Via Lifehacker, it turns out that the US Foreign Service Institute provides language training to US diplomats and personnel, and that some of their older materials are now public domain.
Always on the lookout to pick up some Italian prior to my big trip I decided to check it out. There is a non-government site dedicated to hosting these materials, which leads to a .pdf file of a document written in 1965 titled Post Languange Program Italian Course.
The document is long – 633 pages long. Just scratching at the surface yields not only some great basics for speaking Italian, but more interestingly some insight into what kinds of conversations the US Government expected their foreign diplomats to be having with Italians back in the 60’s.
I’ve added names to make the conversation flow a little more obvious:
Robert: Good Morning. How Are You? Buon giorno, come sta?
Fred: Fine, thanks. Bene, grazie. And you? E Lei?
Robert: Not so bad, thank you. Non c’e male, grazie.
Fred: Are you American? E americano Lei?
Robert: No, I am an Italian. No, io sono Italiano.
Fred: Do you speak english? Parla inglese?
Roberto: I don’t speak english very well. Non parlo inglese molto bene.
Fred: How do you say ‘thanks’ in Italian? Come si dice ‘thanks’ in italiano?
Roberto: We say ‘grazie’. Si dice ‘grazie’.
Fred: Good bye. Arrivederci
Roberto: See you tomorrow. A domani.
They’ve got a lot of great languages there including Cantonese, Russian, Turkish, and Yorumba (which I’ve since learned is the largest ethnic group in west Africa). Some of these other language courses also have audio components. I’m looking forward to checking out the Cantonese course from 1970 right after I finish up the Italian!