pretty easy thing to like, it’s, it’s a one-to-one correspondence.

Elle: Excellent. To go back to what you said there about, um, Italians responding in English, generally speaking, is that then, and you mentioned because maybe they want to, um, practice her English. How, roughly, how many people in Italy speak English? Is it the majority. I have actually, no idea.

Davide: Yeah the majority speak English, but not very well.

We speak it very, very badly in general, I would say so. Yeah.

I would say actually what I said earlier, I think it really depends on where you go, because like, if you’re going to Florence, Rome, you know, the most popular cities, a lot of people, a lot of people want to speak English there. You know, they’re used to hearing English all the time.

If you’re going to a smaller town, then you’re probably going to have a much easier time finding people who don’t know English at all or speak it very, very poorly. Um, yeah, we’re, we’re no Scandinavia in that regard, like our English is pretty bad in general. It’s a little bit like France, no offense to French people, but like, we’re not good.

We’re not good with English. We’re not good at speaking English in general. So… but still, if you go to places that are very common tourist destinations, you know, that that might happen. But still, I would say that that in general Italians are surprised when foreigners learn Italian, because we have this idea, this maybe it’s like an inferior…

How would you say in English? Inferiority Complex.

Elle: Yeah exactly.

Davide: Yeah. Yeah.

So like Italians, we’ll go “oh, why are you learning Italian? You don’t need to know Italian.” It’s like, nobody speaks Italian. And then you have the, the opposite thing where people will think, you know, Italian is the best language.

It’s the most beautiful language, just super patriotic thing. Or even people will say Italian is the most difficult language in the world. It’s incredibly difficult. Which of course it’s not, you know, it’s a very kind of limited view of world languages, but yeah, but, but yeah, but maybe people are a little bit, um, dismissive of Italian.

Elle: Right. And in terms of what you mentioned back then with dialect too, uh, the different dialects of like say Sicily, is that something… are there, you know, TV shows that people could, uh, watch to help them learn the tiny that adjust in the certain dialects, or is it more, you know, is there content out there where people just speak these dialects or is it more of…

Davide: There’s something. Like some of the dialects or regional languages are a little bit more, have a little bit more, uh, I dunno, culture to them. I mean, they have there’s no, historically there has been like music and literature or sometimes even TV shows. Um, there’s uh, there have been a couple of popular TV shows in Napolitano or Neapolitan. So, uh, and one of them has been popular, has been, has become popular in the US I believe, which is “My Brilliant Friend”, um, which is a cool production between our main, uh, state TV show and HBO.

So, and that’s, that’s almost entirely in the Neapolitan dialect or language. Um…

Elle: what’s it called did you say…

Davide: In English it’s called “My Brilliant Friend”. In Italian. It’s  …

Elle: okay.

Davide: And, uh, so, so yeah, but not that much in general, like there’s not that much content and it’s something that I’m always a little bit sad about. Like I wish there was more content in, in our regional languages, dialects.

I always don’t know what to call them because you know, there’s this idea outside of Italy that, you know, these languages, because we call them dialects, … they’re like, uh, they’re like they derived from Italian, which isn’t the case. It’s like they’re sister languages, they developed, uh, independently, but yeah, there’s not that much content.

Um, I wish there was maybe on LingQ even. That would be, that would be cool. But yeah. So, um, you know, it’s like a little bit, it’s like in Spanish they have, they have, you know, all these regional languages, they have Catalan. And, but, but the difference is they, they, um, they defend their regional languages even legally.

Like they have a legal status that we, that Italian dialects don’t have. And also they, they there, how would you say that in English? They’re in higher regard or they…

Elle: Yeah, they have more status.

Davide: They have more status. Yeah, exactly. And so you will have university lectures in Catalan, but that does not happen in Italy at all.

Like people will laugh at you if you suggest well, maybe we could have, you know, university lessons or lectures in Sicilian. It’s not going to happen. So it’s a very different status. Very different socio-linguistic status, I guess. So. Right. People think dialects or original languages are, you know, you can use them only for if you’re talking to family members or if you’re, I dunno with friends, if you’re doing something that’s not formal, but, but whenever you’re going, you’re doing something that’s formal, you’re going to use Italian. So that’s, and so that’s the main difference.

Elle: Okay. Excellent. Um, so what, um, I wanted to ask you about you now have this podcast and YouTube channel as your, your full-time gig, your full-time job. And I’m not sure if that was always the plan. Um, but what would you say to any listeners –

because I know a lot of people these days are starting their own podcast or want to start their own podcast – do you have any advice for anyone listening who might think “I want to give this whole podcast thing a try”?

Davide: Sure. Well, I think you should first be a consumer of language learning content. Um, so you should see what, uh, what other people are doing on YouTube or on, on, on podcasts, which I was doing a lot already.

When I started out my own project, I was a fan of a couple language learning podcasts and YouTube channels. Um, and then, I dunno, I think you should make content that’s interesting. That’s the main, that’s the main thing. It should be interesting. It should be, I believe it should be in the language you’re teaching, so it shouldn’t be in English, but of course, you know, um, not everyone will agree with that because there are channels that are entirely in English for learning X.

