Department of Italian
Italian in Year 1
- Before you arrive
- In Cambridge
- Examinations for Part 1A, Option A
- Preliminary reading list for prospective IA ab initio students
Beginning Italian (Option A)
Before you arrive
The majority of students who study Italian at Cambridge now begin their study of the language when they arrive at University, and the Department offers you an integrated and well-established intensive course to prepare you for the Part IA examinations, taken in May-June. At the end of the first year of study, you will have reached A-level standard in your language work. In addition, in your work for the Introduction to Italian Literature paper, you will have encountered - initially with the aid of translations - selections from key works of Italian literature from the fourteenth century to the present day (for further details of this course, see the page on Paper IT A3: Introduction to Italian, 3.)
As will be clear from the above, you will be taught the Italian language at a very rapid pace. After the first two or three weeks, the teachers prefer to use Italian in presenting their material, although they will of course use English to explain points of particular difficulty. It is therefore essential that you acquire a basic knowledge of the language before arriving in Cambridge. In view of the difficulty some students may encounter in dealing with the grammatical and syntactical terminology involved in the teaching of language at Cambridge, we strongly recommend that you buy the following book if you have not been taught grammar (in any language) in a very systematic way. Otherwise you may find that the rapid pace of the ab initio course does not allow you to absorb grammatical and syntactical structures as effectively as you would like:
- English Grammar for Students of
by Karen Primorac (University of Windsor)
(published by Olivia & Hill Press, 1995; ISBN: 0934034206)
Please note: This book is published in the USA and is not normally available in English bookshops. However, you can purchase it from:
European Schoolbooks, Ashville Trading Estates, The Runnings, Cheltenham, GL51 9PQ. Phone: 01242 245252
Your course grammar book, which includes a range of language exercises, will be the following:
- Da Capo
by G. Lazzarino and A. Moneti, 7th ed. ISBN: 0495797626 (published by Thomson/Heinle, 2010)
We strongly recommend that you purchase it over the summer - it is important to obtain the 7th edition - and study at the very least the first five chapters. But do not feel limited to this - go as far ahead as you can. If you cannot obtain the book locally, contact the bookshops listed above).
Other good text books to start you off include:
- Teach Yourself Italian by Vellaccio and Elston (Hodder and Stoughton)
- Basic Italian Grammar by McCormick (Nelson)
There follow some further suggestions to help you set about acquiring an elementary knowledge of Italian.
- If you are studying on your own, it is essential to familiarise yourself with the sounds and intonation of the language. Almost any of the commercially available cassettes (intended for tourists in the first instance) will serve the purpose, but special mention may be made of Get By in Italian, published by the BBC. You may well find Italian cassettes at your local public library, or at the language laboratories at local institutions of higher education.
- One of the main problems in learning a new language is the acquisition of vocabulary. You can buy vocabulary lists, but you will find it much easier to learn words in context; and we suggest you try either the Easy Readers series (John Murray) which are graded from A to D according to the level of difficulty, or a dual-language text such as the Penguin Parallel Text which has face-to-face translation. We warmly recommend the Collins Concise Italian Dictionary ed. Catherine E. Love or the Concise Cambridge Italian Dictionary, (ed. Barbara Reynolds, pub. Penguin).
- If you have the opportunity, do go to Italy, either to attend a language course or to work. Information and advice on how to obtain work-placements can be obtained from the Central Bureau for International Education and Training. The Department has some information about language courses in Italy. Please write or telephone for brochures, or consult the website of the British Institute of Florence, with whom we have links.
- A feature of our ab initio course is that the study of the Italian language is combined almost from the outset with the study of Italian literature of all periods (cf. the Aims of the Department). As part of your preparation before your arrival, you might well consider beginning to read some of the texts set for the 'Texts and Contexts' paper (IT A3). Details of this part of the course and suggestions for preparatory reading are given on the page Paper IT A3: Texts and Contexts.
The following brief outline of the structure of the Part IA course and examinations is intended to give you some idea what to expect in your first year at Cambridge.
In the first eight weeks most of the main points of grammar are covered, including a study of the subjunctive. Contemporaneously, you will be looking at a modern novel by an Italian writer - this will be Primo Levi's Se questo è un uomo in 2012-13 - and you will also begin lectures and literature supervisions for the Texts and Contexts paper (Introduction to Italian:3). Over the Christmas vacation you will be asked to revise the term's work in preparation for a progress test to be held in January.
The study of grammar is continued and completed by the end of term. Vocabulary is developed through formal translation both from and into Italian. Alongside the language course, you will continue, via lectures and supervisions to study extracts from works by Dante, Giotto, Machiavelli, Levi and Rossellini (dir.). Again you must make time available over the vacation to consolidate the term's work. Many of our students attend a specially-tailored course at the British Institute of Florence during the Easter vacation.
This term will be mainly devoted to revision work in preparation for the examination in Part 1A of the Tripos.
In addition to the classes you will have weekly/fortnightly supervisions in small groups (usually of three students), which will ensure that you receive personal help with any problems you may have with regard to pronunciation, grammar or the study of literature.
Examinations for Part IA (Option A)
The following tests of your progress will take place at the beginning of June:
- Paper IT A1: Introduction to Italian 1: Use of Italian.
- Paper IT A2: Introduction to Italian 2: Translation into English and Oral A.
- Paper IT A3: Introduction to Italian 3: Texts and Contexts.
In conclusion, it has to be emphasised that the foundation course is fast and demanding. Steady work is necessary throughout the year. But students who begin Italian at Cambridge regularly go on to achieve excellent results in Tripos. And if you plan your work carefully, take full advantage of the personalised teaching in the supervisions, and, above all, make a determined effort to revise and assimilate the grammar during vacations, you are likely to be just as successful as the majority of your predecessors.