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Graziana Lazzarino, Maria Cristina Peccianti, Janice M. Aski, and Andrea Dini (with contributions by Pamela Marcantonio, Loredana Anderson-Tirro, Giuseppe Faustini, and Maria Mann). Prego! An Invitation to Italian.

Graziana Lazzarino, Maria Cristina Peccianti, Janice M. Aski, and Andrea Dini (with contributions by Pamela Marcantonio, Loredana Anderson-Tirro, Giuseppe Faustini, and Maria Mann). Prego! An Invitation to Italian. Sixth Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2004.

Following on its previous successes, Prego! An Invitation to Italian returns in a sixth edition in 2004. Its publishers boast that "since its first appearance in 1980, Prego! has been a leading introductory Italian program in North America." As in the fifth edition, Graziana Lazzarino shares authorship with other fine scholars. Maria Cristina Peccianti, a native of Siena and currently at the Universita per Stranieri in Siena is promoted from previous fourth to second billing. Janice M. Aski, an expert in foreign language pedagogy and teaching methodology from The Ohio State University, and Andrea Dini, a native of Prato currently at Montclair State University whose minor was in Second Language Acquisition are the third and fourth listed respectively. An additional contributor, namely Pamela Marcantonio of the University of Colorado, Boulder (from G. Lazzarino's home institution) now joins the ranks of the previous three: Loredana Anderson-Tirro from New York University: Giuseppe Faustini from Skidmore College: and Maria Mann from Nassau Community College each adding their talents to the overall composition of the text's resources.

But authorship can only go so far. On the publishing end, McGraw-Hill bas risen to the demands of the modern university's "blended" learning environment (see C. Bonk: 2004) by injecting into this instructional package numerous support systems in the form of print, video, and digital ancillaries. Indeed, in addition to the traditional materials that students and instructors alike have come to expect--i.e., audio and listening comprehension programs on audio CDs, the laboratory manual and workbook in hardcopy print versions--new to this edition are the Online Workbook and the Online Laboratory Manual in the form of enhanced, interactive versions of the printed products. The Interactive CDROM, new to the fifth edition, returns in an expanded format offering not only supplementary exercises and activities, but also a 'talking' dictionary and verb charts. Lastly, the publisher has created a text-specific website known as the Online Learning Centre. Each of these features responds to the mandate that language students be provided with remote access to materials in order that practice and learning continue well beyond class contact hours.

As in the fifth edition, the sixth edition comprises a preliminary chapter followed by 18 chapters starting from sounds, the alphabet, cognates, and basic functional classroom expressions, and building on the fundamentals: nouns, adjectives, agreement, the Indicative Mood with its basic tenses; through to the Conditional and Subjunctive Moods and 'correlazione dei tempi nel congiuntivo.' Appendix 1 includes detailed explanations of usage and advanced structures: A. Usi dell'articolo determinativo: B. Gerundio e il presente progressivo; C. Il futuro anteriore; D. Il periodo ipotetico con I'indicativo: E. Il periodo ipotetico con il congiuntivo: Appendix 2 focuses on forms of irregular verbs and a list of verbs requiring essere as the auxiliary for verbs in the passato prossimo. The text offers two vocabularies: Italian-English and English-Italian: a full notional index; biographies of the four main authors and final credits. The maps previously found on pages prior to the Capitolo preliminare now line the hardcover interior jackets: Le regioni d'Italia (front left), Le citta d'Italia (front right), and "Europa" [sic] (back right side), an unfortunate oversight that contradicts the very point made in Capitolo 2 concerning the use of the definite article with names of countries.

Capitoli 1-18 are organized as in the fifth edition, but with a few revisions. The Commedia dell 'Arte characters remain, but new colors have been introduced both for the cover and the interior, the latter making the type softer and easier to follow, at least for this reader. The audioscript for In ascolto bas been removed from the textbook and moved to the Laboratory Manual with the possibility of accessing the recording and activities via the Prego! 6 website. The Nota culturale has been given new prominence by color shading: some have been replaced with more appropriate topics such as in capitolo 13 where "il riciclaggio"--rather than the previous "La Torre di Pisa ...'"--now supports the main theme, l'ambiente. 'Scrivere,' the component following the cultural reading bas also been updated. Titles presenting the 'Dialogo-Lampo' have been revisited to better suit their purpose and various chapter titles have been renamed to better suit their themes and content i) capitolo 7 becomes 'Mi sveglio alle 8.00' from "Fare bella figura' reflecting the presentation of reflexive verbs: ii) capitolo 12 becomes "Cercasi casa' from 'Arredare la casa' reflecting the language used in authentic housing ads; iii) capitolo 14 becomes 'La musica e il palcoscenico' from 'Uno spettacolo da non perdere" reflecting greater inclusiveness of the cultural content and iv) capitolo 15 becomes 'Quando nacque Dante?' from 'Chi fu Dante?' highlighting a typical fact-finding question concerning historical figures.

