A few weeks ago I wrote about restarting my Italian studies. As I mentioned since then, I have discarded the Language Hacking book. However, I’ve been keeping up with Italian Uncovered and LingQ and I even added some speaking practice with an Italian teacher in iTalki. I’m now halfway the course (10 lessons) and I thought I’d write down my thoughts of the Italian Uncovered course.
What is italian uncovered?
Italian Uncovered consists of 20 chapters. First in every chapter, you listen to the story chapter for a particular lesson and then you read it (all in Italian at this point). After this you go through the chapter and find all the cognates you can. Then follow the lessons inside the chapter:
- Cognates & translation: There’s a video about cognates for you to watch, presented by an Italian teacher. She explains basically all the cognates and also mentions the possible false cognates. After watching the video there’s a short quiz to test your understanding so far. This part also gives you the full translation of the chapter in English.
- Vocabulary: The Italian teacher goes over the vocabulary in the chapter beyond cognates and also points out interesting things and useful sayings in Italian. This lesson includes a vocabulary worksheet, which often gives you vocabulary beyond the chapter and there are also exercises to practice and to make you memorize the vocabulary better.
- Grammar: The grammar lesson also has a video and a worksheet. These include pretty much the same points, the video goes into it a bit more with examples and then you find the rules in the worksheet summed up. And again, there are exercises to help you to understand how the grammar structures are used.
- Pronunciation: A short video with one pronunciation topic and a worksheet to practice.
- Speaking: A worksheet you can give to your Italian tutor to practice things covered in the lesson.
After the lessons there is a short quiz that tests the vocabulary and grammar from the chapter. The idea is not to memorize everything from the vocabulary or even fully know all the grammar, but to be able to spot these things from the text and figure out vocabulary and grammar you don’t know yet. Vocabulary and the structures are repeated in the subsequent chapters, so you will get repetition this way and everything will start to sink in.
How I’m using the course
I’m a pretty seasoned language learner, and while I think this course gives a solid structure for me to follow, I have modified my approach to it a bit. After all, I already know what works for me.
Already from the beginning, I skipped the exercise of finding cognates. I notice these without really looking for them and I also speak French fluently and Spanish pretty ok, so I have way more cognates than people who only know English. I do think this is a good concept to introduce though, for people who might not have thought about it and especially to those who are studying their first foreign language. I did watch the cognate videos, though, and found them really useful, especially since there are also false cognates and these are often pointed out in the videos.
In addition to the course, I made my own private course in LingQ and studied each chapter there. This was my way of translating the chapter. The one thing I wish the course would have is a vocabulary, so you can look up the words you don’t know and you wouldn’t need to use the full transcript. But LingQ works well of this if you have the premium version. I was having a hard time deciding at which point I should do this though: before or after the cognate and vocabulary videos… Around chapter 5, I decided that I will do this after listening and reading the chapter, so before any of the videos. This seemed to work for me and I feel like I got more out of the videos as well.
I mostly skipped the translations in English. I only looked at them if I had a sentence where I knew what the words meant, but didn’t understand. Often these came up in the videos though, so I very rarely needed to look at the translation. Although I’m not a huge fan of full translations, I do think that if you’re doing self-study, at least in the beginning, they are useful so that you can check if you understood things correctly.
I also skipped the speaking exercises. In the beginning, I didn’t want to take speaking lessons, because I felt I needed to learn a bit more before I could get full use out of them. For me the lessons start to be useful when I feel like I can express myself at least simply. If I know nothing, I’m just going to feel anxious and then I start hating the lessons. After lesson 5, I decided to get an iTalki teacher, mostly because I speak French pretty well and Spanish to a degree I’m finding Italian quite easy. The hardest thing is that at this point my Spanish is still so much stronger, so all the words come to me in Spanish, but this will sort itself out with practice.
Chapter 5 seemed to be some kind of a turning point, because after chapter 5 I started skipping the exercises also. Partly, because of my speaking lessons where I could practice these things and partly because I decided to concentrate on writing iTalki notebooks. I don’t write one from each chapter, but I rather write a bit longer once I get to it. Also I found that I really didn’t want to go to the worksheets and I was worried I wouldn’t stick with the course, and that wouldn’t have been a shame, because the course is REALLY good in my opinion.
In addition to the course, I’ve been reading additional material in LingQ (The Short Stories in Italian for Beginners) and just regular news from Italy, mostly about COVID-19…
Thoughts so far
This course is exactly what I’ve been looking for! It’s like my language classes at school, with few minor differences. There was always a chapter, either a dialogue (in the beginning) or an article about something. We would prepare the new chapter at home, translating if necessary with the provided vocabulary. Then in school the teacher would go over the vocabulary and grammar, like in the course videos and we would have exercises as well. We also had once a week something called “a language lab” which was basically microphone and a tape recorder where you could do speaking exercises. You could also do them in pairs (although the pairs were predetermined). I hated hearing my voice from the tape, but I got used to it in the end.
I always try to find a course with as much text as possible. I like a lot of examples and I think this course is really good for that. In the beginning there’s quite a lot of input and I’m not sure how this would work for me for a less familiar language. Even though I haven’t studied Italian before, I know French and Spanish, so I feel like a bit of a false beginner in Italian. However, with the videos and the provided translation, I think it would work. I like also that exercises are provided, even if I’m not doing them. I think it’s easier to opt out of some material than find things that are missing.
So far, I’m really impressed by the course. I’m learning a lot and I keep wanting to get back to study Italian. That’s always a good sign. I have the other Italian courses from Olly ready to go, once I’m done with this: The Grammar Hero and Conversations. These are for intermediate learners. These are not cheap courses, all the courses cost $200 – $300. However, I find that you do get that value from the course. Good courses take money to produce and I rather pay this for one of these courses than for some others I’ve seen. And yes, there are free resources available, but they don’t produce something quite as high quality as this. I feel like if I finish all the three courses and keep taking iTalki lessons, I’ll be pretty fluent at the end of this.
Here’s a little video that is not related to the course, but one that my teacher sent to me. Quite lovely introduction to Italy.