Caution: risk of Italian excesses

Palgrave Foundations
October 11, 2002

Italian 1 is the latest addition to Palgrave's Foundations Languages series. The textbook and the two accompanying audiotapes are aimed at the growing market of institution-wide language programmes offering Italian at beginner level. They will be particularly welcomed by tutors and students looking for a concise, reasonably priced and user-friendly course.

The introduction promises a text suitable for the constraints of programmes and relevant to the interests of university students. The ten units form a good basis for a typical 20 to 25-week course, though the pace is at times slow and the coverage limited: the passato prossimo appears in unit 9, and the only other tenses included are the present, the imperative and a brief introduction to the conditional.

Topics do not diverge widely from those common in other textbooks, but the choice of vocabulary, situations and tasks, such as enrolling at an Italian university or discussing study-abroad experiences, does respond to the needs of the undergraduate.

The book offers a realistic picture of life in Italy, and information is up to date: all prices are given in euros.

The audiotapes privilege clarity over authenticity, yet speed of delivery increases in later units, and the "Further practice" section is more demanding. Throughout the book instructions are given in Italian and English, and while this recourse to translation may be initially useful, it feels odd in later units and may even lead to excesses of zeal, as in attempts to give generic equivalents for prepositions.

The course is designed for class-based learning, but it also offers a wealth of material for independent study. The grammar section and glossary are useful, if limited, tools and the final key to exercises allows for a degree of self-assessment.

Overall, Italian 1 offers a good balance of activities across the skills, though space constraints mean that there are few extended reading passages, and letters seem to dominate when it comes to writing tasks. This means that although this is a very useful and well-structured coursebook, tutors may still want to supplement it with their own material.

Loredana Polezzi is lecturer in Italian studies, University of Warwick.

Palgrave Foundations: Italian 1

Author - M. Benetti, C. Murtas and C. Varchetta
ISBN - 0 333 91245 4 and 91237 3
Publisher - Palgrave
Price - £65.00 and £14.99
Pages - 187

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