I was recently contacted by Stefano Lodola, an Italian native, polyglot and language coach who runs a site called Fluent. Simple.
He created an Italian course called Ripeti Con Me! (Repeat With Me!) which he sent me partial review access to (the first 15 lessons) so I’m going to share some of my own insight after spending some time with it.
But it’s always refreshing to see attempts at trying new things.
Ordinarily, I wouldn’t review an item on a whim if I’ve never previously heard of it, but given the fact that Ripeti Con Me! attempts to use a very a Glossika-esque approach (of which I’m a fan), I was curious to take a closer look at it and see how it compares to Glossika Italian.
Since I’ve only seen the first 15 lessons, I should emphasize that I’m unable to speak comprehensively on the depth of the entire course and higher levels here.
I’d estimate that I’m personally around an A2 level in Italian (I lived in Sondrio after my Russia stint and frequent the area), meaning that it’s a little hard to put myself in the shoes of a totally brand new learner of Italian using the program without any prior knowledge.
But hopefully this review this gives you some idea of the Ripeti Con Me! content and method.
NOTE: I reached out to Stefano with some questions but never heard back. If he replies, I’ll update this review with his responses to my interview questions.
Used Ripeti Con Me! before?
Share your experience below.
Innovation vs. imitation in language products (and does it matter?)
Oftentimes, you come across new language courses and products and it’s clear that they’re a clone or spin-off of something else.
Ripeti Con Me! doesn’t hide the fact that it’s trying to build on and “improve” Glossika’s method.
It seems clear that Stefano Lodola is personally fond of the Glossika approach (he shares this opinion on his website) but he saw issues in the Italian version that he wanted to rectify.
Here are some of the main (perceived) issues with Glossika Italian that Stefano draws attention to:
- Native Italian speakers talk too fast
- English and Italian sentences/translations don’t always match
- Glossika uses a regional Italian accent (I wish he’d expand on this further and why it’s important)
- Unnatural or awkward Italian sentences
- Inadequate pauses between Glossika sentences
- Sentences are too long
Ripeti Con Me! attempts to iron out these points and provide an improved Glossika derivative made by an Italian for learners of Italian (see my important comment on this below).
After some research, I found numerous comments online from Stefano that do indeed confirm that Ripeti Con Me! was motivated by and intended to follow the Glossika method.
Only if you study Italian, I can recommend “Ripeti con me!”. I made it so I’m biased, but you can still check out the free preview on my website and judge for yourself.
My intent was to keep the method and fix those flaws.
I consider it an improved version of Glossika. It also happens to be more affordable.
I’m not sure how I feel about this, to be honest.
First of all, I don’t have an issue with building on and improving existing concepts – especially if the original concepts had room for improvement.
Many great innovations have been built on other people’s ideas.
But it’s still an ethical gray area for me.
It’s almost impossible to patent or trademark ideas and methods (something I have personal experience trying!), so there’s technically nothing stopping someone from “keeping the method” and creating something else with it.
But I know that Mike Campbell (Glossika’s founder) has spent decades using, improving and promoting his method.
It’s not a whimsical course that he put together overnight.
Speaking from personal experience, it frankly sucks when you put years of thought and love into an idea, only to have someone come along and reappropriate it (I’ve had this happen to me several times and it’s a crushing feeling).
Even if they’ve made it better.
This is why I often get frustrated with companies that put a fresh coat of paint on existing software and market the hell out of it (e.g. Babbel which very clearly emerged as an attempt at cloning Rosetta Stone).
I even wrote a whole article on the topic.
So while I admire that Ripeti Con Me! has been very clear and forthright about building on the concept of Glossika, the issue for me is whether or not it’s sufficiently unique and innovative.
What does Ripeti Con Me! provide?
Glossika was originally (may still be — I’m not sure) a book publisher.
The Glossika method came as either a printed booklet or a PDF with MP3 audio files of all the recorded sentences.
I made use of the Russian book when I lived in Russia.
As I said in my Glossika review, the company then moved toward a SaaS business model a short while ago, turning its books and audio into an interactive web app.
It’s the same identical course, content and method but with a gamified app that records progress and skills.
Ripeti Con Me! is packaged the same way as Glossika was originally.
You receive a PDF booklet of all the lessons and sentences (Italian with English translations underneath), and a collection of MP3 files (3 files — a, b and c — for each lesson).
There’s also another PDF that explains how to use it all.
