Teaching Italian as foreign language - Foreign languages teaching methodologies and learning approaches

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Italian language programs in Italy
TEACHING ITALIAN AS FOREIGN LANGUAGE

teaching Italian as foreing language

Our Italian language course programs have been developed from a communicative based approach and focuses on the four language abilities (listening, speaking, reading, writing). Our first goal is communication, both oral and written. Our courses are structured to conform with the European standards set by ALTE (Association of Language Testers in Europe) and by the Council of Europe.

Our reference teaching methodology is communicativism but not in its extreme consequences (read Krashen). We do think that language analyses is also important. For this reasons we divide our standard course in two parts: "Language Analyses" and "Communicative Tasks".

The language analyses activities include controlled oral and written production, while the communicative tasks involve listening and reading comprehension and free oral and written activities.

Grammatical structures are presented in order of frequency and relative complexity. Teaching material is always introduced in some form of authentic text (newspaper or magazine article, taped dialogue, video-taped situation, letter, short story, etc.). Progress is monitored and all teachers meet weekly to facilitate organization and ensure proper student placement. The instructors rotate weekly to add variety and interest to the group dynamic.

teaching Italian as foreing language

Our Standard group course is divided in two parts: 2 lessons of Language Analysis followed by 2 lessons of practice with Communicative Tasks.

OUR USUAL TIME TABLE *

08:30 - 09:25

Reserved to One-to-one or  Two-to-one lessons
09:30 - 11:00 Reserved to Group courses: language analysis
11:00 - 11:30 Coffee break
11:30 - 13:00 Reserved to Group courses: communicative tasks
13:00 - 14:00 Lunch break
14:00 - 14:55 One-to-one and Intensive and Culture courses
15:00 - 15:55 and Intensive and Culture courses
16:00 - 16:55 One-to-one and Intensive and Culture courses

*This time-table may change according to the school organizational needs.  On rare occasions (e.g. extraordinary high season) Group Classes may be scheduled in the afternoon (14:00 - 15:30 / 16:00 - 17:30).

In both in Language Analyses and Communicative Tasks parts we focus our attention to the 5 language activities: listening, speaking, reading, writing and metalinguistics. As teachers of Italian as foreing language, we believe that our students will "learn and fix" more having a deductive approach to the language. For this reason our Italian lessons are never a frontal lessons and for this reason we believe in "the class" as a group and therefore we ask our students to do lot of work in pairs, role-plays, dramatisations, etc.

We do believe the student MUST be the "primadonna" in class. The teachers' role MUST be "analising and understanding" his/her students needs and proposing all those activities conducive to maximise learning in class.

In linguistics, we divide between "learning" and "acquisition". Just simplifying, "learning" implies all the activities involving the rational, conscious, analitycal activities of our brain; "acquisition" requires the involvement of the subconscious side of our brain. The brain process of knowing a language is made up of 80% "acquisition", 20% "learning".

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In fact, the study of all the rules of a certain language does not  bring knowledge of that language, meaning that the only use of the rational, analytical, conscious side of our brain is not sufficient to learn a language. In fact, we all, as native speakers of our own mother language, have NOT learned our language by reading and analysing sets of grammar rules or through pedantic corrections (which cause frustration, fears, apprehension, resentfulness and the child/learner to become clammed up etc). Rather - during childhood - we needed to make our mistakes, to have our mistakes passing without people around continuosly correcting us and frustrating our creativity and desire to express ourself. In fact, what we all have needed was a balance between corrections from outside "tutors" and learning through our mistakes.

Correction is one of the activities to be done during a language course, but for sure the whole course cannot be based on corrections. And this is why we do not correct our students in the second half of the lesson ("Communicative Tasks"). What is important here, the aim of this part of the course, is communication, and improving our general ability of communicatin and understanding.

That's why our course is divided into 2 parts "language analyses" (listening, speaking, reading, writing) and "communicative tasks" (listening, speaking, reading, writing). Correction is one of the activities and it relates to the Language Analyses part of our Italian languege courses.

