Learning Italian has been one of those things that has been on my “to do” list for a while now. It’s a language I have always loved and thanks to all that time spent learning Spanish over the years, I imagined it would also come a bit easier than other languages I’ve tried to learn in the past (I’m looking at you, Lithuanian!).
When I visited Italy for the third time this year and spent the third time this year accidentally replying to bakers and waiters in Spanish when I really meant to reply in my broken Italian, I knew I needed to get more serious about learning Italian.
I loved using a program like Baselang to learn Spanish a few years ago because it was so heavily focused on speaking and listening to the language. I knew I wanted to find a program like that for Italian.
Discovering Think in Italian
Think in Italian is a program that does exactly that; it focuses on getting you listening to Italian at a normal speed and repeating words and phrases in order to learn Italian the same way you learned your native tongue, through mimicking.
Enrolling in the full program will give you access to two parts: Ripeti con me! and Leggi con me!
Ripeti con me!
Ripeti con me! is the audio side of the course and the real meat of the course.
If you start from the very beginning (which is where I started), you will be on A0, however, if you have studied Italian before, you can skip ahead to the A1, A2, B1, B2, or C1 lessons.
There are 249 audio lessons in total almost all of them come with accompanying grammar notes to help you really understand the language as you work your way through the course.
In addition to the audio, there are also transcripts in both English and Italian so you can continue to reinforce in every way the words and phrases you are hearing.
The transcripts are a fantastic addition in my opinion. As someone who has never learned Italian before, I found the pronunciation quite difficult at the start and when you are traveling in Italy and reading the names of different places, you can get it totally wrong if you don’t know how to read and pronounce the language properly.
The transcripts in this section in particular really helped me understand how to read and pronounce different letters and sounds that are unique to Italian.
Leggi con me!
The second half of the course is the reading lessons, of which there are over 600 of varying levels from A0 up to C1.
The thing I really appreciate about these is that they come with reading material, but essentially, they are continued listening practice.
All of the readings come with the Italian story, audio of an Italian native speaker reading the story, and an accompanying English translation.
Most of these readings are under two minutes, so it’s an ideal way to add a little bit more study time to your day and help to improve your listening skills even further.
Added Course Extras
In addition to getting the 250 Ripeti con me! lessons, as well as the 600+ Leggi con me! readings, you also have access to a few other language learning tools that I think really add to the value of the course.
Free resources on the blog
The Think in Italian blog has an abundance of resources for helping you improve your Italian when you are away from the course. It has free grammar resources, blog posts about language learning, and reviews about other language learning programs as well.
App coming soon
One of the most exciting parts about the course is that they are about to launch the first version of the app which will be available to all members of the course.
It will allow you to access all of the Ripeti con me! and Leggi con me! lessons on the go which will make it so much easier to fit the studying into your day.
I personally love studying audio when I’m cooking and it will mean I don’t have to bring my laptop into the kitchen now! You will also have a few added features such as slowing down the space between the repetitions, giving you more time to repeat the Italian before the next sentence is spoken on the audio.
Live monthly chats with Stefano on YouTube
Every month, Stefano runs a live chat on YouTube where he speaks entirely in Italian and helps you practice both your listening and speaking. He asks questions that you can reply to in the chat box as well as out loud while you are home.
They are available to watch afterward if you are not able to make them live. The dates and times for each monthly live chat are located on your dashboard when you log into the course.
Pen pal Program
As a member of the full package of courses, you have access to a pen pal program that offers the accountability of someone waiting for your response.
The pen pal course is a 100-day writing challenge in which you receive 66 emails over the course of 100 days and you correspond to those emails with a woman named Marika.
The pen pal challenge is included in your monthly course fee and is a wonderful way to continue practicing Italian.
It will allow you to read and improve comprehension as well as improve your flow by writing in Italian. I think that writing in your chosen language is such a fantastic way to improve your ability to think in the language.
If you want to practice some of the Italian that you have been learning with the full program, you can do just that with a choice of two different tutors.
The tutoring is only open to students of the course, however, there is an additional fee for the tutoring.
The teachers have been trained in Stefano’s method of language learning and they are almost completely focused on the conversation. One of the tutors charges $15 for a one-hour lesson and the other charges $35 for a one-hour lesson.
The idea is to take the topics and vocabulary that you are learning and use them in real-life conversation. This is fantastic if you are not going to be visiting Italy for a while, but you want to test your language skills.
I haven’t tested out the tutoring aspect of the course because I had the opportunity to go to Italy recently and practice quite a lot, but it’s definitely something I would consider in the coming months as I am home and not able to speak it. I think $15 for a one-hour conversation class is an absolute bargain.
I would wait until you have taken the language course for a few weeks before attempting a conversation class so that you have a little bit of a base to work with.
The Pros of Ripeti con me!
There are a lot of pros to Ripeti con me! that I think make it stand out from other courses that you will find around the internet for learning Italian.
The course does not have specific dates or assignments that need to be completed. You do not need to be at your computer at a specific time each day.
This may be a negative for those that need the accountability of someone waiting for them, but as someone whose schedule changes all the time, being able to fit this course into my day at different times and do it when it suits my schedule rather than being forced to fit it into my changing days is absolutely fantastic.
You can repeat a lesson if you want to. You can do the first five lessons and then start again and do those five lessons again. You can skip ahead to higher levels if you feel like the earlier lessons are too easy (although if you are a beginner I really recommend starting from lesson 1).
You are speaking right away
There is no better way for me personally to learn a language than to start speaking and thinking in that language from day one. That is exactly how this course is set up.
