Berlitz General Discussion

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Speakeasy
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Berlitz General Discussion

Postby Speakeasy » Wed Nov 07, 2018 4:43 pm

Berlitz General Discussion
The Berlitz language courses are of only passing mention here on the Language Learners’ forum (LLORG) and on the How-To-Learn-Any-Language forum (HTLAL). By way of contrast, Assimil, Linguaphone, Living Language, Pimsleur, Michel Thomas, and the FSI/DLI courses appear much more frequently. Perhaps the main reasons are that (a), for the most part, the numerous products offered by Berlitz serve the purpose of phrase books, language guides, and very basic introductions to an array of the more popular languages, and (b) the organisation itself operates more as a language school than it does as a publisher language courses. Nevertheless, a few of their self-study language courses have received favourable reviews over the years and, as member n_j_f has recently rekindled my interest in a few of these courses, I thought that other members might wish to explore them via a general discussion thread. First, a couple of useful links:

Berlitz Corporation -- Wikipedia
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Berlitz_Corporation

Berlitz (U.S.)
https://www.berlitz.us/

Berlitz German Coast Guard Trainee - YouTube
While this publicity video is not germane to the discussion, I could not resist sharing it.


Reviews and Discussions of Berlitz Courses
Several decades ago, I became familiar with the “Berlitz Self-Teacher” course book (without audio) and the “Berlitz Comprehensive” (with audio) introductory courses. Although my motivation to learn French and German was high at the time, I did not respond well to the teaching style. Several decades later, I came across Professor Arguelle’s reviews which inspired me to add a few of these courses to my own collection.

Berlitz Foreign Language Learning Series Reviews - YouTube


Berlitz 2 Foreign Language Learning Series Reviews - YouTube


Berlitz’s Think and Talk XXXX - HTLAL – April, 2014
http://how-to-learn-any-language.com/forum/forum_posts.asp?TID=38570&PN=12

Perhaps the most extensively-reviewed Berlitz course on the HTLAL was their “Think & Talk” series. James29’s opening comments, supported by Professor Arguelle’s review, prompted me to purchase both levels of the “Think & Talk German” series and, despite my previous doubts concerning their method, I would now say that this series was well-conceived, most particularly the second level. As doubts persist concerning the continued viability of the HTLAL, I have taken the liberty, without permission, to copy/paste James29’s opening remarks.

“A long time ago Berlitz made some beginner courses entirely in the target language. Very early on I listened to the first tape of the Spanish course which I found at my local library. I listened to it over and over and over again and loved it. The library only had the first tape and I could never find any more despite much searching. I cannot find these courses on Amazon or mentioned anywhere.

Now I am looking at the French course. I found the French course under it's Spanish name "Piense en Frances... Hable en Frances" when I was looking for French learning material for Spanish speakers.

I think they are very old courses. The audio "feels" like the audio from Assimil's "without toil" era. I am surprised that I have never seen these courses discussed here on this forum because they seem very interesting, useful, effective and fun. Plus they are for absolute beginners and are entirely in the target language.

The courses can be used as all-audio, but the French course also has an indepth book (several hundred pages) that is entirely in French (except the introduction and basic instructions on how to use the book). I only had the first hour of the Spanish course but the audio obviously took the same approach as the French course. I have only listened to the first French lesson (about 8 minutes). There are 50 lessons in the French course which must amount to roughly 5-7 hours of audio.

I am interested to hear if anyone has started a language with one of these courses and if it was as good as it looks to me. Is this course as good as it looks for a beginner? It looks to me like a great all-audio substitute for Pimsleur, Michel Thomas, etc.

I am drawn to these course because they are very interesting and fun. Each lesson has a "scene" in which people speak entirely in the target language. There are "sound effects" and tons of non-verbal audio cues that help the learner understand the meaning. It is really fun to listen entirely in the target language and learn. You need to listen to each lesson several times to understand it, but it really seems to work.

