Want to not only understand, speak, read, and write Italian, but also learn about local culture, communities, food, and traditions? Want to benefit from all the interactive technology available and applied to language learning? Do you also wish to learn Italian grammar and structure in an effective, non-threatening manner? If you answered these questions in the affirmative, then Tell Me More Premium Italian is the product for you. Tell Me More Premium Italian addresses all the skills critical to learning a language; reading, writing, listening, speaking, vocabulary, and grammar. Unlike other similar packages, language exercises revolve around real, authentic Italian culture. The Auralog website claims that “whatever your objectives or level, Tell Me More adapts to your needs and guides you through the language learning process, just as a teacher would." Being a professor of modern languages, with many years of language teaching experience, I can confirm that this is true of Tell Me More Premium Italian.
[See Culture 1 and Culture 2 screen shots]
This is the most complete and extensive language software on the market, with up to 950 hours of learning. I am familiar with previous versions of Tell Me More Italian since it was adopted many years ago by my department as one of our student language lab resources. This new version is substantially improved, more interactive, and yet still rigorous and well-organized. The new build of the program addresses one of my main concerns with older versions, where there was a lack of a genuine “total beginner" level. In the past I felt that Tell Me More Italian would work well for students who had already had at least one college semester of Italian. That is not the case anymore, since a new Complete Beginner level is now available, along with other substantial innovations.
[See Dialogue, Picture & Word Association and Video & Questions screen shots]
Tell Me More Premium Italian is based on a fusion of full-immersion, interactive games, dialogues and traditional grammar (if you are so inclined, otherwise you can skip those sections). I wish this type of tool was available when I learned other languages. I gladly recommend it to students who want to learn on their own or keep up the language skills they already have. Remember, there is no need to panic. You will not have to make sense of complex grammar rules. They are offered in a non-threatening, concise, accessible manner. You will learn vocabulary through interaction and context. Something that surprised me a bit, however, is that the program occasionally presents exercises based on translating from Italian to English, which is a bit dated as an approach. On the other hand, you will be learning in the same way everyone learns their native language as children, by connecting words and phrases with images, or words with sounds, or words to other words in context. The adult learner, however, may also appreciate the opportunity to learn why things work in a specific way rather than another, thanks to the concise and accessible grammar sections.
Learning a language independently requires discipline, mostly by setting aside about half an hour a day, every day, for a few months. The task is made more accessible by the interactive nature of the software, which both engages and challenges you. You will move rapidly from basic to advanced conversational skills. Each lesson focuses on the main areas of effective language learning: pronunciation, vocabulary, grammar, listening, reading, writing, and speaking.
Although apparently expensive, this software really is a steal since it is a complete method, from beginner to advanced speaker. The four steps, each on an individual cd-rom (true beginner, basic, intermediate, advanced) are well-constructed and do correspond to authentic levels of linguistic competence and proficiency. Besides, it will allow you to work at your own pace and at your own time. What this type of language learning software requires, though, is perseverance. You will not need to spend hours a day on it. However, you should be ready to commit to a half an hour a day, everyday, for a few weeks. The built-in Day Planner feature will help you keep up with your Italian. The attractive interface, graphics and audio capabilities will make such a commitment easier. In fact, it will feel more like playing an interactive textual adventure game than “studying."
[See Day Planner screen shot]
The speech recognition feature is quite effective, although at times it requires you to speak at a pace that will seem too fast. Don’t feel as if you’re not doing well enough, though, and disregard the speech recognition graphs. While the intention of the graphs is good, I was faring just ok, and yet I am a native speaker.
Tell Me More Premium Italian is never tedious or boring. Some of the exercises may leave you a bit puzzled as to their real purpose (such as the “find the hidden words" exercise that seems taken from a children’s game magazine) but they do serve to familiarize you in a “playful" way with relevant material that is normally cultural in nature. As a native Italian and a language professor, this is the feature that I appreciate the most about this e-course. Tell me More Premium Italian provides real Italian cultural material in context along with sound language instruction. You will learn about Italy while learning how to understand, speak, read and write Italian. My inner videogame-player self appreciated the the challenge (you will feel more like you are playing an interactive game but you don’t have to be a videogame player to understand how it all works). My professional adult self , however, appreciated the sound linguistic and cultural approach (you will never feel “patronized" by the software).
Performance (4 out of 5)
Tell Me More Premium Italian doesn’t require a fast or powerful computer in order to work well. Tell Me More Premium Italian performs well even on older PC’s.
There are only a few minor issues. Voice recognition is very good, but still at times imperfect. As I noted with other similar software, I find that, as native speaker of Italian, the program can be a bit “unforgiving." However, exercises can be repeated over and over, in order to help learners acquire confidence.
Price to Value (4 out of 5)
Priced at around $265, Tell Me More Premium Italian is an accessible, user-friendly, and, most of all, a complete multi-media language learning software that will have you communicating in Italian sooner than you think. Considering all that is included and offered, this is a solid, attractive, and nicely priced package. Since you can expand your learning to fit your own needs thanks to the audio extract feature, time and money will be saved. Ipod enthusiasts, for example, will appreciate being able to extract individual dialogues and spoken exercises for transfer to their mp3 players without having to resort to downloading additional podcasts. You may even find your dad making his own audio CD to practice while driving around in the car, rather than having to buy a separate audio CD for listening when stuck in traffic.
