Choosing the First L2 Book (Italian)

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diplomaticus
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Choosing the First L2 Book (Italian)

Postby diplomaticus » Thu Dec 10, 2015 2:10 am

I am interested in diving into native materials sooner rather than later. I don't want to make a mistake of overthinking coming up with the "perfect" study plan, and am happy having just one course, like Assimil & a short grammar, as the background of true study while tinkering around with Italian in its native form.

A few ideas I had, and I'd welcome everyone's thoughts:

A) http://www.amazon.com/Divine-Comedy-Bil ... 47658/ref=

Purchase this lovely dual-language copy of the Divine Comedy and see if I can find the Italian audio either for free hopefully (though I find that unlikely since any recording would possibly still be under copyright), or buy it. Then just read and compare the translation while listening to the audio.

Pros:
It is fairly lengthy, so I'd have time to get used to its rhythm
It is significant culturally and has many allusions in later works and is an important piece of western civilization

Cons:
It is an 800-year old poem that, while understandable for a modern Italian, is far from a current vernacular
Maybe I get bored. I am a millenial. Who has time for concerns about sin and redemption?

B. Il Gattopardo (The Leopard) by Giuseppe Di Lampedusa with audio
http://www.amazon.com/Gattopardo-Italia ... 83821/ref=
http://www.amazon.com/Leopard-Novel-Giu ... 14790/ref=
http://www.amazon.it/Gattopardo-letto-S ... 3527X/ref=

Pros:
The book looks interesting and has great reviews in both languages
Ties into Italian history
Audio is clearly easy to come by

Cons:
May be too long/challenging to start with
Since it is two separate books, maybe it is a bit unwieldy to compare lines/translations

C. Robinson Crusoe
http://farkastranslations.com/books/Def ... fr-nl.html

Found this handy site that has a side-by-side translation for English and Italian (plus many others).

Cons: No audio, no connection to Italy, and I'd be tied to the computer.

Any thoughts on any of these, or any alternatives? Am I being too ambitious, approaching it the wrong way, etc....

My idea was just having a longer-term project to work towards while doing the daily minimum with Assimil would be nice. Then fill in the gaps with other native stuff where and when I can.

Oh, and anyone know a good place to read the news in Italian that may have transcripts or anything in English? I know there is a really good resource like that for French, but haven't discovered it for Italian. Thanks everyone!
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Re: Choosing the First L2 Book (Italian)

Postby iguanamon » Thu Dec 10, 2015 3:06 am

Personally, I'd stay away from Dante for language learning. I just finished Robinson Crusoe in Haitian Creole about a month ago. I've read it in Portuguese as well many years ago. In HC, it wasn't a 100% faithful version but close. I didn't use a parallel text because I would have had to scan the book and make my own. I just read it with a dictionary. My advice is to make sure you have a modern translation of RC. A parallel text would be great but try to read it as if you don't have the English and resort to the English to check your guesses. If you can't figure out the word, glance over.There are many variations on how to read using a parallel text- read L2 segment first and then the equivalent L1 segment. read L1 first then L2; read L2 and use L1 sparingly as I do;

I've never used it, but some people find success with the original LR method (see HTLAL Wiki).

I think it's great that you want to get outside course world. Your forays into the real world can give good synergy to your course and grammar work. As long as your "inner voice" in Italian is good, you won't really need the audio. The translated vHC version of Robinson Crusoe (Woben Lakwa) was used in a university level course at the University of Florida and I had the monolingual study guide in pdf too. It wasn't the first thing I read in HC but I did find it very useful.

I don't know how the site where you found the book has it formatted but it may be possible to print it to pdf and put it on your tablet or phone. RC has a lot of first person narrative, which is good and it was challenging with lots of nautical vocabulary in the beginning third. It will be doable but not a walk in the park. You'll have to accept that it will be slow going for the first third of chapters, better for the second third and faster for the last third. Words repeat. As long as you keep doing your course and whatever else you are doing, I think you should get a lot of benefit from it.

