Italian Uncovered Review — What’s the “Secret Ingredient” of this Italian Course?
What is Italian Uncovered?
Italian Uncovered in an online StoryLearning course from polyglots Olly Richards and Martina Scattolin that promises to transform you from a complete beginner to an intermediate Italian speaker.
- what it’s for:
- Approaching the language, basic vocabulary, basic grammar and conjugation, pronunciation
- Beginner - Lower Intermediate
- The story structure engages learners from the start to the finish
- Immersive methods and strategy
- Encouragement to learn more vocabulary by identifying cognates
- Useful handouts for practice with tutors or language exchange partners
- Helpful messages of encouragement and pep talks
- Intense start for absolute beginners
- There could be more audio content
- Not for intermediate and advanced Italian speakers
Looking for an Italian Uncovered review? You’re in the right place!
First, let me tell you, starting to learn a language is no piece of cake.
I discovered that when I had to learn English at the age of 13, as a native Italian speaker. If you’re here, you probably want to do the inverse journey: English to Italian.
You might be about to embark on a fruitful adventure, perhaps one of the most worthy ones in your life. Or you might be stepping into a total disaster — although I speak four languages to a high level, my experience with Croatian was a total flop, not gonna lie.
So what’s the deal-breaker? There is no standard perfect recipe, as we’re all different and have different learning preferences, but if you want to secure all the chances on your side, it’s better to use the right method and tools to guide you along the way.
Wondering how to do that? We’ve got you covered! If you’re a budding Italian-speaker, you could check out Benny Lewis’ list of top resources for learning Italian. Or you could stick around and find out more about one of Benny’s favorite Italian courses: Italian Uncovered.
Have you heard about it? It’s the story-based course created by polyglot Olly Richards which aims to convert absolute beginners into intermediate Italian speakers in 20 segments.
Sounds like what you need?
Well, grab your cutlery and a notebook, because today’s Fluent in 3 Months specialità (“speciality”) is an Italian Uncovered review.
In this article, I’ll give you my honest opinion on the course and serve you a side dish of video and screenshots to show you how it works from the inside. I’ll also add a sprinkle of food wordplay on top, as the Italian in me demands it.
Ahh, two things us language geeks love: language learning and food. This is going to be interesting.
Italian Uncovered: What Is It, Exactly?
Italian Uncovered isn’t a typical Calabrian dish, but don’t worry, it’s the next best thing.
Italian Uncovered is a course that aims to convert absolute beginners into intermediate Italian speakers in only 20 chapters.
The “chapters” are segments built around chapters of a story created especially for the Italian Uncovered students. The story acts as a base for the segments’ content and helps the course to keep a logical thread.
Using storytelling as a teaching technique is one of the characteristics that make Italian Uncovered unique, but I’ll tell you more about how great that is later in the post.
First, let’s first boil the course down to its core structure.
Each of the 20 Italian Uncovered segments includes:
- An audio recording of a chapter of the story read by a native speaker
- The transcript of the chapter in Italian plus the English translation
- A video lesson on cognates and how to spot them
- A video lesson explaining the new vocabulary employed in the chapter
- A workbook with more vocabulary resources and exercises
- A grammar video lesson
- A workbook with grammar exercises and additional grammar explanations
- A video lesson on pronunciation with a native speaker
- A sheet for spoken practice to share with your tutor or language exchange partner
- A chapter quiz
- Comments section on every page where the staff of the course answers questions
There are also several progress checks and pep talks along the way to make sure your experience is as smooth as possible, and the bonuses are super fun.
How Does Italian Uncovered Work?
Italian Uncovered is hosted completely online, meaning you do not have to wait for textbooks or CDs to get to you by mail and that you can study at your own pace at whatever time suits you best.
It is composed of a mix of audio, video, reading, and writing, and encourages speaking. I say “encourages” because it doesn’t provide you with a speaking partner, but it does provide links where to find one as well as extensive guidelines for the speaking sessions.
Through its 20 chapters, Italian Uncovered focuses on:
- Challenging you from beginning to end
- Helping you build a solid basic knowledge in Italian
- Breaking barriers by getting you used to identify and take advantage of cognates
- Expanding your vocabulary
- Making grammar simple to understand and remember
- Making pronunciation easier to grasp thanks to memorable tips
The Team in the Italian Uncovered Kitchen
The “Head Chef” of Italian Uncovered is Olly Richards, a fellow language lover who speaks English, French, Italian, German, Portuguese, Japanese, Arabic, Cantonese, and German. He’s written over 20 books and created several language courses to help people like you and me to achieve our dream of learning foreign languages.