For example, almost five years later I still remember some of the things from the Spanish course. They'd have a man with a squeaky voice say "soy un hombre pequeño" (I'm a small man) and then a man in a big bellowing voice say "soy un hombre grande" (I am a large man). You would hear women say something similar so you could piece everything together. Another time they would have someone say "tengo poco dinero"(I have a little bit of money) and you would hear two coins drop and make a pathetically small amount of noise. Then they would say "señor Rockefeller tiene MUCHO dinero"(Mr. Rockefeller has a lot of money) and you would hear an avalanche of money.

In the first lesson of the French course you hear someone talking about pets and you hear a dog bark and a cat meow, etc. You also hear someone counting the gongs of a clock striking noon and you learn the numbers and how to say hours, etc. They talk about cars and say "Chevrolet is an American car", "Toyota is a Japanese car", "Peugeot is a French car". It is really cool. The first few times through you simply listen and try to figure out what they are saying. All of the clues build on each other. There are prompts where they ask you to repeat and/or answer a question. After a few runs through each lesson you actually understand it and can respond. The French book has all the scenes written out and uses drawings to explain what is going on. It has exercises also. It is very basic beginning French and everything is in French.

Am I the only person that has seen these courses? Why don't we see them discussed here on this forum as a beginner course/substitute for Pimsleur and Michel Thomas? Has anyone used them extensively? Maybe they are not as good as I think and that is the problem? I am contemplating using the French course and, if I do, I will report back.”
Last edited by Speakeasy on Sun Jul 07, 2019 12:57 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Berlitz General Discussion

Postby rdearman » Wed Nov 07, 2018 5:20 pm

If it is the same person, you could ask permission. :)

https://forum.language-learners.org/mem ... file&u=153
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Re: Berlitz General Discussion

Postby DaveAgain » Wed Nov 07, 2018 5:26 pm

the organisation itself operates more as a language school than it does as a publisher language courses.

I believe Berlitz sold their book publishing [berlitzpublishing.com] bit to Langenscheidt [langenscheidt.com].

I've used Langenscheidt/Berlitz German in 30 Days. I didn't much care for it. :-(
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Re: Berlitz General Discussion

Postby Skynet » Wed Nov 07, 2018 9:12 pm

DaveAgain wrote: I've used Langenscheidt/Berlitz German in 30 Days. I didn't much care for it. :-(


It is tragic that another language learning series succumbed to the trend of increasing vapidity.

On the Berlitz front, I did use two of their courses from the 19th century: MÉTHODE Berlitz: Partie Francaise - 1er livre (1888) and MÉTHODE Berlitz: Partie Francaise - 2eme livre (1889). I was remarkably impressed by these two courses and attribute a lot of my French progress during the summer to them. Whilst no audio files were available in the library for the courses (would one be surprised?), I certainly do not regret going though them and appreciating their full pre-spelling reform glory.
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Re: Berlitz General Discussion

Postby DaveAgain » Thu Nov 08, 2018 12:48 am

Skynet wrote:
DaveAgain wrote: I've used Langenscheidt/Berlitz German in 30 Days. I didn't much care for it. :-(


It is tragic that another language learning series succumbed to the trend of increasing vapidity.

On the Berlitz front, I did use two of their courses from the 19th century: MÉTHODE Berlitz: Partie Francaise - 1er livre (1888) and MÉTHODE Berlitz: Partie Francaise - 2eme livre (1889). I was remarkably impressed by these two courses and attribute a lot of my French progress during the summer to them. Whilst no audio files were available in the library for the courses (would one be surprised?), I certainly do not regret going though them and appreciating their full pre-spelling reform glory.
?? Me not liking it, doesn't make it bad course! :-)
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Re: Berlitz General Discussion

Postby iguanamon » Thu Nov 08, 2018 1:26 am

When I first learned Spanish in the dark ages, before the internet and even before CD's! I was so lucky to have found Charles Berlitz' "Spanish Step by Step". There was no audio. I had that solved with static tinged radio from Mexico and Cuba. It did have three lines for each dialog. The first was Spanish, underneath that was a phonetic (for English-speakers) transcription- definitely not IPA. Underneath that was an English translation. There were grammar notes for each chapter and a "q and a" quiz after each chapter. It was what I had along with the pocket University of Chicago dictionary. I parlayed that into being able to read in Spanish and then when I left my small southern town and met actual Spanish-speakers, I was able to learn how to speak conversationally with them.

