How To Learn Italian Vocab From Andrea Bocelli

avatarMille Larsen
9 mins read

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 Pimsleur 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.

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.

Vivo Per Lei (Italian and German)

Using music to reinforce your vocabulary is great because it makes learning fun. That's the most important thing, because if you don't enjoy it, you're not going to do it.

Well how could anyone not enjoy this?

For me, this is particularly enjoyable, because it gives me a chance to continue to learn Italian while also mixing in some German!

Here are the lyrics to Vivo Per Lei:

Vivo per lei da quando sai
la prima volta l'ho incontrata,
non mi ricordo come ma
mi è entrata dentro e c'è restata.
Vivo per lei perché mi fa
vibrare forte l'anima,
vivo per lei e non è un peso.
Ich lebe für sie genau wie du,
Leben wär ohne sie kein Leben.
Sie ist in mir, was ich auch tu,
Sie gibt mir halt und läßt mich schweben,
Sie hilft mir alles zu verzeihn.
Würde mich nicht ihr Trost befrein,
Wäre die Welt ein Irrtum –
Ich lebe für sie.
È una musa che ci invita
In ihr finde ich mich wider
attraverso un pianoforte
la morte è lontana,
io vivo per lei.
Ich leb für sie in Glück und Schmerz
wird sie zu meiner Kathedrale.
Manchmal erschüttert sie mein Herz
è un pugno che non fa mai male.
Vivo per lei lo so mi fa
girare in città in città
soffrire un po' ma almeno io vivo
Manchmal rührt sie mich zu Tränen.
Vivo per lei dentro gli hotels.
Durch ein unbestimmtes Sehnen.
Vivo per lei nel vortice.
Attraverso la mia voce
si espande e amore produce.
Vivo per lei nient'altro ho
e quanti altri incontrerò
che come me hanno scritto in viso:
io vivo per lei.
Io vivo per lei
sopra un palco o contro ad un muro…
Sie sagt was ich nicht sagen kann
…anche in un domani duro.
Zündet in mir Gefühle an
Ogni giorno
una conquista,
la protagonista
sarà sempre lei.
Vivo per lei perché oramai
io non ho altra via d'uscita,
perché la musica lo sai
davvero non l'ho mai tradita.
Ich lebe für sie für die Musik
ich lebe für jeden Augenblick
gibt es auch schwere Stunden
Ich lebe
Ich lebe für sie.
Vivo per lei la musica.
Ich lebe für sie.
Vivo per lei è unica.
Io vivo per lei.
Io vivo per lei.
Io vivo per lei.

Just for fun, I've also posted the translation. Move your mouse over a line to see it's English translation.

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!