Olly’s “Sous Chefs” are Martina Scattolin and Stefano Suigo.
Martina is the tutor at Italian Uncovered. She’s a specialist in teaching Italian as a foreign language, so she’s the one who guides learners through the video lessons. She also occasionally pops in over in the comments section to answer questions.
Stefano is the resident language expert. Most of the time, he’s the one who helps learners who struggle in the comments section.
Why I Tested Italian Uncovered
I “met” Olly while listening to the Language Hacking podcast from Fluent in 3 Months — I advise you to listen to his episode, it’s one of my favorites! He talks, among other things, about his impressive projects and shares interesting takes on language learning that I hadn’t heard of much before.
I was curious to experience his method of language teaching firsthand, so when Fluent in 3 Months asked me to review Italian Uncovered, I didn’t hesitate!
As a native Italian speaker who became fluent in English, I know the intricacies that come with handling an Anglo-Saxon language when you speak a Romance language, or vice versa. I’m familiar enough with the struggles in both languages to give a point of view above that of a simple beginner, so that’s what I will do in this review.
How I Tested Italian Uncovered
To write this review, I committed to eating my favorite cookies while exploring Italian Uncovered for over five hours 🍪🍪🍪 — it was really hard work!
From listening to the story audio to watching the video lessons and going through the workbooks, I tasted a bit of all the ingredients used by Olly and Martina to cook up this course, took notes, and prepared my Michelin review.
Let me tell you what I thought:
What Was as Good as a Pizza Margherita — AKA What I Loved
Yes, I am team pizza margherita. Simplicity is the soul of good cuisine.
Just like my beloved tomato-and-cheese pie, Italian Uncovered avoids fancy-schmanciness and instead focuses on the quality of its ingredients.
Here are my favorites:
Italian Uncovered’s Special Base: Storytelling
It’s always more fun to learn through entertainment. No one really pays mind to time passing if they are enjoying what they’re doing. Struggling even stops being totally bitter — it tastes more like sour-sweet candies.
As you already know, Italian Uncovered is cleverly baked around a story written by Olly: L’Uomo Col Cappello.
Sometimes, wanting to speak Italian is too much of a long-term goal, so over time, you lose motivation. Knowing that you have to get to the end of a story is one more encouragement to keep you advancing.
Plus, the story is a clever way to keep a logical thread running through the course. Language workbooks often have amusing fractions of stories to help the concepts pass more easily. However, they’re not usually interconnected, and thus not very memorable.
Even though in the 5+ hours I dedicated to using the course I didn’t have the time to complete all the activities, I made sure to read the story until the end, because it was both funny and gripping.
Italian Uncovered’s Superb Sauce: Immersion
If you’ve read about my experience with becoming fluent in two foreign languages as a teenager, then you know that I’m a big fan of immersion. There is no better way to learn a language than to be completely exposed to it.
Yes, forcing yourself to understand a language from scratch is a struggle that requires a lot of energy at first. However, you will get long-lasting results much more effectively than if you keep relying on your native language as a crutch.
Wait, don’t run away! Italian Uncovered uses a moderate form of immersion. The lectures, workbooks, and instructions are all in English. You don’t have to fear being completely lost.
You will need to be comfortable with the idea that you won’t understand everything at first. But as Olly keeps highlighting in his pep talks, this is a totally natural part of the process.
Italian Uncovered’s Secret Ingredient: Cognates
One of the hardest parts of learning a language is the beginning, when you sit down and have to face… All of it. It feels like sitting in front of a huge soufflé wondering how in the world you’ll be able to eat something so big by yourself.
Actually, all it takes to make eating the soufflé look easier is to grab a fork and dip it in the top. It will deflate and look smaller. It’s a minor discovery, but it causes a big shift in your mentality.
Olly’s fork for deflating the Italian souffle is cognates.
I’m a native Italian speaker, and when I started learning English, I was taught that Romance and Anglo-Saxon languages have little in common. This is why English looks hard to learn for Italians, and vice versa.
With Olly’s method of relying on cognates, you’ll have the fortune of seeing the familiar in your new language. In other words, you’ll realise that you don’t have to learn a whole new language, but you can uncover fractions of it through another one you already know.
This is a big boost. I wish someone had told me this when I was starting.
Obviously, words that look similar aren’t always cognates. Sometimes, they’re falsi amici (“false friends”), but Martina did a good job at pointing that out in the second chapter.
(To make things clear: there can never be too much soufflé. I just needed an analogy.)