That book without audio was what began me on my language-learning journey. Like speakeasy, I have a fondness for older materials. I also have the Step by Step and "Berlitz Self-Teacher" books in FIGS and even Russian. I can't find the Hebrew book. The dialogs are pretty much the same in the early lessons and follow a similar pattern for the others. While the course books are not ideal, they pack a lot into their 300 or so pages, even a glossary/dictionary and grammar summary are included. They can be picked up for quite a low price used and are a low barrier for entry for FIGS learners. For $20 to $30, a learner can learn a surprising amount of conversational vocabulary and language and language use in all the FIGS languages- French, Italian, German and Spanish. The Russian Berlitz Self-Teacher sells for more of a premium. Even if something is old and not ideal, sometimes it can give a learner what they need, if not what they'd most like to have. And sometimes, depending on the individual, it can be enough to get them started.
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Re: Berlitz General Discussion

Postby smallwhite » Thu Nov 08, 2018 5:39 am

Both Hong Kong and Sydney libraries have Berlitz books and I like them. I always use them. (Their titles change and I don't remember them all, so I'll describe some of the lessons below).


French/etc Vocabulary Handbook (thematic vocabulary lists).
- has verbs, themes provide context, some usage examples, small book with lots of words.


Spanish/etc Grammar Handbook.
- brief, comprehensible, good enough.


German/etc Verb Handbook (verb tables similar to 501).
- IIRC has a quick grammar overview.
- IIRC each verb conjugation table skips the regular conjugations and only print the bits with unexpected conjugations.
- I didn't use this much but IIRC it seemed fine.


Confident Spanish/etc (curious boy interrogates woman about her travel plans; clerk sends 100+ emails).
- quality voice actors, quality sound, little English easily trimmed away, logical dialogues you can make sense of the vocabulary.
- good teaching of grammar.


Italian in 30 Days (family picks girl up at station; grandma).
- I've only used the Italian one and only as refresher post-B2.
- quality voice actors, quality sound, little English easily trimmed away (or none at all?), logical dialogues you can make sense of the vocabulary.
- dialogues pleasant to read.
- good teaching of grammar, good exercises.


Japanese in 30 days (man falls asleep in car).
- I only listened to I think 3 dialogues.
- quality voice actors, quality sound, little English easily trimmed away (or none at all?).
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Speakeasy
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Re: Berlitz General Discussion

Postby Speakeasy » Mon Nov 19, 2018 12:45 am

Berltz Comprehensive (1958, 1967)
Professor Arguelles reviewed a small selection of Berlitz language courses for self-instruction in his series of YouTube videos, including the “Berlitz Comprehensive” series ©1967. For the record, a small note in the course manuals advises the reader that these courses were previously published under the title “Berlitz Self-Teaching Record Course” ©1958.

Materials
The “Berlitz Comprehensive” courses contained, initially: (a) five unusually large course manuals measuring 10-3/4 inches x 10-7/8 inches, each of approximately 50 pages in length, for a total of roughly 250 pages, (b) five 33-1/3 rpm, 12-inch vinyl LP records or, subsequently, five 50-minute audio cassettes, for a total of approximately 4-1/4 hours, (c) a rotary verb finder measuring 12 inches in diameter, and a small bilingual dictionary. As of 1968, an additional manual, entitled “New Berlitz Key Program, [Language] Zero”, accompanied by one 90-minute audio cassette, was included in the sets. Packaging was either a large, sturdy binder or a light brief case.

Image of the contents of the “Berlitz Comprehensive French” course
Berlitz Comprehensive 0.jpg
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Languages
As was common for the period, the more commercially-popular languages were covered in this series: French, German, Italian, and Spanish, all from an English base. As Berlitz has long had operations in numerous countries throughout the world, it is possible that these courses were available from bases other than English; however, I have not come across any evidence of their existence.

