ItalianPod101 – A Podcast Style Italian Course
ItalianPod101 is a user-friendly online platform that helps you improve your Italian, emphasis on improve.
Upon a closer look at the lessons’ structures, this tool is better suited for people that already speak some Italian, people who want to enrich their vocabulary, to improve their pronunciation, or to learn idioms and a few cultural facts about Italy and the Italian culture.
I would not recommend it as a first resource to go to when you are a beginner, most of their materials are based on various situations one might encounter, how to ask for particular things in certain contexts and are quite broad, however, they are lacking a well-defined structure.
In my opinion and also from a learner’s standpoint, I would give up my subscription rather fast as a beginner as it can be quite confusing to figure out what lessons they offer for each level.
I browsed through a few modules and lessons and I couldn’t find avere (to have) or essere (to be) and these are the first few things you should be introduced to as a beginner.
However, let’s review the whole platform and let me tell you some good parts of it and also the things I believe should be improved.
The course lacks a well thought out structure
ItalianPod101 is nicely designed and it has an easy to use interface. The knowledge base is structured into modules with a particular thematic topic and each of these modules can have up to 50 lessons.
The lessons have a lot of cool features, downloadable materials, a lot of audio files which are of great help for repeating words and sentences out loud, however, one key element is missing – a lack of exercises.
Vocabulary can be tested with a quiz in every lesson, but nothing more. I think this is one of the biggest improvements they could add to the platform.
The overall structure of what they provide is quite random, lessons are being suggested on your dashboard, but I couldn’t figure out based on what, to be honest. I couldn’t find the connection between my previously studied module and the one they added to my list.
The content they add to each lesson is somewhat comprehensive, clear and it’s easy to go through.
I will talk a bit more about this aspect later on, for now, let me walk you through the resource.
Getting started is very easy
Using the platform for the first time is very easy, there aren’t a lot of input fields to fill in, and registration takes less than 1 minute.
Signing-up is mandatory, you only need to select your level, add your email address and confirm that email address in your inbox.
Alternatively, you can sign up through Facebook.
The Lesson library gives you suggested pathways for your level as well as a more comprehensive list of recommended lessons which includes a variety of topics, however, they don’t have a particular structure – they are arbitrarily listed there.
The user has the possibility to filter the listed results in the list by choosing from the drop-down menu sorting by – Alphabetical, Recent, or Popular.
The Dashboard section – here is where you can find your suggested pathways. The platform offers lessons that they think you should study for your level, you also have the features of adding a pathway or editing them.
Adding a pathway leads to the lesson library, where you can only choose to study now, not add it to your dashboard. Removing one of the pathways from the dashboard doesn’t work, once you refresh the page the pathway is still there.
The platform automatically adds more pathways to your dashboard as you progress through the lessons.
The Vocabulary tab – here you can find many free resources applicable to your study plan, dictionaries, word of the day, 100 most commonly used words etc.
The Flashcards are a valuable attribute of the platform that allows you to learn new words, it offers an audio option for pronunciation as well as a context for each word in a sample sentence.
Once you read that sentence, you have to mark it as correct or incorrect. After you click on the correct answer, it takes you directly to the next flashcard.
My teacher tab – this is only available starting with the Premium Plus plan. However, it’s safe to say that finding a teacher on italki will be much more flexible, cost-effective, and convenient.
Lessons are well structured but the organization of modules could be improved
Each module is structured in short lessons (anywhere between 25 to 50), they include audio files and a brief description of what the lesson holds.
Once you open a lesson, you get some really practical features of what you can do with the files – downloading PDF files (lesson notes, transcripts, checklist), share the lesson, add to favorite lessons, add notes and download all audio and video files.
The bottom of the browser also displays a handy play option that you can use.
Each lesson starts with a dialogue; you have the option of listening to it and recording yourself too so you get to practice your pronunciation – note this feature of recording is not included in the basic package. An English version of the text is available as well.
The dialog section is followed by a vocabulary breakdown of the words used in the previous text. You have the option of selecting an example of a context for the word too.
This feature of the lesson is one of their big pluses, you can hear the pronunciation of the word, see it being used in a sentence and most importantly you have these options at the end of the module: Add to Flashcard Deck, Add to Word Bank, Slideshow (where you can hear the words again) and Take Quiz to test your knowledge.
Quizzes are useful but not sufficient
The quiz has 2 sections – choose the correct answer test, where you can see the percentage you scored and review the answers, and the Writing test which also provides the same answers features and the scoring percentage of your results.
The questions are in English and they ask you to write the Italian equivalent of the word.
