Italian language course reviews

Which Italian audio course works best? I’ll review my favorite learning resources!

20 June 2019

Stefano

Best ways to learn Italian: Italian language course reviews

When I developed my own Italian audio course “Ripeti con me!”, I reviewed other popular courses to combine their best features into it. I’m sharing this little research with you.

Each review covers the following aspects of the course: concept, pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, guidance, structure, price, pros, cons, and my advice.

I compared my course with the Italian versions of the audio courses that I use myself to learn other languages, and which I recommend to any motivated learner. I encourage you to check out the courses below and possibly take them in parallel with my course.

Here you find a review of these Italian language courses:

Why this selection of Italian language audio courses? I cannot compare courses that I don’t know and I don’t feel the need to consider those that I don’t find useful.

Apart from Italian language audio courses, I also recommend other kinds of learning resources, but they’re not audio courses. Thus, those resources are out of the scope of this review.

Ripeti con me!

Italian language audio course

Concept

Spaced repetition balanced by variety and relevance, in small daily doses.

Pronunciation

Acquired unconsciously by listening and repeating sentences.

Vocabulary

Acquired unconsciously by listening and repeating sentences. Basic vocabulary is repeated throughout the course. Contents are kept practical. Sentences are not related to each other.

Grammar

Acquired unconsciously, straight from sentences.  Grammar patterns are repeated intensively during each lesson, with occasional repetition from lesson to lesson.

Structure

Series of sentences, in a set of 3 files per lesson. 15-25 min per lesson.

Guidance

No guidance at all. Only sentences, in English and in Italian.This might sound uncomfortable, but it’s actually the best way to learn Italian on your own.

Price

16.00 US$ / 15 lessons

Pros

  • Useful vocabulary
  • Enough variety to avoid feeling repetitive
  • Enough repetition to be effective
  • Not too much vocabulary to absorb in a day
  • Clear and correct pronunciation
  • Natural speaking rate
  • Easy to use: 1 lesson a day, every day
  • Economical choice
  • Much better than a podcast

Cons

  • Well, I sell it, so… 🙂

  • Suggestions?

My advice

Buy it? 😛

Total beginners can take it without being either overwhelmed or bored. It’s the most effective among similar learning resources.

Pimsleur

Italian language audio course review Pimsleur

Concept

Rigorous spaced repetition at the expense of variety, with guidance in English.

Pronunciation

Practiced consciously from phonemes and words, by listening and repeating, with guidance in English.

Vocabulary

Very limited. Based on very short dialogues and variations. You end up listening and repeating keywords even more than ten times in a lesson.

Grammar

Focus on mastering a limited set of basic sentence patterns.

Structure

Short dialogue, then drills from the previous lesson and new contents, all meticulously repeated at intervals. 25-30 min per lesson.

Guidance

Occasionally given in English on pronunciation, grammar and word meaning and usage.

Price

120.00 US$ / 30 lessons

Pros

  • Meticulously timed intervals
  • Reassuring guidance
  • Clear and correct pronunciation
  • Easy listening with natural speaking rate
  • Available in many languages (not only Italian)
  • Easy to use: 1 lesson a day, every day

Cons

  • Contents are repeated to an extent that many would find boring
  • Very limited vocabulary
  • Dialogues are in a formal speech from day one, which I’d spare to beginners and is not needed if not in a work context
  • Less fun than a podcast
  • Expensive

My advice

Still more effective than traditional learning resources. Good for motivated total beginners in their first 1-5 months of study. There are better options for the intermediate level.

Glossika

Italian language audio course review Glossika

Concept

Spaced repetition with an overwhelming variety of vocabulary, and high involvement.

Pronunciation

Acquired unconsciously by listening and repeating sentences.

Vocabulary

Overwhelming, from day one, especially at normal playback speed. Sentences often sound unnatural. Sentences are not related to each other.

Grammar

Acquired unconsciously, straight from sentences. Grammar patterns are repeated intensively during each lesson, with occasional repetitions from lesson to lesson.

Structure

Raw sentences, in a set of 3 files per lesson. About 30 min per lesson.

Guidance

No guidance at all. Only sentences, in English and Italian.

Price

30.00 US$ / 30 lessons

Pros

  • Variety of vocabulary
  • Available in many languages (not only Italian)
  • Relatively cheap

Cons

  • Speaking rate is fast even for a native speaker, to the point that I’d find it discouraging
  • The Italian speaker has a regional accent
  • One Italian speaker cannot roll her R’s (!), while another one speaks like a robot
  • The English and Italian versions of the sentences don’t always match precisely
  • Vocabulary is not repeated enough
  • Less fun than a podcast
  • Many sentences are awkward, unnaturally phrased or just unlikely
  • The same English sentences are translated into all languages, including Italian, with no customization
  • The recommended daily workload is off-putting even for the most motivated learner
  • The booklet includes sentences in the international phonetic alphabet, which I find totally useless, distracting and confusing (I’ve never learned it)
  • There’ not enough silence left to repeat the sentence
  • The repetition schedule is confusing
  • Some sentences are too long

My advice

Still more effective than traditional learning resources.

Good for brave students starting from lower intermediate level (A2) or intermediate level (B1).

Update: Glossika has turned into an app and is not available as an audio course in MP3 anymore. While an app can be more interactive than audio only or audio + booklet, it can also be distracting.

ItalianPod101

Italian language audio course review ItalianPod101

Concept

This Italian language audio course (podcast) is not based on spaced repetition, but it still has a structure that I’d expect from a good all-in-one self-study textbook. Its’ similar to a podcast.

Pronunciation

Acquired unconsciously, straight from dialogues and vocabulary lists. However, listening alone is not enough to learn.

Vocabulary

Based on dialogues, and grouped by topic. Words rarely occur more than once in each dialogue, and no intentional repetition is noticeable throughout the course. Listening alone is not enough to learn.

Grammar

Grammar notes are given in English in a separate section. Listening alone is not enough to learn.

Structure

Dialogue, vocabulary list, culture notes and grammar notes, as in a podcast. About 10 min per lesson.

Guidance

A full translation is given during the dialogue. Each lesson (podcast) includes grammar notes and culture notes, all in English.

Price

8.00 US$ / month

Pros

  • Variety of topics
  • Grammar notes can solve many doubts
  • Available in many languages (not only Italian)
  • Very cheap

Cons

  • No clear course plan
  • Virtually no repetition
  • The culture notes in this podcast format are useless from the point of view of language learning
  • Listening to all those explanations in English as in a podcast is distracting (I always skip them completely)
  • The slow version of the dialogue is too slow
  • The podcast format is distracting

My advice

Good choice from traditional learning resources. Good from level A2, to be taken occasionally as a plus.

The best Italian audio course: Ripeti con me!

Here are my conclusions to pick your Italian language audio course.

As with all learning resources, these Italian language audio courses have pros and cons. That said, if I were a total beginner and I had to pick one single course, I’d go for Ripeti con me! because you get to speak Italian every day – which is paramount – at a low price. However, if you still feel like you need guidance and don’t mind keeping a slower pace, Pimsleur is your best friend – an expensive friend.

If you already speak basic Italian and want to boost your vocabulary, master new grammar patterns, and speak faster, both Ripeti con me! and Glossika can help. More conventional Italian language audio courses like ItalianPod101 are not bad if used in concomitance with other courses focused on speaking, or 1-on-1 tutoring, and are certainly a good deal for the number of lessons you get.

Serious about learning Italian?

Stop reading, start speaking!