Italian Uncovered’s Sweet Seasoning: The Pep Talks and Support
Even if Italian Uncovered is a pre-recorded course, it is far from being impersonal.
Martina is a great tutor. She speaks in a clear, agreeable voice and uses her friendly manners to make explanations that could seem complicated actually approachable. She keeps you interested in the lessons, something that rarely happens for me, and does not speak monotonously through grammar like a boring academic professor at all.
(Sorry, academic professors, I’m sure you’re great at things! Just not at explaining grammar.)
What’s even more positively surprising is the way Olly pops in from time to time with pep talks, tips and tricks, and encouragement.
As he has gone through struggling to learn a language himself, he knows the ups and downs of being a beginner and he knows exactly what to say when you feel discouraged. It feels as if he was actually monitoring your progress — in a certain sense, he even does, as every five chapters, there is a progress-check form.
Plus, Olly often points out that making mistakes and not being able to understand everything, even after several chapters completed, is completely normal. These reminders are very important and much appreciated.
Italian Uncovered’s Savory Extra: Downloadable Content
What’s better than having an online course you can study at your own pace, whenever and wherever you have WiFi? Having the possibility to download the coursework to use it during off-screen time.
All the Italian Uncovered content is downloadable: audios, videos, workbooks, even Olly’s pep talks.
You can print the workbooks and fill them out while you’re on your way to work in the subway. Or do like Elizabeth and listen to the audio while washing the dishes.
This is an amazing way to allow you to take full advantage of the course even if you have little time to sit at a desk and study.
The Pizza Con Ananas Part — AKA What Was Less Perfect
Even the best dishes have some flaws. There are a couple of not-too-hot things to say about Italian Uncovered, and I’ll be doing that here.
Before I do, note that pineapple pizza and I aren’t friends, but it’s fine. It’s not because it’s not my cup of tea that it can’t be someone else’s.
That’s why you should look at the points I’ve listed below with a grain of salt.
Maybe Less Spice? The Start Was Intense
Italian Uncovered is intended for beginner Italian speakers, but the first chapter of the course is a bit unusual to be used for a beginner’s first steps.
Conventional courses start off with the usual introductory questions, “What’s your name?” “Where are you from?” “How old are you?”, and other basic concepts.
While it’s understandable that Italian Uncovered aims to have a strong start and be different from other Italian courses, it’s a little confusing that it doesn’t work on the essential questions right away. They do come, but by the third chapter.
In my opinion, the first segment can be discouraging to total beginners.
Cliché is cliché for a reason.
Maybe an Extra Pinch of Flavor? There Could Have Been More Audio
While the workbooks feature great explanations and are rich in vocabulary, there is a lack of audio going with them. That’s unfortunate because what language learners usually want to do is to be able to speak as soon as possible.
Pronunciation in Italian is tricky, most of all if your native language is English. So it’s quite impossible to guess how to pronounce some of the words in the workbook exercises if you haven’t already taken Italian classes.
The pronunciation lessons do cover the important Italian phonetics, but they span over 20 chapters, while the vocabulary input is there from lesson 1.
Some Final Recommendations
As to not leave a bad taste in your mouth, I’ll close this part of the review with a couple of recommendations.
If you want to make the most out of Italian Uncovered, you should:
- Listen to Olly’s pep talks. Ask questions in the comments section. Power up through the whole course and don’t get discouraged.
- Look up the vocabulary in online dictionaries. Why online and not your bilingual physical tome? Firstly, because if you’re like me, you don’t have a physical dictionary. But most importantly, because an online dictionary will give you the chance to listen to the pronunciation of the word or phrase you’re looking up. Take advantage of that.
- Don’t sweep spoken practice under the rug like a problem you don’t want to take care of. Even if Italian Uncovered doesn’t provide you with a speaking partner, they do recommend some websites where to find them (editor’s note: we like italki. It’s very important that you get those vocal-chord gymnastics under your belt. You better, after such a caloric post.
What’s the Score for Italian Uncovered?
If Italian Uncovered were a restaurant, it would deserve two full Michelin stars for excellent and skilfully crafted cooking, worth a detour from the original route you had planned to take towards fluency in Italian.
Italian Uncovered: Final Thought
Siamo alla frutta, ragazzi! (“The party’s over, guys!” literally “We’re at the fruits”.)
Getting the chance to try out Italian Uncovered almost makes me regret being a native Italian speaker. I would have loved to learn the language through this course.
You have the chance to, so start off right here!
Actually, I’m thinking about trying out one of its siblings, possibly German Uncovered, to fully experience Olly’s method of teaching a language.
In the meantime, I will go get a refill of cookies 🍪.