The headset that is included with Tell Me More Premium Italian is cheap. You will want to go out and purchase a better one.
Installation & Setup (5 out of 5)
Installing the CD appropriate to your level is a simple one-step process. You then select a user name and a password. Tell Me More Premium Italian supports multiple user accounts.
[See Welcome Screen screen shot]
User Interface (4 out of 5)
The graphic interface is simple and easy to navigate, thanks to the animations that guide you thru Tell Me More Premium Italian. You will always know where to click on the screen and where to go next. The voice recognition is effective, based on S.E.T.S. technology (Spoken Error Tracking System) that automatically pinpoints your pronunciation errors.
[See Guided Mode 1 & 2 screen shots]
Pay little attention to the voice recognition graphs, as they are by no means accurate. I am a native a native speaker of Italian yet there is no way I could attain a graph result equal to the ones in the models.
Product Features (5 out of 5)
Tell Me More Premium Italian includes 4 levels: Complete Beginner, Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced. There is also an audio CD, as well as a free headset and microphone. The “learn your Italian everywhere" audio CD is a welcome addition, but no great shakes. There is one new feature, however, that is decidedly more exciting and will substantially help you reinforce your learning. There is the option to extract specific audio files to make your own audio CD or play them in any Ipod or similar mp3 device. This feature is an indication that Auralog successfully incorporates current trends in technology to keep up with changing consumer needs and habits.
There are three learning modes available. The Free-to-Roam Mode allows you to select the activities of your choice. The Guided Mode proposes Learning Paths according to your learning objectives and availability. The Dynamic Mode evaluates your progress as you work and adjusts your activities based on the results of previous exercises. With such flexibility, you need not worry much about skipping one or even a few days. It is easy to pick up again in the program, maybe quickly review and then move on. Most importantly, you don’t need to be a computer wizard to benefit from this package.
[See Lesson Modes screen shot]
Of all the language learning software available for Italian, this is probably the one that comes closest in methodology and structure to actually taking an interactive, college-level language course. Imagine being accepted into one of the very best, all-interactive , and most technologically advanced language courses taught by a fantastic professor. The course is very rigorous and structured yet fully accessible, user-friendly and even fun. Well, this is Tell Me More Premium Italian. It will not substitute for living in Italy or interacting with Italian natives on a regular basis but it will successfully prepare your for both scenarios. With the language skills you’ll acquire from Tell Me More Premium Italian you should be able to “survive" in real-life interactions and ultimately communicate efficiently. It’s an all-in-one, convenient package that allows you to build up to advanced skills. It does a better job than other similar products in exposing you to authentic spoken and written Italian. The voices belong to natives and it is obvious that a specific effort was made to include authentic, present-day communication in Italian, including a touch of different regional accents. This package will expose you to standard Italian with a sufficient variety of intonations and accents that feel “authentic" and should prepare you for the “real thing." The feature that I appreciated most is authentic Italian cultural content. Locations appear authentic and cultural data pertinent.
I was impressed with the “complete the dialogue by speaking your replies" exercises in each chapter. They’re well-constructed, effective and make you feel like you are having a real conversation/interaction with a native speaker. It is a nice way to prepare for “the real (Italian) world."
[See Dialogue screen shot].
Tell Me More Premium Italian is a complete, articulate and effective approach to language learning so I really cannot pinpoint anything specific about the package program except the low quality of the included headset. It is not the best in terms of quality (it is not USB, has one earpiece only and it feels “flimsy"). That said, the voice recognition feature works decently even with your pc built-in microphone.
Help & Support (3 out of 5)
In case you were to experience technical difficulties, there does seem to be a problem with Auralog support. The User Manual, for starters, would not be easy to read for older people, as the typeset is really small. Calling the toll-free number listed on the back of the manual (well, if you’re able to read the small characters) takes you to the company’s general switchboard, which asks you for your party extension, gives you information on how to access the company’s directory but tells you nothing about technical support. Calling the other, non toll-free number listed will not do you any good either, as it is not working. A quick look at their website reveals that they have changed location, and therefore phone numbers have changed. The new direct line is (602) 470-0300 (not 480, etc.). However, you will be greeted with the same general “if you know your party extension" message. You will need to press 0 and speak with a representative in order to be redirected to customer support. They also provide support via email at email@example.com .
- Include a better quality headset in the package, or remove it altogether to keep the price competitive.
- Maybe add a few videos, although the animated/dynamic pictures work fine.
- Increase the font size of the User Manual as a courtesy to older learners.
Tell Me More Premium Italian is a high-quality product that is intuitive and easy to use. There are a few frustrating moments with Speech Recognition, but otherwise you are well guided to always know what you should do next. It’s easy to pick up and use in the way that best reflects your interests and needs. You can skip parts if you are pressed for time or are unable to speak at that moment, and you can simply select the types of activities you want to work on. You will learn real, authentic standard Italian and, unlike other competing products, you will have been exposed to a variety of regional accents and their slight differences in pronunciation. Last but not least, you will learn about the local culture, which will enable you to enjoy your experience when you visit Italy.