Those who have used Breakthrough Italian before will feel at home with the contents and organisation of this new edition, but will also find a wealth of new material within it.
The main target of New Breakthrough Italian remains the independent adult learner, although the book will also be suitable for leisure classes. The 15 units are arranged according to communicative situations, ranging from the classic "Greetings", or "Booking a room", to "Many years ago..." and the oddly paired "Going out and staying healthy". New Breakthrough Italian is designed with an English-speaking audience in mind: English is the language of instruction, while grammar and pronunciation sections address the typical difficulties faced by English speakers approaching Italian for the first time. Independent learners will appreciate these choices, yet the attempt to leave nothing unexplained may be going too far when it produces literal translations of set Italian expressions and even English versions of hotel names ("La Terrazza in Collina" instantly translated as "Terrace on the Hill").
The new edition has been revised both in content and method. Conversations have been re-recorded and the "Did you know?" sections have been updated to include recent changes in the Italian transport system, and other areas of Italian life. At the start of each unit, "Before you begin" suggests learning strategies and revision points, while later on "Grammar and exercises" provides an informal guide to language structures, keeping the jargon to a minimum, and exploiting colour and page-layout to make important points easier to memorise. The set of four cassettes accompanying the volume contains all dialogues as well as many activities, requiring the learner to both listen and respond to prompts in either English or Italian. The tapes are an integral part of the course, and learners need to refer to them regularly throughout each unit.
New Breakthrough Italian is not a substantially innovative course, but it is solid, generally well edited and visually pleasant. Cross-references are accurate and useful, though more could have been made of the very short "Grammar summary", "Vocabulary", and "Index" at the back of the book. Teachers of leisure classes will find most of what they need within the package, though they will have to supplement it with more varied activities for classroom practice. Independent learners, on the other hand, should be reassured by the regular structure of the units and could easily find themselves listening to the tapes on their way to work.
Loredana Polezzi is lecturer in Italian studies, University of Warwick.
New Breakthrough Italian
Author - Giovanni Casaniga
ISBN - 0 333 64810 2 and 64811 0 (pack)
Publisher - Macmillan
Price - £12.99 (4 cassette pack £35.00)
Pages - 256