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Learning Italian

As I will be in Italy in a few months time, I though it would be a good idea to brush up my nearly non-existent spoken Italian. Although I've never studied Italian formally, it's very similar to other languages which I have studied (Latin, French and Spanish) and I've had a lot of exposure to it one way or another over the years. So I'm in the strange position of being able to read and understand it fairly well (well, ok, not that well) but being almost completely unable to speak it.

Since it's spoken Italian that I want to learn for my visit to Italy, I decided to go for the Pimsleur Italian course. I've always heard good reports of the Pimsleur courses but have been put off firstly by the expense, secondly by the fact that I've never in the past found that I can remember language unless I can see it written down. Pimsleur is very much based on hearing and speaking the language, initially without seeing it written at all. My experience with other auditory based courses such as Rosetta Stone and Michel Thomas is that my retention was very poor and they didn't go nearly far enough into the language to be useful in practice.

I've got enough time  (and probably just about enough money too) to get through the entire Pimsleur course (all three sections) before I leave for Italy. So this will be an excellent chance to see if the Pimsleur course lives up to its hype. Will I be able to waltz effortlessly through Italy, charming waiters and contessas alike with my perfect Italian, or will I as usual collapse back into English after my initial "Buon giorno"?

My initial impressions of the first few lessons is that they are very well produced and thought out, the audio is high quality (I'm using the downloaded version), and that after four lessons I feel confident in the material that has been covered so far. That's a lot more than I've been able to say about many of the other language courses I've tried. But there's a long way to go, and the proof of the pudding will come when I try to put it all into practice in Italy.

Reader Comments (5)

I think these things are very personal. I think Pimsleur is especially good for "hard" languages with different alphabets, less cognate words, etc. (I had good experience with their basic Farsi course before going to Afghanistan.)
For Spanish I very much liked Penton's "Learn in your car" series; they say a sentence once in English, then twice in the other language. I think they have one for Italian.
Best luck with the Pimsleur course! I hope you have a good time in Italy and will keep us posted.
January 9, 2007 at 20:17 | Unregistered CommenterJohn Tillinghast
Low cost option...there are some Italian lesson podcasts on iTunes.
January 10, 2007 at 22:41 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew
Hello Mark

I've just read on your blog that you are learning Italian.

I would be very pleased to hear more about how you manage your learning. I expect it may appeal to other readers as well being the season where people are thinking of holidays.

January 11, 2007 at 14:16 | Unregistered CommenterTed
Dear Ted

Basically I do one Pimsleur lesson (30 mins) first thing in the morning before starting work, and if I feel I need to repeat it (which I usually do!) I do so after stopping work.

January 11, 2007 at 14:18 | Unregistered CommenterMark Forster
Hi, very interesting article, This Pimsleur seems a genuine and interesting way to learn Italian language. I will try it out because it seems like a very nice learning tool. I have been using so far which I like very much as well for improving my Italian and would be interested in getting your opinion about this website. Could you please suggest me some Pdf,s lesson for learning Italian language?
July 3, 2009 at 7:22 | Unregistered CommenterItalian Learner

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