The Videoteca component has two new features: (1) its structure and (2) its characters. In the sixth edition, the video is a single feature, fully integrated throughout the entire 18 chapters. It introduces Roberto, an Italian-American journalist from Boston, who travels to Florence to write a series of articles on Italy and Italians for an online newspaper. He enlists Giuliana, an old family friend who works for l'Ufficio informazioni turistiche, to help him while he is in Italy.

This has both positive and negative overtones. While the previous two separate videos may have seemed unrelated, the rationale was evident, the break between the two well-defined. Moreover, the choice of characters was very appealing to university students since the stories featured Italians exclusively. From chapters 1-9 students followed the lire of Peppe, the Italian university student from Florence and his sister, Cinzia: and from chapters 10-18 students followed Silvana, another Italian university student, as she traveled from Rome to Vietri to get to a family gathering. For non-American users of the text, the focus on Italians exclusively--without an American character as go-between -gave Prego! 5e more universal appeal and utility.

The main format of the capitolo remains the same. Language structures are introduced in small doses and students are still expected to recognize basic linguistic meta-language in order to understand explanations and presentations. And rightly so+ since the majority of university language programs have an academic purpose and are hot intended as service programs for the purpose of teaching communication exclusively, a la Berlitz. What of gli schemi illustrativi, i.e., the ready-to-go schematic representations of basic structures? Has the table for le preposizioni articolate--existing in previous editions, but sorely missing in the fifth edition--now been re-introduced? Yes. Does the text retain its overall flexibility, allowing instructors and users to move forwards and backwards, if one so chooses? Yes. Does the text retain the unique Lazzarino feature, the comical vignettes? Thankfully, yes. Here's a classic example offered for the verb piacere: Two gentlemen are facing each other in a neighborhood park. One is an artist sitting by his easel: the other is a city gardener standing by his rake, broom and collection bin. It is a classic autumn day and there are fallen leaves strewn about the landscape. The artist turns to the gardener and says: "'A me place l'autunno molto, e et lei?" Humor always adds a special touch and is a strong mnemonic device.

Texts, however, do not always retain all their features from one edition to the next. A regrettable Mss in the sixth edition, especially for full-year length introductory university language programs, is the double lettura at the end of each chapter. In the fifth edition, in addition to readings outlining the regions of Italy, each capitolo offered an additional topic. These included "I giovani italiani,'" "Identikit della jamiglia italiana," "Gli sport piu amati dagli italiani," and "Caffe ristretto," among others. Students were exposed to a greater degree of reading materials and this would permit instructors to make the transition to other types of reading materials. The trade-off comes with the new, but intermittent Flash culturali located at the end of capitoli 4, 8, 12 and 16 on the topics of Gli sport e i passatempi, Il cinema italiano, Dove andare in viaggio ..., and L'arte e la musica respectively.

The core pedagogical features of this text still seem to bear the hallmarks of an approach attributable to its original and central author, Prof. Graziana Lazzarino, who first with Da Capo and then with Prego!, has remained true to a sound pedagogical compass. This approach has much in common with that pioneered by the late Raffaella Maiguashca who, in collaboration with a group of Canadian instructors of Italian at the university level, coined the term "structural-communicative" (1988). Prego! uses an analogous approach and continues to offer instructors of Italian for academic programs at the university level the rigor of language analysis, but presented appropriately in a contextualized, task-based framework allowing students to learn, practice, and explore linguistic and cultural expressions at the introductory level. McGraw-Hill's support of and commitment to such a program further serves to justify recommending the continued use of Prego! at the university level.


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Author:Arthur, Gabriella Colussi
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2004
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