Review of Speak Italian in Eight Easy Lessons

Speak Italian in Eight Easy Lessons
(Recorded Books Presents Pimsleur: The Short Course)
5 Audio CDs
Author: Dr. Paul Pimsleur
Publisher: Recorded Books, LLC
Language: English/Italian
ISBN-13: 9780788797248

Speak Italian in Eight Easy Lessons will quickly get you speaking and responding in Italian. Having already studied the sound system and the grammar and vocabulary at a beginner level, I still found the exercises useful for cementing core phrases. Now, you won’t be an Italian savant. Let’s be honest – you won’t be able to ask where the bathroom is. But this audio program does present enough of the language to build some confidence and give the listener a feel for the sound and flow of the language.

The Pimsleur language program works off of punctuated repetition. Phrases will be repeated at ever longer intervals, interspersed between other vocabulary and used during question and response drills. According to the Pimsleur method, this will force key vocabulary and language concepts into memory in a way that rote repetition and memorization cannot. I doubt in eight self-taught lessons that this is verifiable, but must admit that I am fairly confident that I will remember the core phrases presented in the audio. This program intentionally has no written study aides. This follows a philosophy where it is thought that introducing written material and detailed instructions on grammar will actually hinder language acquisition, slowing the end-goal. As these lessons provide no written material, any of the Italian phrases in this review will be from my own memory or experience.

This short package comes with 1 CD that describes the the Pimsleur method and 4 CDs containing 8 lessons (~25 minutes each). Lessons are intended to be worked through in sequence, no more than one a day, with repeat of a lesson until listener feels they have grasped about 80% of the material in the lesson. This policy worked very well for my commute of 25 minutes to work.

The listener is introduced to a number of useful phrases very quickly: grazie “thank you”, buongiorno “hello/good day”, bene “good/well”, signore/a/ina “sir,mister/ma’am/miss”, etc. The difference between endings for feminine and singular nouns/adjectives is touched on briefly through the use of nationality and language names italiano/a, americano/a and the use of the noun pair via “street” and vialle “avenue”. Interrogatives like quando “when?”, quecosa “what?” and dove “where?” are all introduced, as is the use of intonation to indicate questions. Seeking directions is addressed, but limited to qui “here” or li “over there”. No time is spent on anything close to straight ahead, to the left/right, behind, past, near, etc. Only so much is possible in 8 lessons, I suppose.

Other than the use of due birre “two beers” in the last lesson, plural forms of masculine and feminine nouns are not addressed, which I did not appreciate about the program. I’m sure the Complete Course is able to go further, but seeing how much time was spent on repeating requests about the desire for food and drink, I think more time could have gone towards the use of plurals in Italian.

Verb coverage is limited to singular “you” and “I/me” subjects (1st and 2nd person singular) and a singular instance of “it” (3rd person singular). This was shocking to me, as I would have liked to see a lot more than this, even in the limited span of eight lessons. No time was allowed for plural subjects at all. Only the present and infinitive forms are covered,  “I do…” and “to do…”. Initial introduction to the verbal system comes through the verbs capisco/e “I/you understand”, but a number of infinitives – mangere, bere, comprare – are all introduced in combination with the forms of “…want…” and “…would like…”. In the process, pronouns io and Lei are addressed.

So, don’t expect complete coverage of the language. Prepositions, most verbal forms and plurals are just a few of the major areas that are left untouched. But do expect to see Italian as a learnable language, worth more investment of time and energy. Overall, I give this audio package ★★★☆☆. It won’t get you fluent, but it will introduce you to the sound, speed  and flow of Italian. You’ll get a positive experience – a quick win – that will encourage you to further develop skills in a second language.

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About George

I'm interested in theology, languages, translation and various sorts of fermentation.
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