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From an Italian teacher's perspective, I highly recommend the Pimsleur series. I do think they're the best. And the reason is because they get you to repeat the phrases over and over and over again. Learning a language takes time, but if you need some essential expressions before your trip, this is the audio CDs you want.

The important thing in learning a language is repetition, and you'll get plenty of it with these CDs, as well as learning correct pronunciation. As far as books go, you may end up using a combination, but I do like the Living Language Beginner's book a lot.

Definitely join a course in your area - there's no better practice than to practice in a group! Perhaps you can ask if a community college has it as a continuing education program - although you won't have big problems with the language in the bigger cities, Italians do appreciate if you know at least a little bit.

If instead, you're planning on visiting Southern Italy, or the countryside, you definitely want to know some Italian (if you want a vacation, and not an adventure, that is!).I hope this helps!
11 comment228 of 233 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on November 9, 2006
I have tried several audio language learning programs, but have really enjoyed the Pimsleur Italian program & found it most helpful for learning. I believe the best features of this program are the variety of topics and complexity of each lesson, the way repetition is used while complexity of phrases and sentences increases (i.e., they start with a word, then a phrase, then making the phrase negative, then a sentence, then incorporate prior learning with the new, so on), and it's fun. It helps to enjoy learning a language. Not sure if it is just me or is intentional but the stories/subplots in the lessons are entertaining. It makes me laugh often when the American male traveller in the lessons strikes out with Italian women! Certainly makes my drive to work more enjoyable! I highly recommend the introductory lessons & plan to continue with the more advanced ones myself.
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on July 24, 2006
I've taken language courses in the past, and listened to audio cassettes (dating myself), and none have been as effective as this. I am 90% through the course now, and had a native Italian speaking client today. I understood much of what she said, and she was impressed by what I could say and understand! Great price if you think you will stop studying here!

If you think there's a good chance you'll want to learn more, just go for Italian I instead since the first half of it is in this course. I was skeptical at first, and I didn't want to invest in the more expensive 30 lesson set. Now I'm hooked and I'll be buying Italian I. Wish I had just paid the full price in the first place instead of buying BOTH Conversational Italian and Italian I, since they overlap by 16 lessons.
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on April 28, 2008
I have been more than pleased with the Pimsler's Into to Italian. I have done a side comparisons of different courses. Pimsler wins. I purchased the into to Italian courses of different publishers including Berlitz and Rosetta Stone. Pimsler is the one I have used the most because it an audio disk and can be used in my vehicle. Any time I am in my vehicle I am learning.
The into Berlitz course is also on audio disk but it does not match the Pimsler in useful content or style of presentation. I have stopped using it entirely. I have also stopped using two other lesser known courses.
I am continuing use the Rosetta Stone but not as much as the Pimilser on about a 4 to 1 basis. Rosetta Stone is excellent, has more features than Pimsler but that is also one its downfalls. Since it requires that I be at my computer to use it, I use it less. At the moment I use it for working on my pronunciation. The voice print analysis and pronunciation meter features are cool. Also when I start trying to learn to read Italian is suspect Rosetta Stone will be more useful.
However for the average beginner just trying to learn a basic vocabulary and practical phrases Pimsler wins hands down. For example the Pimsler course taught me how to order wine and beer while Rosetta Stone was teaching me how to say "The boy is Jumping". Also, If you are on a budget, the Pimsler is cheaper. If you are not on a budget get both Pimsler and Rosetta Stone but if you have to choose, get Pimsler
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on July 25, 2012
I have listened to these CDs to learn Italian during my 40 minute commute each way to work. I really liked the set - although after completing the 8 two-sided discs I feel that I should have learned more nouns, colors, basic stuff. Also, I would love to have an enclosure in the kit with how the words are spelled and what is masculine or feminine. So while I liked it and learned from the format, I think it could offer a little more bang for the buck!
Now that I have tried the Living Language Series - I am revisiting my original review of Pimsleur. Really skip this product. You will only learn how to order Beer and Wine (but not red or white wine because you won't learn colors). You will be able to pay in dollars or euros but that's about it. You will be able to tell time until about 10 o'clock but you won't learn noon or midnight. You won't learn the days of the week or any basic nouns. Very Disappointing. Also there is no "next" edition of Pimsleur for about $30...you have to spend about $200 for the whole set.
22 comments64 of 68 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on February 29, 2008
Stop! Don't buy this one if you're serious about learning Italian.

The Pimsleur series is the best self-taught language learning system out there but this product is just the first half of Italian I : Pimsleur Comprehensive (Pimsleur CD Series). Once you hear these 16 CD's you'll want the rest and you'll be angry you spent the money buying these first. The first 16 lessons just give you enough to get interested but not enough to reasonably converse with anyone. You'll be sorry if you like them and end up wanting more.
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on July 5, 2006
To learn some Italian before visiting Italy, I tried multiple language-learning programs borrowed from my local library. Some were ridiculous, many required using a workbook. Then I stumbled on the Pimsleur program, which is totally audio, allowing me to learn Italian while I drove to and from work. Due to the pedagogically- sound method Pimsleur developed for language learning, I actually did learn some basic Italian. As a result I bought "Conversational Italian." Though I've never considered myself adept at language-learning, I actually felt confident in my ablility to learn Italian as a result of these CDs. I've raved about them to friends who have expressed interest in learning a language.
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VINE VOICEon May 18, 2012
Before going on vacation to Italy, and not knowing any Italian, I wanted to learn basic, practical phrases for everyday use. I tried teaching myself the language through books, but they were of no help in teaching me pronunciation. Having listened to Pimsleur's Spanish cassette tapes (a long long time ago), I knew what I needed, so I bought Pimsleur's Conversational Italian CDs. I'm glad I did. The sixteen, 30 minute lessons taught me enough elementary Italian to be able to order food from a menu, buy gifts for family and friends, and ask for directions to Piazza This and Via That while wandering around Venice and Rome. Of course, I had to refer to an Italian phrase book and use hand gestures, but at least I could try to speak the language with the people there, without the usual fear of getting lost that comes with being in a foreign city. Too, the Italians I met were very friendly and patiently appreciated the effort I made to try to speak their language.

By learning some commonly used expressions and being able to put together simple sentences, you will be free to enjoy your vacation in Italy. I highly recommend Pimsleur's Conversational Italian as a starting point on your way to learning the basics.

Buon viaggio! Ciao.
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on September 27, 2007
Came with recommendation from friends and is excellent. Based on good applied linguistic principles. It's clear and easy to follow and encourages good pronunciation. A very good starting point
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on March 31, 2007
I took one year of Italian in both high school and college. In the anticipation of a trip to Italy, I picked this up and started listening and working on refamiliarization of this beautiful language. I ended up skipping the first two CD's because I knew the content. The last two disks were challenging and made me realize there is so much depth in the Italian language.
0Comment10 of 10 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse