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Marcel Danesi. Adesso! An Introduction to Italian.

Marcel Danesi. Adesso! An Introduction to Italian. Instructor's Annotated Edition. Third Edition. Boston: Thomson Heinle, 2006.

In its third edition, Adesso! is a larger, more cohesive program that soundly upholds the pedagogical principles in which it is grounded. This review of the main text and its ancillaries will primarily identify the essential revisions from the second edition, which has received much attention. Marcel Danesi, the author of Adesso!, has revisited the content and organization of the textbook--heedful of the input of the "staunchest supporters" / "most constructive critics" of his program--and preserved the functional approach for learning Italian with proficiency-based and task-oriented activities. Thomson Heinle, the publisher of Adesso!, has achieved a notably substantial program. Together with the numerous teaching and learning resources that constitute the program, the textbook itself sports a new design that warrants further discussion.

A cursory glance at the textbook instantly reveals the first changes: the addition of political maps of Europe and Italy in the front covers, a physical map of Italy in the back cover and an attractive, eight page overview of the present edition. Adesso!'s philosophy, to provide students with a way in which to function in Italian, is more clearly defined in this edition. A perusal of the contents (which still comprise an opening Prima di cominciare and 18 chapters) reveals a concise distinction between communicative functions (Comunicazione) and focus on form (Strutture e vocabolario) as required for communication. The chapters, developed more efficiently from this distinction, have been streamlined and lend themselves more readily to the doing and practice phases that characterize them.

The organization of each chapter consists of the following sections: Tema, Ascolto, Lettura, Il mondo digitale, and Sintesi. There are two (2) temi in each chapter, each tema presenting its own functional focus (e.g., engaging in social activities, expressing emotions and reactions, carrying out transactions at various retail establishments). Each tema features a dialogue (Dialogo) with comprehension verification and vocabulary development exercises, as in the second edition, but is now preceded by a background activation section (Quanto sai gia?), new to this edition, that uses students' existing knowledge to anticipate topics and "project" them into the real-life situations of the tema. Next is a speaking and communication section (Modi di dire) that expands upon the dialogue with new vocabulary, thematically arranged, then practices (Applicazione) how to communicate by doing different tasks, generally open-ended pair and group activities. Fourth is the formal presentation of grammar (Grammatica), which has seen some reorganization with respect to the sequencing of grammatical structures, and contextualized drill-type activities (Applicazione). Numbers are now incorporated in the Grammatica of the second tema of the chapter. The manner in which vocabulary and grammar is presented has been modified in this edition, so that students are presented smaller, more manageable "chunks" of information from which they complete Applicazione activities. This discrete-point presentation and practice format allows learning to be gradual and logical, as students acquire and learn new information in a more organized and efficient manner. The author has also opted for a more regular use of contrastive analysis (CA) in presentations of vocabulary and language structures, to avoid instances wherein deduction and inference would lead to errors. Select examples of new uses of CA include irregular plural forms of body parts (chap. 12), piacere and modal verbs in the present perfect (chap. 7), and the distinction of indicative vs. subjunctive moods in subordinate clauses (chap. 16). Finally, each tema concludes with a cultural note (Taccuino culturale) and a performance finale (Momento creativo), as in the second edition.

Following the temi, there is a listening comprehension component (Ascolto) that features pronunciation (new to the third edition) and conversations developed from the temi of the chapters. The reading comprehension (Lettura) and review and reinforcement (Sintesi) activities from the second edition have been retained. The third edition offers a new section (Il mondo digitale) after the Lettura that introduces "the Internet and contemporary technology" so 'students can "join the global village" in Italian, so to speak.' The objective of this component--the activities of which should be completed outside of class time, with the exception of the in-class follow-up activity--is to engage students to explore Italian by means of a medium that has become such an integral part of daily life.

Revisions have also been made to the four Elementi di civilta, as they now include, together with more and updated photos, a helpful gloss introducing the concepts and language specific to the civilization topic developed in this cultural component.

