Italian audio course review: pros and cons, features and benefits
Here’s a thorough review of the Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!“ with pros and cons, features and benefits, etc.
Why do these lessons work so well? The secret is speaking!
Fast track to speaking and thinking in Italian
Think directly in Italian
It sounds too simple to be true: you can actually improve your Italian by listening and repeating sentences.
As you go through the course, small changes are made to the sentences, moving different components in and out. In this way, you’re learning new words and how phrases and sentences are formed.
If you’re disciplined enough to practice 20 minutes a day, you’ll be thinking directly in Italian in a couple of weeks.
- You’re continuously prompted to speak
- It forces you to think directly in Italian
- Improve pronunciation by mimicking
- Retain useful vocabulary by using it
- Master grammar patterns by trial and error
- Gain confidence
- Speak faster
- Downloadable audio files + booklet
- Lacking gamification elements, it’s for serious learners
- Key concepts aren’t explicitly taught, which might scare off total beginners
Natural Speech Rate – To get used to real conversation and pronunciation
The ultimate purpose of listening practice is to be able to understand native speakers in virtually any situation. With this purpose in mind, this Italian audio course strikes a balance between two contrasting needs: on one side, as a beginner or intermediate learner, you need to learn from simplified, “purified” material, else you could barely catch a word; on the other side, you want to be exposed to the “real thing”, so that you don’t panic when you leave the classroom and go speak with people outside.
In some courses for beginners, the native speakers speak so slow that it sounds awkward. This solution might feel reassuring to prudent learners, but it’s also a limit. In other courses, or in podcasts, they speak so fast that you can’t even understand simple words. Except for a few adventurous polyglots who know how things work, most learners find this scary and give up.
My choice is to keep speech rate at a relatively slow level, but still realistic for a native speaker. I rather pronounce extremely clearly instead of slowing down. In this respect, the diction classes I took a long time ago were useful.
Once you get used to listening at this speed, you’ll naturally speed up by yourself when repeating the sentences. Eventually, you’ll be able to adjust freely your speech rate depending on your mood and the contents that you want to express.
Spaced Repetition – To memorize vocabulary and sentence patterns
The method of repeating contents after increasingly longer intervals, called spaced repetition, has been around for decades, but only in the last few years did it become a buzz word thanks to some popular apps. The method per se is scientifically sound and certainly works. This is not always true about its applications.
During this Italian audio course, vocabulary and grammar patterns recur following a plan. Words are repeated occasionally over many lessons and also during the same lesson. Grammar patterns are repeated intensively during the same lesson and occasionally during the lessons following the lesson where that grammar pattern is introduced.
Those words and patterns will become familiar over time, even if you don’t understand or can’t use all the other words you hear in the sentences that contain them. The aim of repetition is familiarity with the language, and thus fluency, rather than mere memorization.
Many courses try to make dialogues interesting with a wide variety of vocabulary but lack the repetition needed to memorize words and master sentence patterns. This is good a supplement for intermediate learners, but it scares off beginners who feel that they’re forgetting things on the way or not even learning them in the first place.
Other courses, like Pimsleur, take the spaced repetition principle to the extreme and spend months on the same few conversation lines with a few variations. This is an effective introduction to the language for beginners, but it’s obviously limited in scope. Many casual learners find its boring.
This Italian audio course strikes a balance between repetition and variety. On one hand, it’s reassuring to repeat sentence patterns and words during the same lesson and over several lessons. At the same time, contents are kept challenging and interesting by variations in the sentences and by setting realistic situations for the sentences.
Focus on Audio over Text – To bypass native language in processing text
Most people start learning foreign languages by learning to read the alphabet first. Even popular self-study books start with the alphabet.
Unfortunately, this is not the best way to start to learn Italian. On the contrary, it makes it more difficult to get used to the sounds of that language and to think directly in that language.
This because the spoken word and the written word are processed by your brain in a different way. When you read characters that are present in your native language, your brain wants to process it the same way it does with your native language. That’s not the way a native speaker learns. With sounds, your brain can only shut up and listen, hoping to decode these new sounds on the way.
The casual learner, used to the obsolete methods they followed in language classes at school, is puzzled by the concept of learning straight from audio to think directly in Italian. However, it’s easier to convince them if they’re presented facts and not obscure theories in linguistics. Here are two facts that might surprise you and show that we’re made to learn languages by listening and speaking:
- When I was in Malaysia, I wrote an email to a Malaysian Chinese in Mandarin. We had already spoken in person in Mandarin, so I expected him to understand. He replied that he can’t read Chinese characters. He’s a native speaker, he’s fluent and so on, but he can’t read or write. In fact, only a minority of Chinese native speakers have mastered the writing system. They can have their daily life without knowing how to read and write. This is possible for any language.
- Learning to listen and speak while not learning to read and write is not only possible but the only choice for many languages. In fact, there are about 7000 languages in the world, of which only 200 have standard writing systems. For all the other languages, communication is only oral, not written.
For these reasons, this Italian audio course focuses on audio. There’s a booklet with the sentence script and its English translation, but that’s only optional and in any case, it’s to be consulted only after going through the entire lesson with audio only.
Even if the text is kept at a secondary level, some might still feel the need for pictures. However, even though imagery helps memorize information, the focus of the course is more to think and speak directly in Italian than mere memorization. Thus, the absence of other stimuli like pictures is intended to let you focus on pronunciation and speaking.
Vocabulary Picked from the 1,000 most Frequent Words – To learn only useful vocabulary
If you’re learning a new language and you want to make progress quickly, focusing on the most frequently-used words and phrases is a good strategy. This way, with only a few words, you can say a lot of things.
