So, we actually used the Pimsleur CDs more than Rosetta--in the car. We made a deal with Lucas that on the way somewhere we'd play his music (he loves They Might Be Giants) but on the way back we'd listen to the Italian lessons. We all really got into it--replaying some lessons over and over until we got them right. Pimsleur is a very good option and uses a traditional approach--subject specific words and phrases. Useful stuff. I never really got far enough into Rosetta to learn as much as I did from Pimsleur. Also, Pimsleur uses both male and female characters--which was a good way to learn the differences in saying something to a woman rather than and man and vice versa. Here's a link to Pimsleur.
There was also a third way we studied Italian: Google Translate. As long as you are signed into your Google account (Gmail) you're good to go, with a phrasebook to save all you're more important words and phrases. There is a small star that when pressed will save the translation to your very own custom phrasebook. I kept adding phrases that I thought I would need. For instance, I did sections on cursing and fending off potential crooks, health, food, and general conversational stuff. etc. Lisa and I would sit with our Kindles at night and test each other from the phrasebook lists. You can even have Translate speak to you so you can hear how the word or phase is pronounced.
Learning Italian should be easy, after all, I'm full blooded Italian. Well, my parents never spoke Italian at home. I remember them telling me that when they got married back in the Thirties, they wanted an American household--English speaking. So I never learned my mother's tongue--Neapolitan--or my father's tongue, southern dialect from Molfetta. Sure, I learned a few words here and there... mostly slurred curse words. But I was determined I would learn some real Italian before I left for Italy. We all needed to learn some.
We had two options. Lisa picked up the Italian Rosetta Stone software and we already had Pimsleur CDs. The Rosetta Stone is an odd way of learning a language. There are no translations... just photos and the spoken or written word. Their theory is to learn a language like babies do--by associating words with what you are looking at. We all tried it on the computer--Lucas too--but it was not really that convenient. You had to plug in a headset/microphone unit to use the software. Also, we found later on that their android app only covered a limited number of chapters and then they blackmailed you for more cash. More? Hey, Rosetta was expensive--$400! For that money I expected to do the whole course, whether on the computer or on my android device. And consider that the mobile version is often dumbed down. It really made it impossible to use the mobile version of Rosetta while I was taking my weekend baths. (A great place to practice a language).
Another small annoyance was that Rosetta at times had trouble recognizing words as we spoke. I mean, I know that I'm saying something simple like "bambino" correctly, but sometimes it asked me to repeat 2-3 times until it understood what I was saying. I had a very good headset on a high end computer with decent sound card, so that wasn't the problem.
You can get a translation either way... English to Italian or the other way around in case you've come across some Italian that you needed translated. In fact, often I would research Italian web sites that Google didn't list a "translate this page" link (a pretty handy thing by itself). So I'd copy the full text from an article, paste it into the Italian side of Translate and presto! English. Ok, so the translations for full bodies of text were not that great, but at least I got the gist of the article I was reading. The best thing about Google Translate is the price. Free.
In the end we all learned some Italian. Lucas was a bit shy but spoke perfectly when he did speak Italian. Lisa remembered a lot but face to face had a hard time coming up with the right Italian words. I did better, perhaps because I had learned some French years ago and wasn't afraid to dive in and sound Italian (I think my accent is pretty decent. Pat Pat.) Of course there were times it was difficult to have in depth conversations but I still managed to talk to a lot of different kinds of people... young, old, shopkeepers, artisans, etc. Learning a language is a skill that I wish they would push a bit more in our schools. Many Europeans know some English, but very few Americans know any French, Italian or German. In fact, I was disappointed when I discovered that our school district doesn't even offer Italian or French--both were options when I went to high school. Too bad... Dommage... Peccato.
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