2000 by Kathryn Morano

    Sooner or later, you may reach the point where you feel it's time to learn Italian.  As a foreign language teacher and as a student of Italian myself, I can make some recommendations as to where to start and what materials to use.  An excellent introduction to Italian is the Listen and Learn Italian produced by Dover Publications, 31 East 2nd St., Mineola, N.Y. 11501-3582.  This 90 minute dual language tape with accompanying manual presents a series of practical phrases, particularly suited to travel, that you memorize by repetition.   There is no grammar to deal with and it is relatively easy to learn as you work your way through the tape while you drive.  It sells for $8.95 plus $4.00 postage and handling for the entire order.  Since Dover publishes a wide variety of books and materials, you may wish to send for a catalog first. 
    Once you have mastered the Dover tape, your next step should be Listen and Learn Italian , and Listen and Learn Italian Plus, published by Passport Books.  While you can readily purchase these in the foreign language section of your local bookstore, I advise that you borrow them from a library.  This series consists of a number of conversations by native speakers followed by conversational exercises on tape. There are additional written exercises in the booklet.  Here you begin to get a grasp of the grammar as well as a feeling for the culture. 

If you prefer a more structured approach as found in a text book, I suggest Buongiorno Italia and its intermediate level sequel L'Italia dal Vivo available from EMC Publishing, 300 York Ave., St. Paul, Minnesota 55101.  Again, the chapters are based on conversations and interviews with native Italians followed by oral and written exercises. Designed as a text, the book contains more extensive exercises. 

    Assuming you are now ready for the intermediate level, a "must" is Passport Books' Practice and Improve Your Italian and Practice and Improve Your Italian Plus.  You may also be able to find these at a public library.  What is different about this approach is that the tapes are entirely in Italian.  Don't be intimidated!  The two accompanying books have a translation of everything.  You'll thoroughly enjoy the story in serial form presented through dialogues interspersed with grammar and vocabulary exercises. 

    Another source of excellent materials comes from the Centro Studi Italiani, P. O. Box 591581, San Francisco, CA 94159-1581.  Their audiotapes with accompanying booklet range in price from $9.00 to $15.00 each and comprise cultural readings, grammar drills, verb drills, and general exercises, from beginner to advanced level.  Their only workbook is at the intermediate level.  You can visit their "Electronic Classroom" on the web at http://www.locuta.com.  

    For those of you who would like some reading material to enrich your vocabulary, Dover publishes dual-language readers in Italian.  There is also a two volume beginner to intermediate graded reader entitled Raconti Simpatici obtainable from the National Textbook Company, Skokie,IL 60076. You can purchase these books separately or with the little stories on tape.  These fun to read stories contain a lot of cultural information.  Oggitalia is a glossy magazine designed for advanced non-native speakers of Italian with a glossary for each article.  Contact Midwest European Publication, Inc., 824 Noyes St., Evanston, IL 60201, Tel. 708/866-6262, Fax. 708/866-6290.  Cost is $18.00/yr. for eight issues.  

    Finally, you have reached the stage where you are ready to move on to something more challenging.  Acquerello Italiano is a subscription to highly advanced bimonthly tapes filled with current events and pop culture presented as a radio broadcast at native speaker speed.  Fortunately it comes with a complete transcript and English translation.  Write to Acquerello Italiano, P.O. Box 158067, Nashville, TN 37215-8067 or call 1-800-824-0829.  

And, hey, buona fortuna!  (Good luck!)

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