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k_999_9 Oct 4th, 2004 09:16 AM

Experience with learning Italian?
Somewhat travel-related question:

I'm looking to spruce up my Italian in preparation for a trip to Italy.

I've been told that Pimsleur's has the best audio course and am considering it.

1. Do you have experience with Pimsleur's or any other audio course? What's your impression?
2. Any good source for buying an audio course cheap?

keb0503 Oct 4th, 2004 10:03 AM

i think it was pimsleur that i checked out from the library. i thought it was okay but i have nothing to compare it to as i've never used any others. i would say to check out your local library. if you really end up liking one enough to want to buy it at least you will know it's money well spent.

nono Oct 4th, 2004 11:06 AM

I used Pimsleur because there is no book with the cd.You listen to it and hopefully can sound like the italian.But I know that won't be enough for conversing easily.
I'll be in italy in november .I'll keep you posted how well I 'll do communicating in italian.

elaine Oct 4th, 2004 11:19 AM

I think it helps to have had other instruction in the language, but I've found Living Language (book with tapes or CDs) to be helpful for review

Moneyman Oct 4th, 2004 11:40 AM

Living Italian was helpful, particularly if you have had experience with other "romance languages" Tapes were good for pronunciation. While speaking rudimentary Italian was helpful and nice, we did not encounter any situation where someone did not speak English, and we traveled throughout the country for 30 days, including Rome, Venice, Bellagio, Florence, Siena, Tuscany and Milan. Buono Fortuna!

suntravler Oct 4th, 2004 11:45 AM

I couldn't find the Pimsleur CD's. So I bought "Learn in Your Car Italian". It comes with a helpful booklet.

It is basically the most useful phrases for various situations you might run into while travelling.

I did find it helpful. Although just about everyone we met while travelling spoke some English, they really appreciated it when we tried to speak Italian.

awbaker Oct 4th, 2004 01:28 PM

I used Pimsleur's cd's in my car before my trip last month. I only got through the first 4 lessons (I kept forgetting to put the other cd's in the car!), but I did find them helpful. The cd's don't have a book to follow along, which I liked since I only listened in the car. They make you repeat the same thing over & over, but it made me feel more confident about my pronunciation. I felt comfortable speaking basic phrases which was enough to get by on. My husband learned no words before our trip, and he was impressed by the amount of words I had learned. Of course he had no idea I was saying the same phrases each time.

RichardSpitzer Oct 4th, 2004 03:16 PM

I got the Pimsleur CD's, all 25 of them and I listened to them for about a month and felt very conversant when we went to Italy. They are repetitive and at times ad nauseum, however repetition and 100 basic words are really all you need. I found them the best of many tapes and CD's that I researched. They were clear, the built on the previous CD and there were a number of times in Italy where I spoke and was not answered in English!!

FauxSteMarie Oct 4th, 2004 03:56 PM

I can only give you a review of the Pimsleur Russian course. There are actually 3 Russian courses with 16 CD's each. I am almost done with them. I am actually on the 4th to the last CD in the 3rd course.

This mania with Russian actually began with a year of Russian in high school back in the Late Middle Ages. Last June I went to Russia. Several months before I began pounding away at the Russian. I was midway on the second course when I took the trip. Because I was determined to finish this, I continued after I returned and am now just about to finish it up in the next two weeks.

The first series of Italian CD's are next in preparation for my trip to Italy at Christmas. Because I really want to tackle Spanish (I can use it at work), I am probably not going to do the full thing as I did with Russian.

The Russian CD's definitely did help. Yes, the vocabulary is very limited but you do learn the patterns which will make it easier to pick up other words and fit them in once you are there. It is always fun to try and communicate with the natives even on an extremely limited basis.

Since I already have very good French from years of serious study in high school and college, Italian and/or Spanish should be a lot easier for me than Russian.

I would like to go to Russia again some day, so I will keep the CD's to run through again if I ever go again.

And, yes, like others, I only do this in my car. I do spend a lot of time in the car and like the idea of doing something constructive during the time.

Russian 3, Lesson 25 and counting down!!!

DonnaD44 Oct 4th, 2004 04:45 PM

I find that learning a language solo is a rather useless undertaking. Whether it's with CD's, books or tapes, the method cannot compare to a basic travel-focused class in whatever language one wants to learn.
I took a 6-week Italian for Travelers course before my first trip in 1998 and was amazed by how much the experience enhanced my trip.
Then, I took two semesters of Italian at our state university.
Since then, I have brushed up using tapes, but the classroom time was the most valuable.

almesq Oct 4th, 2004 04:48 PM

I used Pimsleur for our trip a couple of weeks ago. I bought one of the abbreviated versions they sell at Barnes & Noble (10 CDs), and thought it was a very good method. That particular set had a lot of stuff that wouldn't be useful for tourists, but I was really able to learn the pronunciations and then just learned more vocabulary words. I would use Pimsleur again.

keb0503 Oct 4th, 2004 05:48 PM

oh! someone said learning with someone is better than alone, it made me think. on you can find people offering language tutoring. that is if you live in or near one of the cities on craigslist. also community colleges sometimes offer extended learning where you can take a language class.
just a few other ideas...