I can't speak to "Il gattopardo", but it doesn't have to be an either or situation, get both and if one is too hard, just put it aside until later. It's always good to have options ready to hand. Another option I can recommend, if you think you may be "biting off more than you can chew", is to start small and work your way up. Songs and song lyrics and short news articles like those on euronews Italian can help. You can get the English by going to the language drop down list and make your own, short, parallel texts by copying and pasting into a two column one row text document and printing to pdf for your phone, tablet or even hard copy. The audio comes with each story and can be downloaded with the proper browser extension.

The main thing is not to hit your head against a brick wall. At the same time, don't quit because you may be a bit outside your comfort zone, that's where I find learning starts. It's a fine line but you'll know it when you see it. With a parallel text you'll have comprehensible input and that's what its all about at this stage. Just don't get down on yourself if you think it may be taking too long. It takes what it takes until you get better. At this stage you are reading to learn, not like you do in English when you are reading for content. That will come but it takes a while. If I can help further, please let me know and good luck!
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Re: Choosing the First L2 Book (Italian)

Postby Speakeasy » Thu Dec 10, 2015 4:18 am

Your Starting Point: A2-B1
Assuming that you complete Assimil Italian and that you absorb all of the material therein, your knowledge of the language would be in the A2-B1 range. Your vocabulary would consist for the most part of approximately 2,000 what-I-would-call “transactional” word groups; that is, words essential to exchanging information about your basic wants and needs in daily encounters in Italy. Accordingly, attempting to read literature that was written for adult native speakers, all of whom operate at the native C2 level, could prove to be a challenge for which you are not yet prepared. For this reason, I would suggest a more gradual approach and I offer the following groups of materials for your consideration:

Graded Readers (with audio) A0-C2
There are several publishers of Graded Readers. In my view, the largest collection, and least expensive, of Graded Readers is published by La Spiga Languages. Their collection runs from A0 through C2. The small pocket books are slim and, with a view to keeping costs down, are printed on low-cost, heavy newsprint. The story lines in the beginning readers are often original creations for young adults. As the level of difficulty increases, the story lines are most often simplified versions of public domain classical literature. At the advanced level, the texts are abbreviated editions of the original texts. Readers without CDs sell for about 5.00 $US, whereas those with an audio CD sell for about 10.00 $US. The only caveat that I would mention is that Graded Readers can occasionally seem to employ vocabulary that may not be relevant to your learning goals. That is, the authors, beyond recounting a story, often attempt to achieve a literary effect that extends beyond the mere informational. As the level of the Readers increases into the C1-C2 range, given that most of the material dates from the 19th century, you might find the practical application of this vocabulary limited to similar literature.

Student Magazines (with audio) A1-C1
There are several Audio Magazines available on the Internet. Some of them, such as the series offered by Spotlight Verlag, a German publisher, contain topical articles for Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced students in each issue. In the case of Spotlight Verlag, the audio content is sold either separately or as part of a higher-priced subscription. There is a low-priced monthly Audio Magazine “Think Italian” offered online by an American publisher. The level is A2-B1 and the articles cover the food, wines, arts, geography, history, and general culture of Italy. Often, a one-year subscription will include access to the previous year’s archives.

Books and Magazines (pulp fiction, without audio) A2-B2
You might wish to consider Reader’s Digest, Harlequin Romances, Science Fiction, Crime Novels, and other examples of Pulp Fiction in Italian. These materials are readily available, they will introduce you slowly to A2-B2 level current vocabulary and they are “dirt cheap”.

Bilingual Readers C1-C2
There are numerous publishers of truly excellent Bilingual Readers of 19th and 20th century literary classics. Since the originals were written for an erudite native audience, you can expect that the level would be C2+.

