Practice Makes Perfect: Italian Vocabulary
March 10, 2013
Author Daniela Gobetti
Series Practice Makes Perfect
Publication Date 2008
Skill Level Intermediate, Advanced
McGraw-Hill offers Practice Makes Perfect vocabulary books for multiple languages. I have found them odd in ways, with silly sentences providing awkward transitions between groups of thematically linked words. But I like them nonetheless, and I loved Practice Makes Perfect: Italian Vocabulary by Daniela Gobetti; it is idiosyncratic, modern, and also sometimes wicked and dark in its examples.
I will give you an example of the oddity to which I am referring. Chapter 3, “The Body and the Senses,” begins, rather curiously, as follows: “In today’s society thin, tall, and beautiful people are at an advantage over fat, short, and unattractive ones. Italians attach great importance to posture. They buy leather shoes even for babies, though many teenagers have joined the flip-flop and sneaker-footed tribe.”
I mean, that’s just weird, right? But it got me laughing. And the vocabulary lists and exercises are really good.
Here is another odd but nonetheless amusing quote. Chapter 4, “Emotions and the Mind,” begins: “Individualism, first articulated in its modern form by Italian humanists in the Renaissance, is an important aspect of Italian culture. Italians are individualists not only of the mind but of the heart: they express publicly a wide array of emotions, from anger to great sorrow. This public expression of private feelings, often tempered by irony, creates a relaxed and reassuring social environment: in Italy you know where you stand with another person, even if he or she is only a colleague or an acquaintance.”
Learn some Italian before you pick up Practice Makes Perfect: Italian Vocabulary or you will be overwhelmed. It is not for true beginners, though you can be towards the beginning end of things, I would say. You do need some reading comprehension skills and grammar knowledge to function fully in it.
Should you arrive with some skills, you will be ready to learn things like, “Madam, do you have oily or dry skin?” Signora, ha la pelle grassa o secca?
Also struccarsi (remove one’s makeup), pannolino (sanitary napkin—seriously?), chirurgia plastica (plastic surgery), tatuaggio (tattoo), sieropositivo (HIV-positive), and anoressia (anorexia). I don’t recall ever learning this kind of stuff in my language classes before, and I liked it!
Note: Since I used Practice Makes Perfect: Italian Vocabulary, a new, second edition has come out. An online examination of the newer version’s table of contents suggests that the primary change is the addition of a chapter entitled “Italian in the Twenty-First Century: E-Life.” Useful!