There is a maximum number of 10 students per class although, depending on season, our average class size is generally between 4 and 6 people. This limit ensures a small group environment conducive to communication and offers each student the opportunity to speak as much as possible.

Our Italian language courses are structured to conform with Common European Framework of Reference for Languages : Learning Teaching, Assessment of the Council of Europe and the ALTE Framework , and to conform with the European standards set by ALTE (Association of Language Testers in Europe) and by the Council of Europe.

Ranging from Absolute Beginner to Advanced, our Italian language course programs are divided into six different levels of language abilities. Students may enrol in our weekly classes for up to 6-months of coursework, depending on their goals. All students are placed in a level based on their entrance exam (both written and oral).

Common European Framework of
Council of Europe
ALTE
framework
BABILONIA
levels
Elementary level A1 Elementary Breakthrough level
Beginners
+
Elementary
A2 Pre intermediate Level 1
Intermediate A
+
Intermediate B
Intermediate level B1 Intermediate Level 2
Superior A
+
Superior B**
B2 Upper intermediate
Level 3
Advanced 1 A
+
Advanced 1 B
Advanced level C1 Pre-Advanced Level 4
Advanced 2 A
+
Advanced 2 B
C2 Advanced Level 5
Advanced 3 A
+
Advanced 3 B

** allows students to reach the "threshold level" , the level of communicative competence according to the Modern Language Project of the Council of Europe.

Each level last four weeks.

The table below illustrates typical general ability at each level and in the skill areas.

LEVELS Listening/Speaking Reading Writing
A1

ALTE breakthrough level

CAN understand basic instructions or take part in a basic factual conversation on a predictable topic.
CAN understand basic notices, instructions or information.
CAN complete basic forms, and write notes including times, dates and places.
A2

Level 1

AN express simple opinions or requirements in a familiar context.
CAN understand straightforward information within a known area, such as on products and signs and simple textbooks or reports on familiar matters.
CAN complete forms and write short simple letters or postcards related to personal information.
B1

Level 2

AN express opinions on abstract/cultural matters in a limited way or offer advice within a known area, and understand instructions or public announcements.
CAN understand routine information and articles, and the general meaning of non-routine information within a familiar area
CAN write letters or make notes on familiar or predictable matters.
B2

Level

CAN follow or give a talk on a familiar topic or keep up a conversation on a fairly wide range of topics.
AN scan texts for relevant information, and understand detailed instructions or advice.
CAN make notes while someone is talking or write a letter including non-standard requests.
C1

Level

CAN contribute effectively to meetings and seminars within own area of work or keep up a casual conversation with a good degree of fluency, coping with abstract expressions.
CAN read quickly enough to cope with an academic course, to read the media for information or to understand non-standard correspondence.
CAN prepare/draft professional correspondence, take reasonably accurate notes in meetings or write an essay which shows an ability to communicate.
C2

Level

CAN advise on or talk about complex or sensitive issues, understanding colloquial references and dealing confidently with hostile questions.
CAN understand documents, correspondence and reports, including the finer points of complex texts.
CAN write letters on any subject and full notes of meetings or seminars with good expression and accuracy.

However, completion of a particular 4-week course does not guarantee advancement to the next level. Language learning is not a mechanical endeavour. It is an academic endeavour which also involves a personal and psychological component. Some students have elected to repeat a particular level or delay advancement by a week or two, so as to continue study and practice of particular structures. Since our Italian language programs are developed by a communicative-based approach, our materials, activities and tasks are quite extensive and it is rare that the student will repeat the same activities, using the same materials. We have designed our program with this in mind.

Most of our students take full advantage of the authentic materials (selected from the every day life: newspapers, magazines, books, radio, TV, internet, etc) that we use in the classroom and the communicative activities and tasks we employ, which often extend out of the classroom and into the students' free time.

Upon request, we also offer completion exams to solidify and measure progress achieved. As an accredited language institution, our school corresponds to various International continuing educational programs.

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