Score: 7/10

Pros:
audio exposure to spoken Italian with good number of dialogues & activities; grammar focuses on specific conversational structures & phrases relevant to lesson’s topic; involves you in conversation by asking you to think & participate; plenty of Italian to read without wordy explanations; pronunciation taught in an integrated way (as you listen to speakers); cultural notes; low price

Cons:
limited focus on pronunciation (for example, in the form of a pronunciation guide); pacing & organization of grammar topics is uneven; only rarely teaches general backbones of grammar, but when it does, expects you to memorize charts without much explanation; missing some beginning grammar (like the subjunctive)

For self-taught students learning to speak Italian on your own, Teach Yourself offers some of the least expensive book-audio “complete courses” you can buy. Teach Yourself Italian book and 2 CD set divides beginner’s Italian conversation and grammar into 25 themed lessons.

The lessons follow a standard format and organization for Teach Yourself courses (or, for that matter, most any book+audio conversational language course). Courses open with a dialogue (or three), usually accompanied by simple observation questions or certain remarks to help you understand each dialogue. Short-to-medium vocabulary lists also give English translations for new Italian vocabulary introduced in the dialogue.

After the dialogues, you’ll find explanations of grammar, which take up multiple pages and typically explain a specific conversational phrase or structure in Italian. Sometimes, the author takes on less specific topics such as verb conjugation in Italian (including verb tables). These explanations stay on topic and give a few examples, but there’s rarely a sense of flow, continuity, or building a linguistic skill set from one explanation to the next.

Practice exercises and a cultural note peppered with Italian words end each lesson. The exercises stay simple throughout the course: matching, fill in the blanks, answer observation questions.

The end of the book includes an appendix with answers to the activities, a short Italian-English and English-Italian glossary and a brief index.

The book lacks the typical Italian pronunciation guide in its opening pages. Also, although the themes of each lesson are well represented in the conversations, vocabulary and even grammar topics, some themes come across as generic for Italy, while other potentially viable ones are left out.

It’s hard to find a decent conversational Italian course at this price, and, for many, Teach Yourself Italian will get the job done for a low cost. I recommend that you spend some time considering more thorough courses, but this lesson book represents a strong (but imperfect) intersection of quality and price.