This is my review of Talk Italian: The Ideal Couse for Absolute Beginners (Book & CD) by Alwena Lamping.
If you wish to gain a smattering of spoken Italian for a short visit, this attractively presented booklet with 2CDs is useful. Most of the short numbered sections are cross-referenced to tracks which focus on realistic dialogues at what sounds like a "natural speed". If you replay them enough, some basic vocabulary and phrases become embedded. Answers to exercises and quizzes are included at the end. The chapters cover the usual essentials of greeting people, asking for directions, shopping, dealing with hotel reception, public transport and ordering meals. The approach is direct and practical, with little explanation of grammar.
If I have any criticism, it is the inclusion of a slightly arbitrary list of countries and nationalities, without providing the pronunciation for each one. Similarly, a few occupations are included e.g. accountant, architect and secretary, which hardly seem typical. Why not include categories such as teaching, finance, administration, computing etc. which might be more useful? Also, perhaps there could have been more focus on practical issues such as finding a car rental office, seeking advice on an ailment at a pharmacy, asking at reception for a hair dryer or needle and thread etc.
Overall, you can get quite a lot out of what looks like a slim booklet, but if I seriously wished to learn Italian I would go for a more in-depth and systematic approach.