As I mentioned in a previous post, dual-language stories are a great way to learn Italian. Regardless of which language-learning program you use, you will eventually need a break from the grammar and vocab exercises. Dual-language stories provide that welcomed relief and are a fun way to learn.
D.J. Higgins, an Italian teacher from Staten Island, New York has written a dual-language children’s book called Un Giorno a Staten Island Con La Nonna E Santino (A Day in Staten Island with Grandma and Santino). The book is about Santino, an American born Italian who runs a restaurant in Staten Island with his grandmother (or “nonna”). Santino falls in love with a woman and prepares the meal of a lifetime, while striving to live in two cultures at once.
The “warning” at the beginning of the book gives us a glimpse into Santino’s mind and the shenanigans that are about to enfold. He states, “There are no snobs allowed! Non sono uno snob! If you are looking for a conventional ‘learn Italian’ textbook put this book down and save us the frustration! You are entering into the wild world of Santino and sono pazzo!”
After completing the Fluenz program, I decided to work through the Living Language Italian program I received many years ago as a gift. I’m currently on Lezione 4 and am 80 pages into the coursebook. In this post, I’ll give you an overview of what Living Language has to offer, and I’ll tell you what I like and dislike about their products.
Living Language’s Four Step Method. Living Language’s teaching method contains four steps:
Build a Foundation: use your native language as a bridge for Italian and start speaking immediately using essential words and phrases.
Progress with Confidence: use a building block approach with each new lesson building on the prior lesson.
Retain What You’ve Learned: combine audio and visual input and written exercises to help you retain the material.
Achieve Your Goals: clear and simple explanations of Italian grammar help you develop practical language skills and build confidence in your speaking and comprehension abilities
I am using the coursebook and audio CDs from Ultimate Italian Advanced. In full disclosure, the version I’m using was published in 2003, so there have been many improvements. The version I am using is most equivalent to the Italian Complete product that is currently offered.
The lesson starts with a dialogue in Italian, followed by the English translation. After the dialogue there is a discussion of the vocabulary used in the dialogue. The bulk of the lesson comes next in “Grammatica E Suoi Usi,” which contains about four short grammar lessons. The “lezione” I am currently on currently working through contains discussions about direct and indirect object pronouns, the conjunctive pronoun “ne” and plural nouns and adjectives. After working through “Grammatica E Suoi Usi,” you will likely need a break, because the material can be challenging, but the process is rewarding.
Idiomatic expressions follow the grammar portion, and there is a short article about business in Italy before the exercises. There are five different kinds of exercises ranging from conjugation to translation, and the answer key is in the back of the book. Don’t cheat!
Pros and Cons
Course Book. I really enjoy being able to use a book for the lessons. I can read, highlight passages and make notes. I can also take it anywhere with me and do not need access to the internet or an electronic device to use it.
Content Amount. A lot of content is packed into every lesson.
Idiomatic Expressions. To really sound like a local, you need to be able to say more than just “Mi chiamo Will.” You need to learn some idiomatic expressions that may not translate precisely into English like “Ragazzi, avete un bell’aspettare,” which means, “Guys, it’s no use waiting.” Each Living Language lesson provides many idiomatic expressions which you will find useful when traveling to Italy.
Price: For just $49.99, the Italian Complete package is one of the best values on the market.
Lack of Repetition. The courses could use more exercises and repetition of the content you learn. Fluenz does a great job with this. To compensate, I write down new phrases and challenging vocabulary in a spiral-bound notebook which I review after every one or two lessons. To be fair, though, I am using a version from 2003. Even with this version, I still have access to 100 additional exercises with answers online. The new products Living Language offers offer even more exercises.
Lack of Different Levels. Unlike Rosetta Stone and Fluenz, Living Language does not offer products for different levels of comprehension. There is a course for the beginner, but there is not an intermediate course or an advanced course offered anymore. If you already have some background in or comprehension of Italian, you can still purchase one of the older products like I’ve been using by clicking here: Living Language Ultimate Italian Advanced, although the cultural and business references may be a little outdated.
The ability to use a book and have access to online materials is really appealing and a nice change from digital only products. If you prefer having something in your hands to mark in and read like you did in school, Living Languageis the way to go. If you are content with just a book, some audio CDs, and access to online exercises, the Italian Complete product is a great deal. If you want the option to do the lessons online and have access to a personal e-tutor and the online community, you can get the Italian Platinum Package. Living Language could its product line by offering different levels of Italian like it used to.
If you have used or are currently using Living Language, I’d love to hear your thoughts about it below.
∗Affiliate Disclaimer: Like most of my other reviews, I use affiliate links in this post. This means I receive a commission if you click on the link and end up purchasing the product. This process saves you time and helps fund this site so I can continue to provide you quality content. Whether you are starting or continuing your journey in learning Italian, I hope this post is helpful to you.