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Not yet another grammar book: Umbra’s new Italian 101 textbook

Umbra’s new Italian 101 textbook is many things. However, it is for sure not yet another generic Italian grammar textbook. Instead, the Umbra Italian faculty wanted a book tailored on the typical needs and experiences of US study abroad students.


Umbra’s professors of Italian have used a number of standard textbooks over the years: QuiItalia. Espresso. Ciao Italia. But now Italian 101 students at The Umbra Institute have a new book with Umbra’s logo on its cover: Bulo! The name – Perugian dialect for “Cool!” – represents what’s inside: a textbook that is not just a tool to learn the agreement of subjects and verbs or the passato prossimo, but rather a vehicle of cultural immersion into Perugian life.

Students in Fall 2021 pointed out that they needed a textbook that was calibrated to their experience: rather than have all the vocab for viaggiare in Week 7 (linked to the unit on the past tense), they needed it at the beginning of the semester. The Umbra professors borrowed an idea from their colleagues at Umbra’s sibling institution, ISI Florence: to write a brand new textbook. And the idea of Bulo was born. 

Bulo’s thirteen chapters mirror an Umbra students’ thirteen weeks in Perugia and Italy. Vocab on how to read train schedules, how to order in a restaurant, and how to ask for things at a deli counter come in the first intensive week, not buried in Week 7. The photos are of Perugia and the dialogues are about going to local cafes and walking through Perugian streets. In addition to Perugia making cameos in the exercises, the city’s customs, traditions, and foods are featured in special sections on culture. Bulo is also at the cutting edge of Italian society: in addition to grammar and vocab, students learn about how Italians (who speak a language in which each noun is either masculine or feminine) have tackled making their language less gendered. 

“Bulo celebrates the Italian language and culture as direct, living, concrete experiences” said Professor Cavicchi, member of Umbra’s Italian Faculty. “As a teacher and author, I can say that Bulo is an unconventional handbook: it forces students to get up from their desks , put down their pens and test themselves along the city streets.”


Director Ph.D Zachary Nowak
The Umbra Institute Italian Faculty

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