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ITALIA CONTEMPORANEA: Conversations with Native Speakers Ordinary people talking about ordinary lives – in Italian

By Francesco Isgro'

Italia Contemporanea: Conversations with Native Speakers by Ceil Lucas (New Haven: Yale University Press)

Beginners and advanced students of Italian alike will enjoy the authentic, unrehearsed, and thoroughly fascinating interviews presented in the DVD accompanying the book Italia Contemporanea: Conversations with Native Speakers by Ceil Lucas.

Each interview focuses on aspects of everyday Italian life: work, housing, soccer, poetry, the role of women in Italian society, politics, the use of language, and many other lively topics. The speakers offer a variety of regional accents, including Florentine, Milanese and Roman.

Italia Contemporanea is populated with unforgettable characters, including a farmer, a mechanic, a neurologist, a journalist, a nurse, and a secretary. You will meet a 77 year-old woman who recounts a moving incident during WWII in which she traded her starving family’s last possession, a bike, for what she was told was a sack of flour. (We won’t spoil the surprise by revealing the actual contents of the sack.)
As you listen to these ordinary Italians, you come away with a sense of their passion for their work, their culture, their language. Along the way you invariably you hear their strong opinions.

If you are Italian American, you will want to watch this DVD with your children and grandchildren. There are multiple lessons contained in this video, as it captures the Italian language in its essence with the colors and sounds of an Italia that is growing and changing slowly but relentlessly.

The 85-minute long DVD contains fifty-one interviews, divided among twenty chapters. It is accompanied by a video manual that includes complete transcripts of each interview, as well as notes about vocabulary, grammar and usage, and questions about the content of the interviews. An interactive feature is a series of questions about the student’s own experience.

Author Ceil Lucas is a professor at the Department of Linguistics at Gallaudet University in Washington, D.C. She recently presented her book at the Casa Italiana Language School, at an event sponsored by the American Association of Teachers of Italian, Washington, D.C. Chapter.

Several copies of the book, with the accompanying DVD, were recently available at for about $30. •


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