Posted on by Ulrike Rettig

Ripeti con me - Learning Italian - A Review

FluentSimple: Ripeti con me logo

Learning Italian? Check out "Ripeti con me!"!
A couple of weeks ago, Stefano Lodola wrote to ask us about reviewing his Italian audio course "Ripeti con me!".
Stefano is an Italian Polyglot, language teacher and translator who speaks nine languages. He's also an opera singer, and as you'll hear on the audio, he has a clear and pleasant voice.
The description of the "Ripeti con me!" audio course and the method behind it intrigued me.

Readers of earlier blog posts may recall that - before our stay in Italy several years ago - my husband and I completed the 3 Pimsleur audio-only courses (no text), a total of 90 lessons. (And for complete disclosure: I was the course writer and development editor of several Pimsleur audio courses before 2011.)
Personally, I've been looking for an Italian course to refresh and boost my Italian speaking skills.
So, I am not only quite familiar with audio courses but also definitely motivated to try out a new approach and new materials.
Stefano gave us access to 15 Lessons of "Ripeti con me!" so I could review his method and course.

THE COURSE BASICS
Ripeti con me! currently has 60 Lessons in audio format.

Each Lesson is made up of 30 basic sentences, spoken at a natural pace.
For each audio Lesson there are three files, Part A, Part B and Part C, to be done in sequence. The three files have you practice the same 30 sentences in three different ways.
The sentences contain useful, conversational vocabulary and common, idiomatic grammar patterns.
Spaced Repetition of vocabulary and grammar patterns is built into the course. Sentences come up again and again, but each time with small changes that show how the language works.
The sentences and their translations can also be downloaded as a PDF file, but that is optional.
The course is for Total Beginners to Intermediate Learners who want to improve their speaking skills.
In his Introduction, Stefano has detailed instructions on how to learn with his course.

WHAT WORKS FOR ME 

AUDIO FORMAT

I love learning with audio. I agree with Stefano that spoken and written language are processed differently by the brain.

Woman exercising listening

When you just listen, your brain connects directly to the sound without needing to decode the letters.

When I do a lesson for the first time, it's really effective to just sit with eyes closed while repeating and "shadowing" (i.e. speaking along with the speaker, or a split second behind him). That way I can also pay attention to the small but meaningful sounds that connect the sentence: prepositions, negatives, endings, agreements, etc.
With Audio, you can easily take the course with you and listen and repeat on the go, while walking, jogging, cooking, waiting for a bus, etc. 

PDF DOWNLOAD 

Ripeti con me: Screenshot Lesson 3 PDF
The sentences and their translations can all be downloaded in PDF. Reviewing the text is optional.
Still, I've found it very useful to look at the written sentences after doing the Audio.
The sentences and their translations can all be downloaded in PDF. Reviewing the text is optional.
That's because living in a world of the printed word, I automatically make up my own mental spelling of any unfamiliar word I hear or see, no matter what the language. I might as well learn the correct form.

Besides, I love to read. For any language that I learn, it's my goal to learn to read fluently (online news, blog posts, articles, stories, novels).
Reading is one of the most powerful ways to learn additional vocabulary and grammar patterns, and stay interested in the language. 

SENTENCES AND SPACED REPETITION

In "Ripeti con me!", sentences (not individual words) are the basic building blocks. You learn and practice all vocabulary in the context of everyday, useful sentences.
By listening and repeating many sentences that use and reshuffle basic vocabulary, you become more and more familiar with typical phrases and idioms.
The application of Spaced Repetition in "Ripeti con me!" is very good. As you constantly learn to construct new, slightly changed sentences, you automatically internalize Italian vocabulary and grammar patterns.
The English translations, because they are often not literal, help you to think in Italian. For example:

Come sto con gli occhiali? - How do I look in my glasses? (literally: How am I with the glasses?)

Come fai senza macchina? - How can you live without a car? (literally: How do you make it without car?)

THREE TYPES OF PRACTICE

Practicing the same 30 sentences of the lesson in three ways is quite effective, especially if you repeat/say the Italian out loud.
Part A: After the English cue, listen and repeat/shadow the Italian sentence. (For meaning, pronunciation of words, correct intonation.)
Part B: After the English cue, say the sentence in Italian in the pause that follows. (To produce the Italian and check if you're correct.)
Part C: Shadow each of the Italian sentences. (No English. To mimic the speaker and learn to think in Italian.)

