When an Italian classmate asked about the lyrics to a Bob Marley song, it was a lightbulb moment for me. We were on a field trip from Milan to Assisi, and the song was playing on the bus. Even though I’d heard it many times, beyond the refrain I had no idea what Bob Marley was singing. More significantly, I knew that just listening to it again would not help. And yet my Italian classmate thought his English must be terrible because he couldn’t understand the lyrics.
So English-speakers-learning-Italian rejoice: you can (eventually) understand the lyrics to most Italian songs just by listening. Below are three of my favorite songs, each picked not only for the music and the lyrics but for a language-learning milestone. And coming soon: a few posts on my friend Guido’s picks for the best Italian songs, ever.
1) Il Gatto e La Volpe, Edoardo Bennato
I learned this song my very first week in Italy – when I spoke absolutely no Italian – as an AFS exchange student during orientation week. Our Italian hosts played the guitar, and we sang this over and over, sitting around a campfire on Lake Como. We foreigners could only sing a few words from the refrain, but I’ll never forget them.