The vocabulary introduced in this Italian audio course was inspired by two Italian “frequency lists”. The first contains 1000 words and seems to be taken from mass media because it includes some relatively formal words. The second contains 2000 words and is taken from movie subtitles, thus it’s more conversational. Why way, it’s easy to focus on useful words, phrases, and sentences at any level, especially, phrases for beginners.
I picked words assuming that the learner wants to learn Italian on the following purposes:
- To travel in Italy, because many visit Italy for tourism
- To chat with locals, because many have relatives and friends in Italy
- To express opinions on abstract subjects, especially from the intermediate level and above, because some are interested in Italy for humanities
The 300 most useful and frequently-used words represent about 65% of all the words you’ll use on a regular basis. Together, those 300 most common foreign words can allow you to introduce yourself, order food in restaurants, check in at the airport, talk about how you feel, discuss the weather, answer basic questions and — most importantly — give you the tools you need to learn words and phrases beyond those first 300 words. In contrast, 2000 words represent about 90%. Thus, in this course alone you’ll be exposed to a sufficient range of vocabulary for your trips and casual chats.
Proven Grammar Tree + Real-life Expressions – To learn only useful words with a plan
All native speakers learn the grammar patterns of their languages following a certain order. For example, they first learn the present tense “I eat” and then move on to the past tense “I ate”. Well designed language courses introduce new grammar in more or less the same order.
This Italian audio course looks like a “simple” collection of sentences. However, they’re not random sentences. They follow a plan. By doing the lessons in their order, you’ll learn grammar patterns in the most efficient order, while reviewing past patterns over many lessons.
There are grammar patterns and vocabulary that you typically find in resources like textbooks, and there are others that you don’t find in textbooks. Often, they’re frequently used by native speakers and preferred to the “official” alternatives found in learning resources. I don’t see why common expressions should be ignored, especially if they don’t require complicated grammar.
In this Italian audio course, you’ll learn expressions that you won’t find in regular textbooks. They’re chosen among the most frequent and don’t require additional grammar. Just by adding a word, you’ll sound like a native, not like a textbook.
Padding the course with lessons that introduce a new expression with no need for new grammar also slows down the pace and gives you time to practice what you learned so far.
Learn by trial and error – To think in Italian and learn from examples
Many casual learners, based on obsolete methods they learned in language classes at school, translate the sentence they want to say before saying it in a foreign language. Some even say the sentence in their language before translating it. All this is a huge hindrance to learning a language.
This Italian audio course will help you to break this habit because it leaves you no time to translate. You’re prompted to think and speak directly in Italian. Even if you’re at a loss for words, you’ll soon hear the correct sentence and you only need to repeat it.
Consequently, you also lose all the small habits that are peculiar to your native language and get in the way when learning Italian. For example, English speakers typically use extra words such as “do” and pronouns like “I” and “you” in everyday sentences. By repeating the sentences in this course, English speakers are forced to forget about “do” and also to omit pronouns. They just have to think differently about what they’re going to say. This sounds like a big leap to take, but this effect is already noticeable after a few days of daily practice done the right way (not pausing the audio, etc.).
In a typical language class or course, first you quietly listen to a long explanation of grammar, vocabulary, grammar notes, culture notes… all in your native language. You diligently take notes and feel like you know it all. Then, you move on to drills. Practice is only a small part of study time and is usually done in a controlled environment based on contents that are typical of a classroom.
With this Italian audio course, you’ll be practicing Italian all the time. In fact, the entire course is a drill! And it’s based on situations that you’ll likely face during your trips to Italian or your chats with Italians. You’ll certainly make mistakes on the way, but in the meanwhile you’re already communicating effectively in Italian. This is the most practical method that you can find.
Designed for the Italian language – To make it real
One user made a remark about the “cultural bias” in this course.
This is an Italian audio course, the cultural and geographic references in the sentences are biased towards Europe and the U.S.
If you study Italian, you certainly want your material to be related to Italy. If you’re learning about Italy, probably you need to know about its neighbors. Most of the users happen to be from the U.S., which is a very influential country anyway. Other references are made occasionally to other major countries like Canada, China, Japan, South Korea, etc.
By the way, when I saw this comment I smiled thinking of another Italian audio course that is the source of inspiration for this course, where virtually no Italian or even European names appeared and instead all the names were from the Far East (because they made the course in Taiwan).
A language course should make references to the country and the culture of that language, not be a mere translation of a standard script applied to all languages. Thus, this “bias” is an advantage.
Easy to Use – 1 short lesson a day, every day
Some courses and apps based on spaced repetition are complicated. There’s a long list of files to be used in an obscure order, together with side activities in a schedule that is hardly viable for the casual learner.
With this course, you only need to click “play” on files A, B, and C. Once a day. If you feel the need for visual aid, consult the booklet. If it’s still too hard, repeat the lesson the day after. Then move on to the next lesson.
This Italian audio course is not an app that you can only access online. You can download the files and listen to them whenever you want, even without an Internet connection. It’s easy to find the time for listening to your audio lessons.
Learning a language is like doing sports. You need to practice often, ideally on a daily basis. A 30-minute daily practice is much more effective than 3.5 hours once a week, whether it’s about practicing conversation in a foreign language or playing tennis. Your mind (and your body, in the case of sports) absorbs new information better if it’s processed in small bits.
On the other hand, if an app lets the student “keep their pace”, people often end up playing with it for 5 minutes while being distracted by notifications, etc. It’s easy to get distracted on your phone.
To make you speak Italian every day even if you’re alone and busy, this course is made up of 30-minute daily lessons. You don’t need to be online to listen to this course. You’re free to play the audio on your phone, in your car, etc. Click “play” and never click “pause”. Do one lesson a day and you’ll be fluent before you know it. That’s another level of learning.
Download a free sample
Now that you know why Ripeti Con Me works, download a free sample and start speaking now!