BOOKS: by Peter WestmoreNews Weekly
Italian Travel Pack CD
, May 31, 2003
"L'inglese italianato è un diavolo incarnato"
Italian Travel Pack
Dorling Kindersley/PenguinThe Italian Travel Pack, which consists of a 70-minute CD and an Italian phrase book, is designed for occasional travellers to Italy who need some basic Italian to be able to handle the ordinary things of life: taking a bus or taxi, booking a hotel room, ordering a meal, shopping, handling medical problems, and the like.
Visitors to Italy are often surprised that outside airports and major hotels, most bus and taxi drivers, and people who work in shops, cafes and restaurants have little or no English. In this respect, the position is quite different from northern Europe, where most people seem to have learned English as a second language, and are therefore able to converse with you in English.
For those who travel on package tours, with an accompanying guide, a knowledge of the language is probably not necessary; but for anyone else, a basic knowledge of Italian makes visiting the country infinitely better, as it brings not only independence, but also the ability to interact with Italians, and thereby get to know more about the people and their culture.
The Italian Travel Pack
has two distinct purposes: the CD is principally designed for use before one visits Italy, and consists of some 20 carefully produced modules, each of which has a particular theme: such as useful everyday phrases, driving, hotels, times and dates, shopping, post offices, communication, health and emergencies.
The idea is that you listen to the CD, which contains English words and phrases, followed by their Italian equivalent, spoken by a native-speaker. A short interval follows, in which you are to repeat the Italian words.
This can be done in conjunction with the Italian phrase book, but can also be done independently, so that you get used to the sounds of the Italian language. By re-playing the CD, you eventually remember the words and phrases so you can use them in conversation in Italy.
The CD can be used at home, in the car, or on a computer.
Speaking from personal experience, this method of learning basic words and phrases is far more effective than attempting to work through a phrase book or dictionary.
(A problem I have encountered is that Italians may assume that because your pronunciation is basically correct, you are fluent, and they will begin to converse with you in Italian. At this point, you may need to say that you know only a little Italian!)
If you wish to take the language further, there are courses better structured to deal with vocabulary and grammar; but the Italian Travel Pack
is a wonderful introduction.
The Italian phrase book is the companion book of the CD: every word and phrase on the CD is reproduced in the book, but the book goes considerably further, and could usefully be taken to Italy, to help you navigate your way through shops, cafes and hotels.
In future editions of the Travel Pack
, I would like to see at least some reference to the unique culture, history and religious tradition of Italy, even if it means less attention being given to eating out, which takes up a quarter of the book, and sports.
This apart, the Italian Travel Pack
is an extremely useful guide for visitors to Italy, and will amply repay the time you spend learning from it.