bbc-beginner-buongiorno-italiaAn independent language course review by Sarah Maddocks

Buongiorno Italia is a beginner’s Italian language course from the BBC (and already I am slightly prejudiced as I love the courses that the BBC produce). The course comes complete with 3 x 60 minute audio CDs and over a 300-page course book.

The CDs and book are divided into 20 short units and the book contains dialogues, language notes, information about Italy and vocabulary and practice activities. The CDs are designed to help develop listening and speaking skills with pronunciation practice, conversations and interviews.
The course book has a grammar section, pronunciation sections and an answer section which gives the answers to the activities. At random intervals (well they seem randomly placed), there are sections called lettre A, B, and so on – this is a transcript of the audio on the CD. You can then answer questions in the book, which mirrors the type of thing you would have to do in a GCSE exam. The book is designed to be used alongside the CDs as they contain dialogues and interactive exercises to do whilst listening.

The woman who introduces the course sounds a little odd at first. I’m not sure if she is an authentic Italian or from England. Some of her words sound like she has an Italian accent, whereas with others, she sounds like she has never left England. I prefer it when you have a native speaker (I suppose she could be a native speaker and have lived in England for a long while!).

The CD starts by giving you a list of Italian words, but you are not told what they are in English. You have to pronounce the words after you hear them, but I didn’t really like this bit of the course, as I like to know what it is I am saying first (but then I’m no language course designer and I’m sure the BBC do know what they’re doing!). The exercises during the course are really helpful to test what you have picked up. The number exercise was good as they use a conversation in a bar scenario and you have to listen and then pick out the numbers you have heard. The conversation was at a good pace and so the exercise wasn’t too difficult (this was a real confidence boost as I had never learnt Italian before and to be able to recognise numbers already was fantastic).

The course instructions are given to you in Italian and then repeated in English, this is a good way of learning instructions as they are repeated throughout the course so you are picking up new language without even realising it.

I didn’t just want a language course which gave me the holiday basics without the cultural background or the grammar of the language. The BBC offers you the whole linguistic package and it is definitely worth a go!

I found Italian quite easy to understand as it is similar to Spanish which I’d already been learning. It was easy for me to deduce what was being said, rather than to have to look up every word in a dictionary. The course doesn’t give you every single word that is said, they just give you the key vocabulary and expressions. I found this better; as firstly it is not repetitive and secondly it makes you feel you are picking up the language a lot faster.

After each new section there is a summary of what you have just learnt, with a very basic grammar note. There are also interactive activities, but I found that I couldn’t do these without listening to the section on the CD a couple more times so I could get the hang of it.

The dialogues on the CD are useful to hear Italian in everyday contexts and to get used to the Italian accent. I found some of the pronunciation difficult. When reading the course book, a lot of the words were similar to French and Spanish and I had a tendency to say the words with a French accent, which was, of course, completely wrong. I decided to bang the pronunciation into my head and listened to the CDs more and more to get used to saying it differently – this seemed to work, although I suppose I will see when I speak to an authentic Italian!

Throughout the course book, after each section you can learn more about the country and culture of Italy. I found this a good way of taking a break from the course and I was still learning about the country rather than just stopping the CD for 10 minutes. A sort of educational break if you like.

Overall this course is great. The Italian that I learnt is more than enough to be able to go to Italy and have a proper conversation with the locals. This is what I look for in a language course – I didn’t just want a course which gave me the holiday basics without the cultural background or the grammar of the language. The BBC offers you the whole linguistic package and it is definitely worth a go! Dieci out of dieci for me!

to buy BBC Buongiorno Italia [UK]>>
to buy BBC Buongiorno Italia [USA]>>
to find out more about BBC language courses>>

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