Mastering Italian

Book Review



Barron's Mastering Italian - Level 1


Barron's Educational Series



Reviewed By:

Frank Fogg

Review Date:

November, 2001


Barron's Mastering Italian is a complete course for those  seeking to learn or improve their fluency in the Italian language. The course consists of 15 CD disks and a dialog booklet. It is packaged in an attractive full-sized bookcase style case.

The course is presented as a series of "frames"  with each introducing or reinforcing one element of grammar or pronunciation.  At the end of a chapter, several tests are available for the student to check  their mastery of the material. Most of the dialog for each unit is laid out in a side by side format in the book along with the English translations, and  generally includes either the Italian spelling or an English pronunciation key.

Different drills provide reinforcement of what has been  learned. The program places strong emphasis on learning the importance of contrasting vowel and consonant patterns, and of intonation on the meaning of words and sentences. The audio instructor reads along with the instructions in the dialog book and at times identifies the frame number being taught in case the listener has lost their place. One unusual method of teaching the course employs is that  it identifies various vowels as a vowel number instead of by the vowel name.

Although Barron's has a number of well-designed language learning programs, this is not one of them. Unlike the Spanish and German versions of the series, this edition does not give the student a quick grasp of the major concepts of Italian. It seems unusually absorbed in teaching intonation patterns,  and barely breaks into basic sentence structures after almost four hours of listening. The pace of the material is very slow, and the dialog booklet constantly switches from standard Italian spelling to the pronunciation key and back.

The printing and recording quality of this Italian language  course are up to the standards one expects from Barron's, but most listeners  will find the content dry and boring. This course did not meet my expectations for a language program in this price range.

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