Approach to Teaching
The approach to teaching used in the “Berlitz Comprehensive / Berlitz Self-Teaching Record Course” series borrows heavily on that of the self-instruction “Berlitz Self-Teaching” books which had been published, without noticeable revision, from at least 1940’s and for which audio recordings were never prepared. That is, as for many self-instruction language programmes, the language is presented “in context” through a series of dialogues which take place in predictable situations: Customs, Hotel, Restaurants, Shopping, Visit to the Doctor, and the like. The complexity of the sentence structure increases with each successive lesson of which there are forty. The right-hand pages contain the main dialogues and the accompanying, short exercise set which draw upon a few of the elements presented in the dialogue. The left-hand pages present the lists of new vocabulary and the explanatory notes which, rather than introduce grammatical issues directly, for the most part, simply state that “this” is used in “that” context. The course manuals contain neither a glossary nor a summary of grammar. The level of grammatical complexity and was surprisingly elevated as was, in some instances, the level of vocabulary, such that a determined and assiduous student could expect to achieve level of CEFR A2+ upon completion upon one of these courses. The “New Berlitz Key Program, [Language] Zero” booklet was included about a decade after the introduction of this series and it purports to present the student with some essentials concepts of the target language’s structure as a preparatory step. While it is of some assistance, as for the main course modules, it is quite light on explanations of the underlying grammatical principles, in my opinion.

Page drawn from “New Berlitz Key Program, German Zero”
Berlitz Zero.JPG
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Page drawn from “Berlitz Comprehensive German”
Berlitz Comprehensive Lessons.JPG
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Page drawn from “Berlitz Self-Teaching German” for comparison with the above.
Berlitz Self-Teacher Book.JPG
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Audio Recordings
The audio recordings are those of the lesson dialogues and short exercises in the target language only. A small number of voice-trained native speakers, male and female, read the dialogues at an artificially-slow cadence, and in a clear, highly-articulated, and somewhat stilted fashion reminiscent of “period” theatrical productions; that is, even more stilted than those of the Cortina audio recordings of the era. With the exception of a brief, and rather loud and annoying musical score which signals the beginning of each lesson, the roughly 5-minute-long dialogues and short exercise sets in each lesson are read without stoppages and without pauses. Although the student could pause, stop, rewind, and advance the audio tapes so as to practice the dialogues, the absence of pauses would have complicated the task which, in passing, would have been much more difficult whilst working with the original LP vinyl records. In my view, during the adoption of the audio cassette technology, the publisher missed the opportunity to insert suitable pauses into the audio recordings.

Appreciation
The main competition to the Berlitz Comprehensive courses during the period would have been: (a) Crown Publishers’ 1940’s-era “Learn a Language / Living Language” very basic A0+ courses, (b) Assimil’s 1940’s-era standard A2-B1 introductory courses, (c) Linguaphone’s 1950’s-era A2-B1 introductory courses, and (d) Cortina’s 1950’s-era A2-B1 introductory courses. In all cases, the materials themselves had been developed in the 1940’s through the 1950’s, they were similar in scope, in depth of coverage, in the use of a formal register, in the inclusion of aging vocabulary, and in the overall quantity and quality of their audio recordings. While my appreciation could be nothing more than a sign of personal preference, I would say that the Assimil, Cortina, and Linguaphone courses were somewhat superior to those of Berlitz both in the construction of the dialogues and in the explanation of the target language’s structure (yes, even those of Linguaphone, my bête noire). Nevertheless, they would most definitely have taken an assiduous student to somewhere within the CEFR A2+ range. It goes without saying that the Berlitz Comprehensive courses are for collectors only.

