Get me out of language limbo
June 26, 2006 11:29 AM   Subscribe

Learning Italian in the Boston Area

I've been listening to Pimsleur's series of audio training, but I'm feeling the need to learn more grammar in a more structured way. I'm looking for a place in or around Boston where I can do this at a fairly accelerated pace, for a reasonable price.

The Spanish I remember from high school is helping about as much as it's hurting. On one hand, I think a class for absolute beginners would bore me, because the languages' structures have so much in common. On the other hand, I don't know enough Italian grammar or have a large enough Italian vocabulary to jump into a higher level class. The curse of listening to lessons in 'conversational Italian' is never learning the words for colors or household items, and not being able to read/write very well.

Paying The Boston Language Institute $500 for an 8 week course that covers 4 chapters of a textbook does not seem like a good deal to me, and I don't know enough to join a conversation group.

Any suggestions? Or should I just buy an Italian textbook and teach myself enough to get me out of this limbo?
posted by ThePants to Writing & Language (7 answers total)
Actually, $500 for an 8-week course in Italian is a bargain by the standards of any 'italian for foreigners' school in Italy. If you were to come to any big city in Italy, you would pay at least $500 for about 4-weeks at any decent school. i dont remember the rates there, but i think $500 is a good deal...

I don't suggest trying to find a bargain in the USA for schooling either, as you really need an accredited teacher. I tried the bargain route a year ago in a very prominant suburb of NYC (instead of shelling-out major $$$ for a NYC language institute), and dropped the class after a few sessions. The teacher they hired was indeed italian, but wasn't a teacher, and worked in a mall as her full-time job. she hadn't been to italy in over 12 years, and had forgotten much. It was a disaster.

So my advice to you is that if you are really focused on learning, go to a school with a good reputation and trained, accredited teachers.

Pimsleurs sucks because there is no text, so you really have no idea what you are actually saying, and stresses only pronunciation and phonetics as opposed to understanding. also, they only teach you one verb, one tense, and one conjugate for each command, and after understanding italian a bit more, i see that the commands they teach are out-dated, overly formal, and only useful for talking to less than half the population. they are just not practical.

If you decide not to go to school, textbooks you find in bookstores are fine. i were you, i'd focus on verbs. They are the hardest to remember, the most integral for actual conversation, and more descriptive, suggestive, and finite than english verbs. (Trust me on this: learning colors, days of the week, telling time, numbers, and basic nouns is something anyone can do. Any good school won't even teach you this in class, and wouldn't even waste their time. They are there to teach you grammar, rules, and verbs. Learning nouns and adjectives is something you do in your free time away from class.)

The most illuminating book for me has been 2000+ Essential Italian Verbs. This books kicks so much ass, i don't even know how to begin telling you how important it is.

allora: abbi patienza...piano piano, impara! (okay then: have patience...slowly slowly you learn!)
posted by naxosaxur at 12:15 PM on June 26, 2006 [1 favorite]

pazienza :)
posted by elpapacito at 12:40 PM on June 26, 2006

ops and "impara!" is imperative , an order like "do that ! " or "don't do that" ...whereas slowly slowly you will learn "piano piano imparerai" where imparerai is the future , 2nd person (you) of the verb "imparare"
posted by elpapacito at 12:41 PM on June 26, 2006

I've been really happy with language classes at the Cambridge Center for Adult Education, as I've posted here before. I have taken Russian, Mandarin, and Portuguese there at various levels.

Though I haven't taken Italian there, I started taking their classes on the recommendation of an Italian whose American wife studied Italian there!

Why I liked studying with them:
  • super-affordable relative to places like BLI (I actually have a friend who finished Portuguese there this spring, and concluded she really should have gone to Cambridge at 1/4 the price for the same amount of instruction)
  • small classes, taught by native speakers
  • the other people in the class are also there because they want to be, not for a grade
  • right at Harvard Square
  • intensive classes available for some languages (including Italian)
  • relatively flexible schedule includes day and evening courses

    (They also have some great cooking classes, including some that are make __ in __ - e.g. make paella [while talking] in Spanish - something like that may fit your "breaking into conversation" goal. Also, some languages have conversation nights for all levels. Not sure if Italian is one of them.)

  • posted by whatzit at 1:21 PM on June 26, 2006

    When I lived in Cambridge, I considered taking classes at the Dante Alighieri Society of Massachusetts but could never find the time. Not sure of the quality of the classes but I was only interested in learning basic conversational Italian for a two week vacation.
    posted by bCat at 2:57 PM on June 26, 2006

    Don't overlook Rosetta Stone. It is a very natural way to learn to read/speak/write. My wife's been doing the Swedish course and likes it very much -- and she has a difficult time with languages.
    posted by trinity8-director at 5:00 PM on June 26, 2006

    Response by poster: Thanks, all. I hadn't seen that CCAE offered language classes.
    posted by ThePants at 5:28 PM on June 26, 2006

    « Older How can I come up with work samples and get this...   |   Dammit! I need more rocking out and waiting until... Newer »
    This thread is closed to new comments.