The author states that the broad range of activities, which constitute the design of the chapters as outlined above, "give[s] instructors the choice of disregarding several more open-ended activities without damaging the main sequence of acquisition." For those instructors who wish to maintain the sequence of the activities as they were originally conceived, the Annotated Instructor's Edition (AIE) provides many helpful annotations in the margins that not only provide descriptive comments but also functional notes to direct, identify, warn, advise, etc. These annotations are designated as Assessment, Culture, Expansion, Jump Start, Management, Preview, Recycling, Teaching Tips, Variation, and Watch Out! Each highlight, tip, strategy, alert and activity offered throughout each chapter of the AIE will equally benefit new and seasoned instructors in all stages of the language teaching process.

The plethora of updated, improved and new teaching and learning resources, which complement the main text, demonstrates a proclivity for technology-enhanced language learning tools. The workbook and lab manual (by Marcel Danesi and Salvatore Bancheri) is thoroughly revised and continues to offer a wealth of exercise and activity material that strives to create a balance between the more formal development of the four skills and creative and ludic uses of language. With this edition, there is also the option for an online workbook and lab manual available in Quia (

The video dairy of two film students sets the stage for the new video (available on both VHS and DVD). The road trip from Rome to Venice and the interviews conducted with Italians they meet in various cities and towns create the backdrop for authentic language use (both verbal and non-verbal) within the parameters of the communicative functions introduced in the textbook. The video also contains extras in which perspectives (dialects, the American influence), practices (gesturing, politics) and products (wine, economics) are briefly introduced.

The companion Web site (content by Elvira di Fabio, Antonio Morena and Marco Arnaudo), still accessible gratis on the Thomson Wadsorth site (http://www. issn=1413003516&discipline_number=306), is the final supplement investigated. Each chapter contains internet activities (WebQuests that require students to visit a variety of URLs for information gathering purposes), a review quiz and a tutorial quiz (both with questions in multiple choice or matching format). There is also a cumulative final exam. Students may e-mail their instructor responses and results from their online tasks and assessment activities, and have the option to review and rework chapter activities and quizzes before submitting their results.

Additional supplements to the Adesso! program include: for the Instructor, the Testing Program CD and the Audioscript (with Answer Key); for the Student, Lab Audio CDs and vMentor, free online tutoring access. As has been the movement in education in general, publishers are becoming more and more inclined to invest resources in original technological tools that not only personalize learning but extend the learning environment beyond the classroom.

Moreover, publishers continue to recognize the significant role of the main text in any program. For this reason, Thomson Heinle has also revamped the design of the textbook of the present edition. First, its dimensions are larger (8.5" x 11") than the standard volumes published in North America. Second, the typesetting has been changed to a lighter typeface and the leading (space between lines) has been increased. Next, the layout of many charts and tables has been modified (most noticeably, the Lessico utile at the end of each chapter has been reduced from three to two columns). These design aspects amount to a more appealing text, as it appears less cluttered and more structured.

The design, together with the careful, pedagogical revisions made by the author, makes the third edition of Adesso! more user friendly for teacher and student alike. Teachers will appreciate the systematic presentations of contextualized language for task-driven activities and the organization of the language structures needed to complete the tasks. Many will also value the notes in the AIE that promote the goals of the program. Students will be more engaged in the activities as a result of the new sections (Quanto sai gia? and Il mondo digitale) since they elaborate on pre-existing knowledge, notions and concepts. They will welcome the rich cultural components of the text and the ancillary materials, and, upon successful completion of Adesso!, achieve a level of competence that balances the four skills and cultural comprehension. Without a doubt, this new edition of Adesso! will surpass its predecessors in functionality, popularity and ultimately, achieving its objective.


Montclair State University
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Author:Antenos-Conforti, Enza
Article Type:Book review
Date:Mar 22, 2007
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