ADDENDUM: Recycled Shorter Versions
Offers on eBay for used language courses indicate that Berlitz repackaged, re-titled, and recycled the first section of their “Comprehensive” courses …
Berlitz French Comprehensive (variant 1) a.jpg
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EDITED:
Frequent login/logoff to effect the inclusion of images.
Last edited by Speakeasy on Sat Aug 03, 2019 3:52 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Speakeasy
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Re: Berlitz General Discussion

Postby Speakeasy » Tue Nov 20, 2018 11:19 pm

Berlitz Think & Talk
Amongst the small collection of Berlitz language courses for self-instruction that Professor Arguelles reviewed his YouTube video was the “Think & Talk” series which was introduced in the mid-1980’s in two levels and which seems to have been withdrawn about a decade later. During the mid-1990’s this series, or one using the same title, reappeared as an apparent second generation. In an attempt at delineating the series, I will be presenting reviews, one each for:

Berlitz Think and Talk (Basic) 1st Generation
Berlitz Think and Talk (Basic) 2nd Generation
Berlitz Think and Talk (Advanced) 1st and only Generation


Berlitz Think & Talk (Basic): 1st Generation
What’s in the Package?
The first generation of the Berlitz Think and Talk courses was introduced from mid-through-the-late 1980’s, eventually covering the following languages: French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Russian. The materials included: (a) two course books, measuring 8-3/4” x 8-1/4”, of approximately 310 pages in total, (b) a bilingual dictionary, (c) six audio cassettes for a total duration of approximately 8 hours, plus one introductory/explanatory audio cassette of some 13 minutes duration, and (d) a hard-shell plastic storage case.

Image of Berlitz Think & Talk German package
Berlitz Think & Talk German 1st Generation.jpg
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Berlitz’ Direct Method
The approach to teaching was Berlitz’ “Direct Method” wherein, save for the introductory comments in English, all of the materials (audio and printed) were presented in the target language only; that is, without translation, without a bilingual glossary, and without explanatory notes to the student in English. In other words, these were “full immersion” courses. Berlitz did not talk of “lessons” in these courses; rather, the latter were composed of 50 “scenes” through which the language was introduced in a succession of short phrases and dialogues. Students were meant to associate the audio and visual cues with the target language. Most of the “scenes” were accompanied by a one-page “exercise” which, for the most, served as a brief summary of the principal grammatical issues which had just been deployed in the scene. The recommended procedures for working through these “full immersion” courses was: (1) relax and listen, (2) listen and understand, (3) listen and repeat, (4) answer and repeat, (5) read and write, (6) think and talk. The authors expressed their confidence that, by diligently working through the materials, students would be able to learn the target language as they had learned their native language. As to the level of difficulty of these materials, I would imagine that, upon completion, an industrious student would have acquired a very basic knowledge of the target language, approaching, but not quite achieving, CEFR A1.

Image drawn from “Szene 25” of Berlitz Think & Talk German
Berlitz Think & Talk German Szene 25 Dialog.JPG
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Image drawn from “Übung 25” of Berlitz Think & Talk German
Berlitz Think & Talk German Szene 25 Übung.JPG
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Does it Work?
I digitized my set of audio cassettes for Berlitz Think & Talk German. During the process of segmenting the mp3 files into the individual scenes, I listened to the entire programme and tried to imagine myself learning the basics of a language through Berlitz’ Think and Talk course. To be fair to the creators, I will admit that, a student blessed with patience and perseverance, following long hours of working with these materials, should be able to absorb and perhaps even internalize the course contents. Nevertheless, in light of my own experiences in language learning, given the broad availability of more conventional language courses, I would likely have abandoned these materials in favour of ones containing either a translation of the dialogues or, at the very least, containing notes permitting me to work out what I had been listening to and what I had been reading. As additional comment, although this does not diminish the qualities of this “basic” course, it is my opinion that this course would be insufficient preparation for the “advanced” course which was sequel to this one in the Think & Talk series. Perhaps my reaction explains the appearance of the 2nd generation of this series …

Addendum: Think & Talk Russian/Japanese
At the time that I prepared the presentation on the “Berlitz Think & Talk” first generation courses, above, I had a copy of these materials for the study of French, German, Italian and Spanish, but not those for the study of either Russian or Japanese. Based on the materials that I had on hand, I assumed that the latter followed the same approach to teaching as the former. Some months subsequent to the above presentation, I came across this comment in March 2011 on the HTLAL by jpazzz: “There is also a Think and Talk Russian, but it wasn't produced by the Berlitz staff and has a different format. And I believe there is a Think and Talk Japanese, but I've never used it and can't comment.” Jpazzz was right! I have posted additional comments below.