I like the technique of shadowing when I'm learning a language. I use it often when listening to audio books or going over sentences in a course.
As mentioned, shadowing means speaking along with the speaker, or a split second behind. It takes a little practice. But once you've got the knack, you'll improve the rhythm, intonation, and pronunciation of your Italian.
Don't be afraid to talk over the native speaker's voice, you'll find that you can listen and talk at the same time. 

GRAMMAR PATTERNS

grammar books stacked

I don't really know if my brain is wired for grammar, but it's definitely wired for language patterns. 

Listening and repeating many sentences that have small shifts in pattern works really well for me.

I noticed that as I practiced, more and more phrases and idioms became familiar again and I would start using them automatically. (As Italian is not a new language for me, it's also likely that I notice these patterns more than a beginner.)

Each lesson focuses on a specific grammar point, built into the sentences. (The specific grammar items are bolded on the PDF.) Here are some examples of grammar points:

Lesson 1 has many sentences with present forms of the verb "essere" (to be).

Lesson 2 the sentences focus of the present forms of "avere" (to have), including common idioms with  "avere".

In Lesson 3, you practice number agreement (un gelato-due gelati), and adjective-noun agreement. (see photo in PDF section)
 
In Lesson 6, the sentences highlight the indefinite article forms: "un', un, una".

In Lesson 13, you practice sentences with "piacere": "mi piace/mi piacciono" (I like), "ti piace" (you like), "a Giulia non piace" (Giulia doesn't like), "a voi piace" (you-all like), etc.

A WELL-PACED COURSE 

It's recommended that you do a full Lesson a day. Because you're often reusing familiar vocabulary for new sentences, even a beginner can follow the pace.
Still, if you don't feel ready to move on, you can easily repeat that Lesson the next day.
My spoken Italian is probably at a Low Intermediate level (while my listening comprehension and reading skills are better).
With "Ripeti con me!", I found I can really focus on practicing to speak in Italian. I'm happy with the improvement I've noticed.

COST

FluentSimple: Ripeti con me logoAt this time, the course has 60 Lessons.
Click on the left logo for a YouTube playlist with the preview of all the lessons.

You can buy the full course for 44.50 euros ($50.68), or in chunks of 15 Lessons for 14.40 euros ($16.40) each. (Use  Promo Code G4L2018  to save 10%)

FURTHER THOUGHTS

No program will teach you everything you want to achieve in a language. And a program can certainly not replace speaking regularly with native speakers, a trained tutor, or good conversation partners.

A real conversation is so much more than listening and repeating. You have to understand what the other person is saying, which includes all the non-verbal signals that are part of effective communication. Plus, as you're listening and decoding what's being said, your brain is also working on an answer.

Still, good programs offer you the chance to practice specific foreign language skills. The 15 Lessons of Fluent Simple, which I did according to instructions, have clearly boosted my basic speaking fluency.

Beyond that, one can always find more ways to learn with a good program. "Ripeti con me" is no exception. Once you've gone through the course, you can go back and do other things with it. It keeps the material fresh.

MEMORIZE

For some people memorizing works. Once you've gone through the course as suggested, you can take ten sentences, for example, and just keep them in your head for the day. Say them to yourself from time to time, as you walk to work, take a break, or take the bus home. It's a good way to become totally familiar with certain sentence patterns.

DICTATION

I've always enjoyed dictation and have used it a lot in my language teaching and learning. In "Ripeti con me!", Part C of each Lesson is perfect for this. Write down the sentence as you hear it, and stop the audio if you need to. At the end, you can check what you've written against the correct sentences on the PDF file. For one, dictation strengthens the sound-letter correlation. Plus for me, writing something down by hand helps me remember.

WRITING

Journal writing for learning a language has become very popular. Even as a beginner, keep a daily journal by using the sentences that you've learned. Or you can even try out new variations of some of sentences. Do this just from your head, without looking up anything. Because of the many-sentence structure of the course, you'll have lots of possible sentences ready. It's a great start for beginning to write.

Italian is a wonderful language to learn, and you can do it at any age. Think about Italian culture and history, Italy's historic cities, villages, and beautiful countryside. And there's Italian music, and the world of Italian food, fashion and movies.

Besides, learning a language is good for your brain and learning Italian may inspire you to visit. Go for it!

Bio: Ulrike Rettig is the co-founder of GamesforLanguage.com. She's a lifelong language learner, growing up in Austria, the Netherlands, and Canada. You can follow her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram, and leave any comments right here below!

Disclosure: We intend to add "Ripeti con me!" to our Partner's list. Should you decide to purchase "Ripeti con me!" with the listed discount code, Gamesforlanguage will receive a small commission and help us keep our site ad-free.