book review

Mediterranean Language Books
Reviewed by: T.J. Nelson

Pimsleur's Greek I


P imsleur's Greek is a CD-only course intended to be used in a car. It has the following features:

  1. Both a male and female voice.
  2. Clear pronunciation at normal conversational speed, but it is very difficult to distinguish between similar sounds like /v/ and voiced /th/, or /f/ and unvoiced /th/, especially if you listen to the CDs while driving.
  3. Since there is no book, you will not be able to read any Greek or look up words in a Greek dictionary without great difficulty.
  4. It has a very limited vocabulary, which is oriented toward everyday conversations mostly about food, alcoholic beverages, restaurants, and hotels.
  5. Memorizing is by brute force, using sound alone, which makes progress slower and eliminates the possibility of leveraging your existing knowledge of word roots and cognates.
  6. Words are repeated at gradually increasing intervals. The student is supposed to pronounce the sentences each time. This is very skilfully done, and is based on contemporary theories about how the brain learns. However, the repetition rate might not be optimal depending on the length of your commute.

Here are some typical Greek phrases you will learn how to say if you use this course while driving:

English Greek
Please loan me 45 billion Euros. Hey, watch where you're driving, you a$$hole!
Today I will drink some wine at one, two, three, four, five, and six but tomorrow I will drink some beer at seven, eight, nine, and ten until I am sloshed. Get going, buddy, the light has been green for thirty seconds already!
I should like to get a job with the government. <honk> <honk> #@$%@#$^@^!!!! <crunch>
I shall go on strike tomorrow and demand higher pay and shorter working hours. May I see your driver's license and registration, please?
I am sorry, I do not understand any Greek, because I wasted my money on some useless CD course. Please step out of the car, sir.
I don't like capitalism anymore. Have you been drinking, sir?

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May 10, 2010

Living Language Ultimate Italian
by Salvatore Bancheri and Michael Lettieri

I talian is one of the easiest languages for English speakers to pick up, because our ancestors had the foresight to steal all the Italian words and incorporate them into English. Thus, only about 1/5 of the Italian words need to be memorized. This book comes with two sets of CDs: one set for use in a car, and one set for study at home. The CDs cover additional material that is not in the book.

In the Beginner-Intermediate volume, the lectures are exceptionally well-organized. There are only a few difficult points in Italian, such as the subjunctive, and these are adequately explained. The lessons cover typical situations that you are likely to encounter when traveling to Italy, such as having your wallet stolen by a pickpocket, becoming sick, losing your passport, and getting lost. The second book covers more advanced topics such as getting arrested, what to say when you get kidnapped by terrorists, and being mangled in a car accident (okay, I'm kidding). Each lesson has a short essay (inexplicably written in English) containing useful information about how things are done in Italy.

Here are some typical sentences you will be able to say after reading this book:

Italian English
Scusilo, io credono che abbiate rubato il mio portafoglio. Excuse me, I believe that you have stolen my wallet.
Il problema sia che il vostro mouse è rotto ed il vostro calcolatore non è acceso. The problem is that your mouse is broken and your computer is not turned on.
Hey, vigilanza in cui state guidando, bum. Hey, watch where you are driving, you bum.
Non potete fare questo a me. Richiedo un avocado. Non sono colpevole. Ancora, il mio passaporto è caduto in un vulcano. You cannot do this to me. I demand to see an avocado. I am not guilty. Furthermore, my passport has fallen into a volcano.

If viewing on a cell phone, drag table left or right to scroll.

Buon viaggie!

October 24, 2004