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Italian Language Lessons: Language Books

Steve Cohen

There are two types of language books you will need: books that teach you Italian and phrase books and menu readers that you take with you. Here are our favorites.

Food Dictionaries

A good food dictionary is essential to figure out Italian menus. Even if you are fluent in Italian, an item like "Priest Stranglers" is confusing. Think of an Italian in an American restaurant seeing "Surf and Turf" on the menu. The larger dictionaries are good to keep at home as a reference. Bring a smaller one with you to restaurants. Steve always carries one in his pocket. It is also useful for stabilizing wobbling tables (put it under the leg).

Maureen B. Fant and Howard M. Isaacs, Dictionary of Italian Cuisine (The Ecco Press, 1998). This is an excellent food dictionary. The descriptions are brief, but it contains more entries than any other dictionary we have seen. It is a hardcover book, which is not the easiest for carrying to restaurants with you, but it is a great reference.

John Mariani, The Dictionary of Italian Food and Drink (Broadway Books, 1998). The entries in this book are more detailed than in the Fant/Isaacs book, but there are fewer entries. It is also a larger book.

The small, pocket-size, menu-readers are available in the travel section of your book store. Lonely Planet makes one. There are several others. Bring one of these with you.

Language Books

There are many good language lesson series out there. The best one for you depends on the level you are at. These are some of Steve's favorites.

  • Just Listen 'n Learn Italian, Passport Books. A book and tapes. Steve started learning Italian with this course, but he said you really had to work at it.
  • Italian with Michel Thomas, NTC Publishing Group, an 8 hour course on CD or tapes, is good for beginners. This is a new series. There is also a 2 hour version available.
  • Transparent Language Learn Italian Now (version 8 is the latest). This is a course that goes on the computer. Steve says this is a more advanced course.
  • Learn in Your Car series, recommended by Julie from the message board.

Other Resources

www.champs-elysees.com: Champs-Elysees audio magazines for intermediate to advanced language learners. Steve subscribes to this magazine on CD and thinks it is a good resource for learning Italian (beyond the basic level).

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