Books Should Be Free / Librivox C1-C2
These two websites contain FREE literary classics, mostly from the 19th century, many of them with audio that has been read by volunteers.
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Re: Choosing the First L2 Book (Italian)

Postby garyb » Thu Dec 10, 2015 10:25 am

I found Il Gattopardo very difficult, to the point where it was hard to enjoy the story because of all the unknown words and cultural references, and this was after I had been learning Italian for three years, was at decent B2 level, and had already read a dozen or two other books in the language. So I wouldn't recommend it as a first book.

I've not attempted Dante yet, and if I do it'll be for enjoyment, I doubt that it would help my Italian much. Even Italians struggle with it and use editions that have extra explanations, like when we study Shakespeare.

I'd go for something more modern and less literary. There are some suggestions in a thread from a few months ago: Good Italian books for intermediate level students.
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Re: Choosing the First L2 Book (Italian)

Postby rdearman » Thu Dec 10, 2015 4:41 pm

You might want to look through the Book Club thread as well.

viewtopic.php?f=18&t=1087
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Re: Choosing the First L2 Book (Italian)

Postby Serpent » Thu Dec 10, 2015 7:07 pm

I recced some in this thread. See wikia for more general advice too :)

SC recs are linked there too, but just making sure you don't miss that :D

As for Dante, I found him amazing, but I do have some experience with Latin. It's also led me to an existential crisis tbh :( I do recommend him highly, but much later on.
(In general free recordings of public domain literature are common, btw - the great thing is that it's perfectly legal to make one yourself, and there are lots of enthusiasts creating free audiobooks)
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Re: Choosing the First L2 Book (Italian)

Postby diplomaticus » Fri Dec 11, 2015 12:02 am

Speakeasy wrote:Graded Readers (with audio) A0-C2
There are several publishers of Graded Readers. In my view, the largest collection, and least expensive, of Graded Readers is published by La Spiga Languages. Their collection runs from A0 through C2. The small pocket books are slim and, with a view to keeping costs down, are printed on low-cost, heavy newsprint. The story lines in the beginning readers are often original creations for young adults. As the level of difficulty increases, the story lines are most often simplified versions of public domain classical literature. At the advanced level, the texts are abbreviated editions of the original texts. Readers without CDs sell for about 5.00 $US, whereas those with an audio CD sell for about 10.00 $US. The only caveat that I would mention is that Graded Readers can occasionally seem to employ vocabulary that may not be relevant to your learning goals. That is, the authors, beyond recounting a story, often attempt to achieve a literary effect that extends beyond the mere informational. As the level of the Readers increases into the C1-C2 range, given that most of the material dates from the 19th century, you might find the practical application of this vocabulary limited to similar literature.

Student Magazines (with audio) A1-C1
There are several Audio Magazines available on the Internet. Some of them, such as the series offered by Spotlight Verlag, a German publisher, contain topical articles for Beginning, Intermediate, and Advanced students in each issue. In the case of Spotlight Verlag, the audio content is sold either separately or as part of a higher-priced subscription. There is a low-priced monthly Audio Magazine “Think Italian” offered online by an American publisher. The level is A2-B1 and the articles cover the food, wines, arts, geography, history, and general culture of Italy. Often, a one-year subscription will include access to the previous year’s archives.

Think Italian intrigues me. For now, though, I went with La Spiga books. Schoenhof's is having a 50% off foreign books sale, so I just got 12 Italian books from A1-C2 for only $35.70 :) I already have what I hope is a decent dictionary, so I think I will just start struggling my way through these!

Thanks so much for all the amazing recommendations!
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Re: Choosing the First L2 Book (Italian)

Postby dampingwire » Sat Dec 12, 2015 1:00 am

My local library has a bunch of Italian graded readers in the language section, a dozen or so kids books in the Children's Library (don't laugh: Goldilocks can be fun to read in Italian :-)) and a few hundred novels in the Foreign Language section.

When I was trying to kick start my French reading a decade or so ago, I started to work through some of the books there. I generally went for the slimmest ones I could find, as long as the blurb made some sort of sense. That way it wouldn't take me too long to finish (I don't like giving up on a book even if I don't like it much, so I wanted to start with stuff that didn't require a huge commitment to begin with).
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