You know, this or, or that language, but so it should be interesting. It should be in the language you’re teaching. Um, what else? Um, having transcripts is something that is really important, I think. Um, and you know, with LingQ, of course you, you know how important it is to have a transcript of what you’re listening to.

So. At first, it’s not going to be the most fun part of the job, like to transcribe what you’re saying. Um, but that depends on whether you’re, uh, you’re talking off the cuff and then you’re transcribing everything later or if you have a script. So that’s something that, um, if you have a script, of course, um, you don’t have to transcribe everything, which is probably the worst part of it.

Elle: Tedious, yeah. There are apps you can use these days, thankfully. Yeah.

But you know…

Davide: Yeah. But still you, you still have to do some work too. Yeah.

Um, yeah, so what else? I think, I think it’s something that, I mean, that you can do, it’s possible to do this as your, as your job. Um, probably… if… something that helped me was to, to teach as well, um, to teach Italian, which I did for, and I’m still doing, but I’m doing less of it now.

And it’s going to be really useful, uh, financially speaking, because for some time, in my case, it was actually for a couple of years, I didn’t really earn anything through my podcast. So my, my podcast wasn’t a financially viable, viable way of making a living, but I was, I was teaching Italian on, on italki first and then privately.

And that was really helpful because if, even if I, if I didn’t have, or although I didn’t have that many followers or listeners, I still had plenty of students who wanted to work with me. So even if you only have, let’s say a thousand people who listened to your podcast, but like, I don’t know, 1% of those people want to, to, to practice the language you’re teaching with you, that’s still going to be like, I think 10 people, right? 1%. If it’s, if it’s more than that, if it’s 5%, it’s, it’s, it’s 50 people. So that’s a lot of people. So even if you have a, if you don’t have a super, super huge, um, audience, you can still find a lot of people who want to learn with you and that’s okay.

That’s probably the easiest way of making money, I think, uh, with, you know, uh, through like the, the audience that you have built. I don’t know if that makes sense. So yeah, so like you can have an audience and then you can find people who want to be your clients, if that makes sense. And then of course you can find other ways of making, you know, make making money with, with, you know, a podcast or YouTube channel. Um, yeah. It’s, I would say it’s good to see what other people are doing. And, um, but I think in the language learning industry, if you will, it’s, it’s easier to make this financially viable, like to make, you know, podcasting or, or video making, um, financially viable compared to other areas because you’re, you’re making something that people find useful that people find value in. It’s not like if you have an entertainment podcast, or if you’re a gamer or something like that, because like it’s, it’s much harder to get people to pay you for anything.

Why would they pay you? There’s so much entertainment already. Like there there’s Netflix, there’s a million podcasts. There’s books. There’s, there’s so much stuff, but you know, in the language learning, in this niche of language learning content, I think what we do can be really valuable, especially if there’s not much content already in, in your language, so it can be really valuable. And then you can find different ways of monetizing that, which is… I don’t love that word, butit’s what it is.

Well, you know?

Elle: We all live in capitalist societies. So ou need to pay the bills…

Davide: yeah, yeah, yeah, sure. It’s just, I don’t love the word to monetize something. I don’t know if there’s a big, dirty about that word.

Elle: I know what you mean. I know what you mean. Yeah.

So what’s in store for, uh, the podcast and the YouTube channel moving forward for the next, for the rest of the year?

Good question.

Davide: Well, I I’ve never done any courses, which is something that’s pretty popular among, uh, language influencers, I guess that’s what we’re called.

I I’ve been hearing that word thrown around lately. So I guess that’s what you could call people like me. So yeah, of course it’s a pretty popular thing and I’ve never, I’ve never made any courses. And I would like to, to make one in the future, I have this idea of making a course about pronunciation, which is something I’m interested in.

Uh, but we’ll see, we’ll see. I’m still early in the process. So, so I don’t know how long it’s going to take me, probably a long time, longer than I think. But yeah, that’s something I would like. Yeah.

Yeah.

So, yeah that’s one thing. Actually I don’t know what else I want to do. I’m I’m, I’m focusing on my YouTube channel a lot.

Um, yeah. I would say the course, the course is something I would like to, you know, to work on.

Elle: Excellent. Well, anyone who is interested in checking out your content, I’m going to pop the link to your website, your podcast, and also your YouTube channel. So anyone learning Italian or interested in maybe starting to learn Italian definitely check out Davide and we’ll keep our eyes peeled for your course, your pronunciation course, no pressure. But now that you’ve said….

Davide: Well, I’ve talked about it, but you know, talking about something and actually doing something is not the same thing.

Elle: Very different things, for sure. Yeah.

Well, thank you so much for joining me today. it’s been an excellent chat and, um, yeah best of luck with, uh, Podcast Italiano.

Davide: Thank you. Thank you for having me.

Elle: Thank you. Bye.

Davide: Bye-bye.

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