Many folks who travel to Italy are often lulled into the false notion that everyone speaks English in Italy. While that may be true of the majority of those in tourism professions in large cities like Rome, Florence, Milan, Venice etc, you won’t find everyone speaking English in many of the smaller towns and villages that I recommend you visit for the most authentic Italy.
It certainly wasn’t the case when I needed directions while driving through the Tuscan countryside.
Would be travelers to Italy are often afraid of taking that first step in planning a trip because they aren’t fluent in the Italian language. Fear takes over and instead of a fabulous dream vacation to Italy, they wind up squashing their dreams and choosing a safer, English-speaking destination, closer to home. Florida, California, I’m talking about you.
For the reasons listed above, I’ve always recommended learning at least a little bit of the local langauge before traveling. You don’t need to be fluent, but arming yourself with a basic understanding of the language, along with a good phrasebook or smartphone translation app, would go along way to making your trip smoother.
And I also like to mention that learning and speaking Italian can be fun!
Nothing beats having a native speaking private tutor for learning Italian, but for those who don’t have access or the desire to learn in that way (or don’t wish to learn that much), Mango Languages has a fabulous option!
I’ve used and recommended their standard language lessons that you can get on-line, and even for free through some participating libraries. But now they have a new product called Mango Passport. It’s a downloadable software program, designed specifically for travel.
After downloading the software for the Mango Passport Italian on my Macbook and running through each and every slide from every lesson in an effort to give it a thorough test drive before reviewing it, I’m now happy to report my findings.
Here are the things that I like about it:
- Though there aren’t any pictures to associate with the words, it’s still a nice looking program. Since you’ll be staring at a computer screen for hours, Mango really took that into consideration and gave it a very appealing look.
- It’s organized very well and gives you a nice combination of topics that all pertain in some way to traveling in Italy like directions, shopping, eating, currency, asking for help, introductions and holding conversations.
- The program is ‘meaty’. With 10 chapters and 52 lessons, you really get your money’s worth.
- The program is designed by native Italian speakers. The voices and pronunciation are very clear and easy to understand.
- Grammar and cultural notes are interspersed throughout each lesson.
- Learn at your own pace. Each lesson or slide can be stopped, started, paused and repeated at any time.
- I had no issues with glitches or hiccups. It never sputtered, had to be reloaded or crashed. It runs as smooth as silk (on my Macbook).
- It’s very user-friendly. Anyone can figure out how to use it.
- The record-playback feature is awesome! You can record your own voice speaking words or phrases and play it back to hear how you sound. You can also arrange that audio track to play back at the same time as the native speaker’s audio track. This is a very helpful feature which sets it apart from other programs I’ve tired.
And a few minor suggestions:
- In Italian, there are both formal and informal tenses of the language. In this program, some of both is taught. If you’re just starting out learning a new language for basic travel, the formal tense would be sufficient. It could be too confusing to use both and I would have liked to see just the formal tense. After all if you’re just traveling, it can be assumed you don’t know anyone, yet.
- I wish they had a feature where you could just play the lessons without having to push the space bar or click every time you wish to advance the slide. Doing it that way does let you go at your own pace, but it also requires that you be in front of the computer and manually advancing the slides in each lesson. The addition of an automatic playback feature might let you learn while doing other things. Perhaps they could allow an option for both.
I will also mention that on the initial purchase, I didn’t receive the license code required for download, but this is likely because I had a special code to input instead of just making a regular purchase. But an email and simple phone call to Mango Languages customer service resolved the matter quickly and professionally and I was up and running in no time after that.
It was one of the better experiences I have had with a brand’s customer service department of late – so kudos to them for being so friendly and responsive.
If you think you might be interested in learning Italian, I’ve got some great news!
Mango Languages has been kind enough to give away a free download of the complete Italian program, which also includes an MP3 version for learning on the go.
I’ll be giving it away next month to one lucky Mélange Travel Newsletter subscriber. Not a subscriber yet? No worries, you can join here.
And if you don’t like the idea of downloading anything to your computer – Mango is now offering a boxed CD set as a test on Amazon for five languages. Though the Italian version isn’t available yet, the French version is.
Disclosure : Mango Languages gave me a complimentary download of Passport Italian for the purpose of this review. As always, the opinions contained in my review are my own.