The MP3 files are designed like this:
A: English is spoken. Italian translation given and repeated. No pause.
B: English is spoken. Pause given to allow you to translate. Italian translation spoken once.
C: Italian only.
The individual steps are laid out in the PDF instructions.
Interestingly, Stefano uses something called shadowing which I’ve talked about before.
This is something that’s done in simultaneous interpretation (where you’re interpreting as the native speaker is talking).
Shadowing is also used as a training exercise for people learning to simultaneously interpret.
It’s one of the more challenging activities you can do as a polyglot as it requires detailed attention to and comprehension of what you’re hearing while at the same time producing accurate interpretation in another language.
Course structure – where Ripeti Con Me! seems to completely diverge from Glossika
People often remark that Glossika seems to be just a random collection of sentences that don’t seem to make a whole lot of sense together.
You get asked to repeat sentences like this one:
Mike Campbell has talked a lot about the overall course and syntactical structure of his “sentence training”.
He discussed this at length in my Glossika review and interview.
He’ll also use terms like “algorithm” to explain how he’s worked out appropriate syntactical patterns to repeat.
I think the precise details of this are still a bit of a mystery.
Ripeti Con Me! seems to diverge completely from what Glossika does.
I went through the 15 lessons I was sent and was easily able to spot the patterns and grammar focus of each lesson. For example:
Lesson 1: Sei Italiano?
Most of the sentences here use patterns that include the verb ‘to be’. (I am, you are, he is, etc.)
Lesson 2: Ho sete!
These patterns show ‘to have’.
Lesson 3: Un gelato, due gelati
Singular and plural endings. Number agreement.
I think this is the most important point in terms of any comparison between the two programs.
Glossika has its own way of implicitly introducing these syntactic patterns.
Ripeti Con Me! is much more explicit.
So even though Ripeti Con Me! does not introduce a lesson saying, “Today we’ll look at how to say ‘you have’ something in Italian”, it’s pretty clear from a cursory glance what it’s trying to teach you.
Whether or not one is better than the other is no doubt subjective.
My only question is ‘what differentiates Ripeti Con Me! from simply extracting lesson sentences straight out of a grammar book?’
The audio is definitely slower and clearer in Ripeti Con Me! — Glossika is quite fast (natural speed).
Not being an expert or high-level speaker of Italian, I wish I could comment on the dialect or accent differences between the two but I do know that for some language editions, Glossika has been known to hire speakers with obscure/regional accents.
This is not always a problem necessarily but it needs to be stated clearly.
Pricing differences between Glossika Italian and Ripeti Con Me!
Like I said, Glossika moved over to a SaaS model so they provide a monthly subscription.
This works out to be $30 a month or about $25 a month if you pay annually up-front.
Ripeti Con Me! is a once-off downloadable purchase.
For the 15 absolute beginner lessons I got to try out, you’d pay €14.40.
For the entire collection, it’s €91.80.
Obviously more steep up-front but the advantage is you’re not paying for a subscription.
Benefits of getting a subscription service: progress tracking, access to all languages, constant updates and improvements, control over intervals, speed and ability to record your own voice.
The obvious disadvantage is that you don’t technically “own” what you paid for.
Sometimes it’s just nice to be able to put your MP3’s onto a portable device and play without having to log in to a site.
Native speakers don’t always know what’s best for learners
I thought I’d share a timely article/video that just came out on the I Will Teach You A Language blog.
Olly raised a pertinent point about native speakers and how they’re not always the best teachers of their own language. I’ve been saying the same thing for years.
Just because you speak a language natively, doesn’t mean you know how to teach it.
Important: a native speaker doesn’t necessarily know the struggles that learners are facing.
I’ve seen this countless times with Arabic.
Native speakers are often clueless when it comes to learner issues.
I thought this was timely advice as I was looking at Ripeti Con Me! and contemplating the exact same thing – Stefano sought to correct Glossika’s method from the perspective of a native speaker (which may or may not be directly relevant to learners of Italian).
Does this necessarily apply to Stefano and Ripeti Con Me!?
Not necessarily. Maybe.
I don’t actually know anything about Stefano Lodola in terms of his teaching experience (still waiting on his reply).
What I can say is that regardless of the method that Ripeti Con Me! uses, the sentences themselves are a valuable resource and could be a great listening resource on their own.
Being as inexpensive as it is, I would certainly use it (I personally recommend using its content for high-repetition listening as I demonstrated here).
Used Ripeti Con Me! before?
Share your thoughts below.