Linguaphone AllTalk Review
Linguaphone allTalk is an excellent value for money product with an interesting storyline angle and a fixed system of listening, understanding and repeating. This system is slower than some and possibly takes the most effort of memorisation. Vocabulary is recalled from previous lessons but not to a large enough degree to make it naturally memorable. The vocabulary range, however, is extremely impressive: Each lesson comprises a huge amount of new words and phrases which may take a while (at least a few lesson reviews) to learn, but will provide an excellent fundamental vocabulary at the end and put you in good stead when you come to practice.
I like it when Linguaphone allTalk gives words that sound very similar to the words in English. This makes learning those words easy and helps build confidence, but it could be done more often.
Overall, Linguaphone allTalk is a very good product, but the system relies heavily on lesson review and memorisation, and this means that although a lot more vocab can be learned, it is learned with greater difficulty, and therefore more effort is needed than some of its rivals. Some people will like this, some will not. If you consider yourself a good audio learner and want to soak up as much vocabulary as possible then Linguaphone may be the course for you. You will have to put the work in, but at the current download prices of around $50, it is certainly worth considering.
Linguaphone’s system is based on the three simple methods of ‘listen, understand, speak’. The allTalk line of products uses the same system throughout the majority of its 16 CDs albeit under a different mantra of ‘listen, understand, listen again – repeat’. In a nutshell this means that vocabulary is given in Italian (listen), then in English (understand), Italian again (listen again) and then a gap is left for you to say it aloud (repeat). This, is an over-simplification and there is more to the allTalk course than just this. It does, however, represent the basic structure.
The whole Italian course is based on the ongoing story of Sarah Jenkins, a young British woman who works for a wine company called Topqual. She is sent to Florence for a wine fair but cannot speak the language. Sarah is helped to get by and learn the language by Lorenzo Conti from Italio Bella, the organisers of the event and of course he teaches you along the way. This story runs throughout the whole course as Sarah and Lorenzo find themselves in different situations calling for different vocabulary and phrases.
The course uses a set structure and order for most of the lessons:
- A whole conversation between Sarah and Lorenzo is played (he translates some as he goes)
- The vocabulary for the first part of the conversation is given using the listen, understand, listen again – repeat technique.
- The first part of the dialogue is repeated
- A vocab practice lesson is given for the vocabulary learned: You must either translate the Italian into English or vice versa.
- The vocabulary for the second part of the conversation is given
- Vocabulary learned so far is tested with different situations and you must form responses
- The second part of the dialogue is repeated.
- These steps tend to be followed through most of the lessons, although other practices and tests may be thrown in to help you learn the material.
Linguaphone is over a hundred years old and one of the original language courses available. This made me a little nervous about reviewing it as I certainly didn’t want to do it a disservice but I also wanted to be as honest as possible. I have used Linguaphone before when I was about 18: it was the complete French course and I remember being extremely daunted by all the material and use of the foreign language. I was interested to see how the allTalk product would do.
To begin with I liked the scenario idea of the young lady on a trip to Italy and the whole course being based around her introduction to the Italian Language. She begins speaking English and slowly starts to speak in Italian as Lorenzo teachers her new vocabulary and sentences. The acting is well done and the Italian clear and easy to hear.
The main introduction of the vocabulary is in the lessons after the initial conversation is heard; the narrator gives the words as a list with the Italian and the English and then a gap. There is an awful lot of vocabulary here. If learning as much vocabulary as you can is your goal then this is ideal for you as they throw list upon list at you and then test them with practice lessons. It is very difficult to learn and remember all the vocab given, and reviews of previous lessons are essential. The method of delivery of the vocabulary reminds me of receiving vocab lists at school, and although the practice lessons are more original and effective than I remember them being at school, the method is possibly not the most efficient at helping students remember quickly.
The grammar is covered occasionally in the lessons with passing comments about important points, or the verb boxes which show full conjugation of verbs. This is adequate for a beginners understanding of the structure and grammar of the language, although as the amount of vocabulary learned is so high I would have thought more grammar would have been included. The book included covers a little grammar but is mostly just a dictionary of the vocabulary covered in the course.
Linguaphone allTalk has an immense amount of vocabulary included in the 16 CDs, each lesson providing a lot of information to learn. This means that although this course may make learning the language slower than some of its rivals, the CDs can be reviewed again and again and the wealth of vocabulary can be learned over time (with the right motivation). It will certainly take longer to fully complete this course than most other audio courses, but if you did, your vocabulary bank and choice of available words and phrases would be much greater. Therefore if you have the desire to do so, Linguaphone allTalk courses could keep you going for ages.
The CDs are obviously very easy to set up and start playing and the lessons very easy to follow. The only slightly confusing part is the way conversations are split and replayed over several lessons with the vocab lessons in between. Some people may lose track of what they were learning. It would also make it very hard for someone who stops the CD without making note of the time or track number to resume exactly where they left off.
Although the price of Linguaphone allTalk varies slightly between the UK and the US sites, it is still fairly good value for money. There are 16 CDs worth of lessons with a huge amount of vocabulary at a very reasonable cost.
My one gripe would be that the course must be ordered as CDs and (as far as I know) cannot be ordered as a download. This is an oversight by the Linguaphone company and providing downloads would make the courses much more accessible to a wider audience. The Linguaphone All-Talk and PDQ courses are now available as downloads from their site and at a much discounted rate to the original version. This is a very welcome addition to their range and resulted in an increase of the cost score from a 9 previously to its current maximum.