Barron’s Italian Verb Workbook
March 10, 2013
Author Marcel Danesi, Ph.D.
Publisher Barron’s Educational Series
Publication Date 2005
Skill Level Beginner, Intermediate
Barron’s Italian Verb Workbook by Marcel Danesi is intended to work for true beginners, but I think showing up with a little background would be helpful, since you start right in on present-tense conjugations on the first page of the first chapter.
There is some good drilling and practice in here, and there are translation exercises into Italian, which I like.
I also liked the pronunciation tips and reminders. As I have mentioned in my blog and in other reviews here, Italian grammars in my opinion do not give enough guidance on syllable-stress patterns. Italian stress is more confusing than a fluent speaker might recognize, and I had particular trouble with infinitives and verb conjugations. I appreciated the help that Barron’s Italian Verb Workbook provided on this point.
At the same time, I had some gripes. This first one is a personal preference and may not bother other people, but I don’t like exercises based on dialogues, nor do I like crossword puzzles, and this book had a lot of them.
Another complaint: they do not give enough room in the exercises for answers. Not even close. This is such a basic audience-awareness and exercise-design issue. As a result of the spacing problem, my answers got cramped, and eventually so did my brain. Bad exercise spacing is kind of a pet peeve of mine.
A third criticism, a pretty major one: I hate exercises with open-ended questions for which no answers can be provided, and which you therefore have no way of checking for correctness. Barron’s Italian Verb Workbook offers exercises called Prospettiva personale. In one, for example, you are told in the instructions: “List (1) three things you used to like as a child and still do, (2) three things you liked yesterday, and (3) three things you want to assure someone else that you had indeed liked.”
I’m not entirely sure I understand that last item, but the main point is, you write nine sentences in this exercise that you will never be able to check. Wrong wrong wrong.