You are listening to Italian, repeating, and then recalling those phrases throughout the entire course, which as I will mention later, meant that after only two weeks I was confident enough to speak Italian with real Italians.
It uses spaced repetition
Spaced repetition is a method of study that is exactly as it sounds. You are spacing out the things you are studying. In this instance, it is the vocabulary and grammar structures of Italian.
Throughout the course, you will see the same words and grammar focuses popping up. Then they might disappear for a lesson or two before popping back up again in a later lesson.
Spaced repetition is a proven method of learning in which we take a little bit of time between when we learn something and when we review it again. You can read more about spaced repetition and why it’s such a fantastic method of learning a language in particular here.
Grammar is in the shadows
When I learned English as a baby, I did not study conjugation charts. No one taught me the difference between possessive pronouns and object pronouns. I didn’t know the difference between the present and the present progressive.
I learned them by being around the language. I learned them by hearing them correctly spoken constantly. I learned them by repeating the things that I heard around me.
It wasn’t until I was in middle school when I had been speaking the language for about 12 years that I actually studied English grammar.
While this course isn’t asking you to wait 12 years to learn grammar, it is mimicking the way you learned your mother tongue. It’s not about studying grammar rules, it’s about studying the language as a whole.
The course allows you to learn Italian grammar by hearing real-life examples of the language being spoken and then asking you to repeat these things throughout the course.
There are grammar notes with each lesson, but they are brief and they keep you focused on the language as a whole rather than on the breakdown of the grammar behind the language.
Get your questions answered
Stefano, the course creator, is available on the chat box as well as in the comments of each lesson to answer any questions.
He replies within 24 hours to any comments which means you can study a lesson and if you have a question, you’ll likely have the answer before you start tomorrow’s lesson.
The comments section is open to all students so you can also see other people’s questions and Stefano’s responses to them, which is a nice added bonus to the learning.
Low-cost language investment
If you compare this program to free apps like Duolingo or something cheap like Babble, you may feel like it is expensive. But you are getting so much more value from this course than you get from those cheaper apps.
This course has been expertly created to get you to speak and understand the Italian language incredibly quickly.
I believe it is in another tier of courses like those of Lingoda or Baselang where you are not quite getting one-to-one tutoring (unless you pay a bit extra), but you are getting a curriculum that has been thoroughly and successfully tested.
So when compared to those courses, both of which are at least $100 per month, you are getting much better value for money with Ripeti con me!
The Cons of Ripeti con me!
No course is perfect and there are some things you’ll want to know about the course before you commit to handing your money over.
You need to be self-motivated
As I mentioned above, no one is waiting for you like they would be if you were taking a live class. There is no one holding you accountable except you (and your bank account each month!).
I would say that whenever you undertake the task of learning a language you need to be self-motivated, even if you did get yourself a tutor. Learning a language as an adult is a near-lifetime commitment. You need to have a strong desire to keep going and this course, in particular, requires that you sit down each day on your own and do another lesson.
Lessons aren’t quick
This isn’t Duolingo where you can spend five minutes a day learning some vocabulary while you are sitting on the couch with Netflix in the background.
You need to give yourself a good amount of time each day to see the results. The Ripeti con me! lessons range from 20-35 minutes and you need to give your full attention to the audio.
You then have the grammar notes which take a few minutes to read and if you want to do a Leggi con me! reading that day you should add another 5 minutes to that.
That being said, if you stick to 45-minutes a day for even just a month never mind a few months you will truly see the difference in your comprehension in Italian.
You will also be able to do the audio lessons a bit more on the go once the app comes out, which would mean you can do it during your commute or while you are cooking, making it a bit easier to fit into a busy schedule.
There is no shortcut to learning a language and if you’ve spent months doing 5 minutes of Duolingo and then gone to Italy to try to speak Italian, you’ll know that true fluency doesn’t come from a few minutes a day but rather an intentional study like what you find in Ripeti con me!
Topics aren’t always engaging
The Ripeti con me! lessons don’t exactly tell a story. You are repeating sentences and questions during the 8-10 minute audio and they don’t all go together, which can sometimes be a little bit boring.
It would be nice if the lessons could be designed in a way that made each one a story of its own rather than 15-30 unique sentences. However, there’s a method to the sentences and how they build on each other throughout the course.
The topics, while not always fully engaging, are quite realistic scenarios. So at least you are learning phrases and vocabulary that you can use when you next visit Italy.
The Leggi con me! readings are of course stories or news information which makes it more engaging.
Getting Real Results
The real question is, does it work?
I used the program for about two weeks before I went on my most recent trip to Italy.
I did a Ripeti con me! lesson every single day for two straight weeks. I did a Leggi con me! lesson once every 2-3 days.
When I got to Italy my Airbnb host didn’t speak English. What an opportunity!
I understood quite a lot of what he said (again, it helps that I speak Spanish, but this was not entirely possible on my past trips to Italy, so I’m counting it!).
More importantly, I was able to respond at a basic level and be understood. This really gave me the confidence to use Italian at restaurants and shops while I was there for just over a week.
This course is true to its name, it truly gets you thinking in Italian. I will continue to use it in the coming months to improve my Italian for my next trip.
Should You Try it?
It costs you absolutely nothing to give it a try. The course offers a 7-day free trial that allows you full access to the course so that you can check out everything I’ve mentioned above without having to pay.
If you are really interested in taking your Italian to real fluency and you want to do it quickly, this is without a doubt the way to get going.