Score: 8/10

good coverage of basic phrases & conversational language; image-rich and multimedia-rich presentation; hear words and phrases spoken aloud, with a sense of how far you are from a native accent with speech recognition; helpful exercises connect ideas with words well, particularly for visual learners

not quite the be-all-end-all of language learning; vocabulary-heavy; Italian grammar still left unclear; price

As I noticed when I reviewed this course for other languages, it’s hard to evaluate this product without reviewing the entire Rosetta Stone program, since Rosetta Stone: Italian is in some ways a copy of the same product for other languages.

Unlike audio-only methods, this course introduces writing (or reading) and speaking (or listening) simultaneously. It does this by associating written vocabulary words with their sound and with a variety of images. Exercises push Italian learners to complete those associations by choosing the picture that best answers a question in Italian, for instance. The program then attempts to seamlessly transition learners to grammar and sentence structure by incorporating vocabulary items into a larger framework without too much extra explanation that bogs down traditional grammar books.

The heavy reliance on vocabulary learning and secondary treatment of grammar leaves some tricky concepts unexplained. Image and phrase association/repetition works great for some types of visual learners, but auditory learners might prefer CD/cassette courses with less distractions. On the other hand, the speech recognition allows for better mimicking of repeated words and phrases, even though it fails to simulate interaction with a native Italian speaker.

Rosetta Stone has its share of followers and detractors. The method is heavily marketed and touted as highly acclaimed, which draws plenty of feedback and criticism. Many users and reviewers, myself included, don’t feel that the course is as perfect as it advertises. I have spent most of my life using language learning courses of all stripes, and this one isn’t the magic bullet.

Does this mean that the course isn’t worth the money? It certainly has a high price tag, but no higher than other immersion courses like Pimsleur Italian, also rated and reviewed on this site. If you benefit from a colorful, multimedia-rich software package that teaches vocabulary and basic conversational skills, especially for learners with solid visual memory, you’ll find that the course offers a great language learning experience.

This course ultimately can’t do justice to the kind of realistic interaction and linguistic problem solving that best activate those language centers in your brain. But, in the end, it can do better than most at advancing beginning learners dedicated to progressing through the course to a solid understanding of Italian.