The Quiz settings allow you to change the language in which you want your Writing questions to display, for example, you can choose Italian and in this case, the questions will appear in Italian, asking you to write the English equivalent of the word.
Lesson Notes explain grammar in more depth along with cultural insights
The next section of the lesson structure is the Lesson notes. It’s basically a summary and it explains grammar rules, provides examples to explain the usage of the rule, exceptions and other necessary details.
Another interesting offering is the Cultural Insights part. It explains certain cultural elements important in that culture and things the learner should be aware of.
You have the option of downloading the PDF file of these, which is very clearly structured.
The last section of the lesson is the transcript which details all of the elements presented before in the lesson, with the option to download it as a PDF document as well.
A section of comments is available at the end of the lesson where users can share their opinions and debate on multiple aspects of the lessons.
The website is well-designed but there aren’t enough exercises
As you move along through the lessons and mark them as complete, the platform automatically displays how many lessons of that particular module the user has finished.
The Newest lessons tab from the main navigation offers all the recently added lessons.
The design of the lessons is appealing, clean, and easy to follow, the downloadable materials are a huge bonus and you are also able to share the lessons with other people via Social Media or email.
The structure of the information in each lesson is logical, clear and extensive. They cover a lot of topics – grammar, vocabulary, cultural tips, audio, and pronunciation.
Unfortunately, one major downside of this platform is the lack of exercises and methods of testing your knowledge.
The only available test is in the vocabulary section, however, it should also provide tests for listening, comprehension and grammar exercises. I have to say, the vocabulary test provided for the intermediate level was quite basic, I think even a beginner would manage to pass the test.
The lessons seem like a good tool to accumulate information and learn some grammar and vocabulary; however, I’d recommend using a good grammar book as well.
This might seem suitable for someone who is self-studying, but who also benefits from other ways to practice the language and especially test his/her knowledge. A positive point that I might add to the lessons is the fact that it’s structured based on various situational topics, e.g. making an appointment.
The price varies according to the chosen plan and subscription length
There are three plans the user can choose from: Basic, Premium and Premium Plus. These plans have various price points with the monthly plans being most expensive and the 2-year plans being quite a bit cheaper.
Features of the Basic package – $8 per month or $4 per month with a 2-year subscription:
• Complete lesson access
• In-Depth Lesson Notes
• Basic access on other devices such as iPhones, iPads, and android tablets
• 100 core words and phrases
Features of the Premium package – $25 per month or $10 per month with a 2-year subscription(additional to the basic features):
• Line-by-Line Audio Dialogue
• Premium access on other devices
• HD Video
• 2000 core words and phrases
• Recording option, daily new lessons, custom words lists, season vocabulary, word bank, audio dictionary, grammar bank, vocabulary slideshow, spaced repetition flashcards
Features of the Premium Plus package – $47 per month or $22.88 per month with a 2-year plan (in addition to the Premium package):
• Premium Plus access on all other devices
• Access to a teacher
• Personalized Learning Curriculum – this plan is structured by the teacher according to your goals, level and study needs
• Ongoing Professional Assessment
Which, if any, plan should you consider?
Comparing all these plans, besides the fact that the Premium Plus account offers a teacher to guide and assess you, I don’t really see the point of getting it. italki would be a much more convenient and affordable place to find an online Italian teacher.
You can easily benefit from the information of the Basic or Premium account and find other ways to check your knowledge.
The Basic and Premium accounts are ok to buy, especially if you plan to focus on vocabulary and improving your listening comprehension.
It’s also pretty good for pronunciation, but if you’re interested in a thorough pronunciation course, it may be worth considering The Mimic Method, though that’s also a bit pricey.
There is a 60-day 100% money back guarantee policy in case you are not satisfied with the package you purchased. You can also access all the content for free without giving payment information with their 7-day free trial.
ItalianPod101 is fairly good as a supplementary resource
ItalianPod101 is convenient as an additional source to a more structured and solid study plan, not as an independent resource. The lesson plans are randomly placed on your dashboard, not saying they are not good or correct, but it can be very confusing for the user.
It seems like they upload materials as they go along, not as a sequel of lessons that will presumably lead the learner to a certain level of language knowledge.
I can see it effective for people willing to put in the extra work and effort aside from their regular learning method.
But if you plan on learning Italian strictly from this platform, it’ll be a challenge.
You can learn words, basic grammar, phrases, idioms, and improve your pronunciation, but don’t expect to create a logical structure in your mind based on their lessons.
A good alternative for someone looking for a more structured approach would be Pimsleur.
In all fairness, ItalianPod101 is a good tool to use when you learn Italian, but not extensive enough to depend only on it.