I’ve spent a lot of time over the years in Italy, including two language immersion trips.
It’s one of my favorite places in the world (as it is I’m sure for many people!). 🙂
But as amazing Italy is – its culture, food and history – the time spent there has been made so much better simply by being able to communicate in Italian with confidence.
My Italian’s not perfect by any means but even the simplest amount of language makes the world of difference.
Most of the Italian I’ve learned has been through interactions with Italian people in person and on italki. I haven’t had a whole lot of success finding reliable Italian resources that suit my learning style.
What I like about ItalianPod101 is that it suits a whole range of learners from absolute beginner level right up to advanced and is delivered in both audio and video format.
I sent some questions over to Innovative Language a while back. Here are the responses I received:
On ItalianPod101’s methodology:
Innovative Language believes in practical expressions, aligned to CEFR proficiency levels, in the natural context of native speech. Most lessons, then, begin with a dialogue in which a language skill is introduced in context. The rest of the lessons then go on to talk more about the cultural context in which the dialogue takes place, and the key vocabulary, phrases, morphology, and syntax that allow the learner to carry out the particular language task.
I’m a firm believer in this approach personally.
ItalianPod101 focuses on real language and grammar instruction is minimal.
I then asked about the freedom that ItalianPod101 teachers use for lesson creation:
The native speakers who create the content have a lot of freedom to choose what they teach, though we have a few standard series, such as Survival Phrases, that teach roughly the same kinds of expressions across all of our languages.
Innovative Language lessons are aligned to CEFR levels, and we typically ask that teachers try to teach to a standardized set of internal Can Do statements when preparing the dialogues and the grammar and vocabulary information.
Recent changes to ItalianPod101’s lesson structure
ItalianPod101, like other editions of the Innovative Language series, had a huge problem until recently with messy, unstructured lessons.
But now they’ve implemented what’s called Learning Paths.
This is a way of grouping together lessons into topics, goals or areas of interest so you can follow a more linear path in your learning.
They’ve basically grouped lessons into modules.
Just to give you an example, they currently have a module named Talking About Yourself which contains 21 lessons equating to 3 hours and 56 minutes (each module has a completion time like this). You can either complete modules according to your interests or move through them sequentially.
I’ve noticed some great feedback from people on this Learning Paths feature and I think it’s a welcome change.
ItalianPod101 allows you to choose your own path with lots of options
Since the ItalianPod101 dashboard can be quite overwhelming (there is such a thing as too many features!) the Learning Paths feature that you can find under ‘Lessons’ is probably the best place to start.
Because the modules under Learning Paths provide more structure, it may suit most learners who don’t feel comfortable with self-directed learning.
It is optional of course for learners like myself who feel limited by imposed structure.
The material isn’t necessarily in ascending order of difficulty however as you’d expect them to be, even if you decide to follow ItalianPod101’s Learning Paths. They’re grouped together by topic rather than difficulty.
Lessons range from Introduction (covers some absolute basics as well as cultural information that may interest some people) through to Advanced (unfortunately not a whole lot of lesson content at the highest level).
You can select either audio or video lesson content.
The good thing about ItalianPod101 is that lessons are thematic based on authentic situations you’ll find in Italy (rather than just grammar points).
While the content in ItalianPod101 isn’t quite evenly distributed across the different difficulty levels (there’s more lower level material than there is for advanced), there’s definitely plenty to keep most people busy for a long time.
Video lessons in ItalianPod101 range from great to downright terrible
Like some of the other Innovative editions, the ItalianPod101 videos need work.
The videos by Ilaria are by far the best they have (in the Beginner and Intermediate categories only) but there’s just an insufficient amount of them.
The rest of the videos are very low quality in my opinion.
It’s clear that they’ve just created video slideshows with an audio track so I’m not really sure if I’d call them “video lessons”. They belong in the audio lesson category.
There seem to be about 50 lessons in total by the Italian host Ilaria that are great quality.
That’s still a fairly decent amount of lesson material to be fair.
ItalianPod101 audio lesson style
The audio lessons in ItalianPod101 are presented by multiple hosts in English with Italian lesson dialogues.
As it uses a podcast style delivery, the lessons generally consist of quite a lot of conversational banter in English which can be a little annoying to listen to in my opinion. It sounds very scripted at times!
I prefer to get straight into the meat of the Italian vocab and dialogue.
So if you’re like me then you can easily skip the English banter and select just the Italian audio.
You have the option of selecting ‘Line-by-line Audio’ or ‘Vocabulary’ to listen to specific parts of the Italian dialogue (with the English translation).
One beautiful thing about these lessons is that they are 100% downloadable.
What this means is that you theoretically have the option of downloading the entire course content without having to renew your subscription. This is something I also loved about Rocket Italian.
You aren’t restricted to online use only as you are with some online courses (you own what you pay for in other words!).
In the audio lessons, you can record your voice and compare it with the native speaker audio material (rather than use their Premium Plus correction service).
While I’m not a big fan of this method for pronunciation help (I’d prefer to use italki), it’s definitely helpful for some people.
Other features in ItalianPod101
One note on the PDF lesson notes:
They’re very thorough and clearly had a lot of work put into them. In fact, the ItalianPod101 written lesson notes are some of the most comprehensive I’ve seen anywhere.
I’d recommend printing the material and keeping it for reference after your subscription is ended.
Like I intimated above, there is such a thing as having too many features.
ItalianPod101 has so much to offer that it can be overwhelming. It’s also the case that not all of it is very useful.
Take for instance the grammar section.
It’s really scant and quite frankly a waste of time – just a simple page of text with summary points on Italian grammar.
You could find more useful information online for free with a simple search!
But thankfully, explicit grammar instruction is not what ItalianPod101 aims to do anyway.
There are other features for Premium Plus members such as the My Teacher Messenger where you can request assistance with Italian directly from an Italian native teacher. I admit I haven’t tried this but again, I would prefer to use italki for this anyway.
I also recommend combining their word bank (in-built dictionary feature) with the in-built flashcard app they have and you have a very handy tool for memorizing words and phrases outside of the lessons.
Is ItalianPod101 worth the money?
I have mixed feelings about ItalianPod101.
For the earlier levels, there’s a tonne of good content that will keep low-level learners busy for a while.
Advanced: not so much.
There’s a lot of consistency in topics covered in the Beginner levels, but you’ll find that the Italian teachers exercise a lot of freedom in the higher level content.
This means that the content becomes really disorganized.
The recently-added Learning Paths feature definitely improves this however and helps to structure the content.
Overall I’d recommend creating a trial account before laying any money down (create a trial 7 day account right here).
Used ItalianPod101 before? Comment below!
Reviewed by Donovan Nagel.