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.