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Addendum (July, 2019)
Last edited by Speakeasy on Sun Jul 07, 2019 2:11 pm, edited 9 times in total.
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Speakeasy
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Re: Berlitz General Discussion

Postby Speakeasy » Tue Nov 20, 2018 11:22 pm

Berlitz Think & Talk (Basic): 2nd Generation?
What’s in the Package?
The second generation of the Berlitz Think and Talk courses began to appear in the early-to-mid 1990’s and, as for its predecessor, it covered the following languages: French, German, Italian, Japanese, Spanish, and Russian. During this period, the recording technology employed in self-instruction language courses was transitioning from audio cassettes to compact discs. In addition, many publishers were experimenting with the notoriously-glitch-prone CD-ROM technology for use on microcomputers. Consequently, offers for packaged sets of these 2nd generation courses include different combinations of audio cassettes, or compact discs, or both cassettes and CDs, or CD-ROMs, and either two manuals or no manuals at all as the latter had been replaced by the CD-ROM.

Image of Berlitz Think & Talk Italian package
Berlitz Think & Talk Italian 2nd Generation.jpg
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Development or Entirely New?
It is impossible for me to say whether the second generation of the Berlitz “Think and Talk” courses were truly redesigned versions of the first generation courses or if they were new courses to which Berlitz appended the title of the original series. Certainly, the contents and the approach to teaching of the two “supposed” generations seem radically different one from the other.

Berlitz Joins the Competition!
Working under the assumption that the revised “Think and Talk” courses were, indeed, a development of the original series, it would appear that Berlitz decided to abandon their “Direct Method” of instruction (full immersion) and to replace it with a rather conventional one, mirroring the approach of their competitors. Using my copy of the Berlitz Think & Talk Italian course (2nd generation) for comparison, this new generation bears no resemblance whatsoever to the original series, it could have just-as-easily been inspired by the Living Language Complete the Basics series or similar courses. The course is divided into 12 Units, each of which is subdivided into 3 lessons, with each Unit accompanied by an end-of-unit comprehensive checklist. Four tests are inserted into the sequence at appropriate points, supplementary materials are included in the appendices for additional study, and an answer key to the exercises is present, as well. The lessons present the language through a collection of short dialogues, word lists, and exercises, all of which are accompanied by explanations of the underlying structural issues and the occasional comment on Italian culture.

Image A drawn from Berlitz Think & Talk Italian, Lesson 1
Image A.JPG
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Image B drawn from Berlitz Think & Talk Italian, Lesson 1
Image B.JPG
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Image C drawn from Berlitz Think & Talk Italian, Lesson 1
Image C.JPG
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Say Something in Italian. No, no, in Italian!
The audio recordings were prepared with the assistance of multiple voice-trained native-speakers of Italian whose delivery is measured yet possessed of lively and engaging intonation suitable for introductory language courses. A feature that I did not enjoy was the invasive voice of an English-speaker who guides the student through every step of course. From my perspective, this interferes with the listener’s concentration on and contact with the target language and it renders reviewing the audio recordings a particularly tiresome task.

Does it Work?
The approach to teaching is quite conventional and it would appeal to students who are comfortable with the step-by-step, slow but progressive, presentation of the L2 as exemplified by the very popular and successful Living Language Complete the Basics series or similar courses. The level upon completion would be somewhere in the neighborhood of CEFR A1. So then, yes, it works. However, as a personal matter, I did not complete this course and, instead, worked with the FSI FAST course, Assimil Italian, and other materials which are more to my liking.

Berlitz Think & Talk (Basic): 2nd Generation?
Despite the shared title, I seriously doubt it, there are simply too many differences between this edition of the series and the previous one.

Next Up …
Stay tuned to this frequency for my presentation of “Berlitz Think and Talk (Advanced) 1st (and only) Generation”

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