Both the Routledge Intensive Italian Course and Using Italian: A Guide to Contemporary Usage are welcome additions to a successful language learning series aimed at an English-speaking audience.
The former targets beginners who need to acquire a good command of Italian in a short time. This is best described as a “post-communicative” textbook: it contains a mixture of tailor-made and authentic materials, stresses the role of learning strategies, and does not shy away from explicit grammatical explanations. The development of aural and oral skills is supported by a rich selection of activities included in two accompanying CDs, while additional written material is contained in the Workbook .
Although keys, vocabulary and index are provided, the course is mostly suited to classroom use: many activities are designed for group work, and explanations are presented in a synthetic form that will benefit from tutors’ input. Each of the 22 units covers substantial ground and provides a wide range of materials. The first few chapters include some usual suspects - greetings and introductions, the family, food and shopping - but there are also units devoted to more unusual and ambitious topics, from “ L’Italia multietnica ” (multiethnic Italy) to “ Innamorarsi su Internet ” (falling in love on the web). Ultimately, the Routledge Intensive Italian Course does what it says on the cover: it allows motivated students to acquire a range of skills fast.
Using Italian is a similarly rich resource. It is aimed at intermediate learners who wish to improve their understanding of the “finer nuances of the Italian language” and, while it does not offer a systematic description of Italian, it promises guidance on areas of particular difficulty for English speakers.
After an introduction devoted to “Varieties of language”, the volume is divided into three sections dealing with increasingly complex levels of signification: words, clauses and sentences. These are followed by a short coda on “Texts and their structure”. The authors stress the importance of language variation, drawing attention to regional usage, to the notion of register and to the situational appropriateness of different expressions, yet, with the exception of the first chapter, the absence of extended examples tends to leave the reader facing rather long lists (plus tables).
Complexity is at once the main strength of the volume and its principal weakness: it is not always easy to home in on a specific topic, but Using Italian will reward you with a large number of unexpected troves. It certainly deserves to be on every Italian teacher’s shelf, and on the shopping list of students with an eye (and an ear) for the richness of contemporary Italian usage.
Loredana Polezzi is head of Italian studies, Warwick University.
Routledge Intensive Italian Course. First edition
Author - Anna Proudfoot, Tania Batelli-Kneale, Anna di Stefano and Daniela Treveri Gennari
Publisher - Routledge
Pages - 434
Price - £19.99
ISBN - 0 415 24080 8