FauxSteMarie Oct 4th, 2004 08:01 PM

While some of the words used on the Pimsleur tapes are geared to businessmen, I found them quite helpful with getting around in Russia with the basics.

Insofar as taking a formal class is concerned, it is just too difficult to schedule a time that turns out to be convenient every week and then it confines my whole schedule. I found using the Pimsleur CD's just perfect for me as I can study at times when I would just be wasting my time driving. Perfect for me!

However, if you want serious language study, I would recommend a college course. But, again, you have to have the time and do the studying on the college schedule. Since my job is chaotic at times and I can end up working crazy hours, Pimsleur was best for me.

mdtravel Oct 5th, 2004 05:43 AM

Anyone familiar with the Rosetta Stone products? I've heard good things and have thought about buying their Italian product.

k_999_9 Oct 5th, 2004 06:16 AM

Thanks to all who replied.

I should point out that I already speak some Italian and was just looking to get an advanced refresher course. Pimsleur's level II or III seemed like what I was looking for.

While the classroom thing may be a good idea, it requires a time commitment I don't have right now. And with my level of knowledge, I don't think I need the classroom experience.

I also know that many Italians speak English (I've been to Italy), but I wanted to converse in Italian for my own satisfaction and education.

Last thing: I know this must break some Fodor's rule, but if any of you have used the Pimsleur's II or III (or comprehensive, I guess), I'd be willing to buy your used tapes or CDs. Just indicate on this thread and I'll give you my email address.

kasperdoggie Oct 5th, 2004 07:09 AM

Hi all from a lurker :)

My experience with Pimsleur Italian language tapes was very positive. Since the full language course is quite expensive I borrowed it from the library (we have a large library network so even though my local branch did not have it, one could request it from a different branch). If you prefer to own the tapes vs. borrowing, check out eBay - I bought Pimsleur French I and II for about a third of retail price there.

I managed to get through levels I and II of Italian tapes (with no previous knowledge of the language) before our trip in May. There were only two occasions when the person I had to converse with spoke no English, ironically enough both occured on our first day in Rome. First we had to ask directions to our hotel and the lady who helped us out did not speak English. And the second time when our B&B ended up being overbooked for our first night and the host had to transfer us to another apartment in the suburbs for the first night and pick us up the following morning. As he did not speak English the Italian I picked by listening to the tapes came in very handy :) At least I could figure out where we were going, how to get the bus back to the city and when he is going to pick us up.

So I have been very impressed by Pimsleur method. You learn how to cobble together useful phrases based on the vocabulary and other sentences you learned while listening to the tapes. It had inspired me to continue my study of Italian after we cam back from the trip :)

pdx Oct 5th, 2004 09:30 AM

The tapes offer more flexibility than the cd's. You can't back up the cd to the exact spot over and over when you're trying to grasp a sound or word. I've never followed through on the tapes so can't recommend a brand, but one thing I did get from the recordings was an ear for the language. It primed me for France or Italy and I was able to pick up a lot because I had a little bit of practice behind me.

awbaker Oct 5th, 2004 11:15 AM

That's a good point, pdx. It was a little annoying not being able to replay a portion without going back to the beginning of the cd. You would think that they could have broken it up a bit into sections, at least. I never saw Pimsleur's audio tapes, though.

cyberUK Oct 5th, 2004 12:48 PM

I used the Pimsleur Italian for about 8 weeks before my self guided trip through Tuscany, and it helped quite a bit.
I ripped the cd's to MP3 format and loaded them on my I-Pod.

I was confidant that I had enough useful phrases for most situations, and I certainly did.

FauxSteMarie Oct 5th, 2004 02:45 PM

I do agree with the criticism that it is annoying not to be able to back up the CD's to the one troublesome phrase on the Pimsleur CD's.

My impression of rosettastone is that the courses are much more comprehensive than Pimsleur. The reason I did not purchase one of them is that they cannot be used in the car and I am delighted to put my time to good use learning foreign language phrases in the car when I would not be doing anything constructive.

Please note that you are going to play the lessons more than once. Since I had some background in Russian when I started, the early lessons were played only once. My average for series II & III is 3-4 times for each lesson before I move on.

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