Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Italian All-for-One for Dummies: Book Review

While the name of this series still embarrasses me when I consult one of its titles, I admit they are useful and easy to follow. This as the title promises combines content from six Wiley Italian books: Italian For Dummies, Intermediate Italian For Dummies, Italian Verbs For Dummies, Italian Phrases For Dummies, Italian Grammar For Dummies, and Italian For Dummies Audio Set. It progresses with some overlap, therefore, and is often cross-referenced, unsurprisingly, in a rather compact work. Despite its bulk, the price is affordable and the contents are arranged in straightforward fashion.

It starts smartly. The chapter beginning on asking directions not only shows how this is done, but it introduces one to a few landmarks in the big cities, and tells you about architectural terms too. Throughout, the tone is encouraging and the explanations are clear. There is a lot of space in the text to make marginal notes, and part of the heft comes from a clean layout with, as in the verb charts, lots of white area that makes looking at the print page less onerous. There's even some exercises appended with an answer key, to stimulate a more active knowledge of the contents. Still, this will probably supplement tapes and other formats for a serious learner, as most language texts expect.

The markers to stress crucial points, the warnings of tricky instances, and the suggestions for more learning all remind the self-taught learner. These as in the Dummies series carry consistency, so a reader of one of the volumes can turn to another and find the same framework, for a new subject.

Don't expect immersion. This is more of a book to look up explanations and puzzle out problems. There's a considerable stress on English to convey explanations, and the first pages give phonetic transcriptions, although later chapters sensibly cut these. An audio set of tracks can be accessed via the Wiley site although the URL does not match the one included in the text; some reviewers have complained that the book lacks the correct hyperlink. Also, they have noted that the e-book on a Kindle cannot be opened sufficiently to reveal the text and sidebars for clarity. At nearly 700 pages, this is a thick book, and is best referred to as a reference for at-home use rather than on the go.
(Amazon US 10-9-14)

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