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Italian for all levels, all ages, by an experienced Italian native speaker and teacher. Lessons tailored to the student's needs and priorities. Preparation for exams or tuition for the mere pleasure of learning Italian.
years of experience as a language tutor in the UK . Years of experience as an Italian language teacher for foreigners in Italy. Years of experience as an English language teacher for non-English natives. Years of experience as a fine arts tutor (painting, art history, art theory and aesthetics).
A naturally recurring topic in my work-related conversations with colleagues is, predictably, teaching methods, and good language manuals. While it is always interesting hearing about different approaches to teaching, or being updated about new language teaching publications, I have come to the overall conclusion that the topic itself is a “no answer” one.
Nowadays people learn foreign languages for all sorts of reasons. People are drawn to foreign languages out of a multitude of stimuli and motives. Some may want to try and learn Italian out of the mere aesthetic appeal it has to them. Or they may want to visit Italy on a long vacation or within a student exchange program. Or are in love with the country and intend to permanently move there. Italian parents living in the UK may also want to have their children learn Italian as a second mother language.
Each one of these cases of a motive in starting Italian lessons corresponds to a different prioritisation of the things a student needs to know about the language: a perspective visitor in Italy obviously has to give priority to anything that will allow him to communicate at a colloquial level and move within the country –general language rules, dictionary he will need to be acquainted with (airport, police station, bus station etc) and so on. Basic grammar will still be indispensable in the lessons although, chances are, only in the early ones. The Italian parents of a child will most likely expect their kid to learn Italian as it would in an Italian school (thorough grammar analysis and possibly literature, history, geography).
What we as teachers are facing then, is a set of different approaches to teaching. Chances are, moreover, that the teacher will even have to adjust his method on the way, and as he becomes better aware of the student’s needs, or the ways he tends to concentrate better on the lesson.
There is no point in trying to instruct the customer to whatever “institutional” learning method. There is no such thing as a ‘wrong’ or ‘pointless’ motive in taking up language lessons, and therefore all existing methods serve some purpose in the learning process. Not all students will turn out having a true and deep vocation in the Italian language. Yet, with a minimum of interest and good will, and if the tutor manages to organize the lesson in a way that stimulates their interest, they will retain something from this educative and cultural experience. Confronting yourself with a foreign language (ANY language including so called “dead languages” –I hate this term- such as Latin or ancient Greek) will almost certainly also expose you to the broader cultural context it derives from. This is why when learning a foreign language you are in fact almost always assimilating a lot more than just a foreign language. Learning a foreign language will always broaden your horizons. To which degree this happens will clearly depend on how much you expand your knowledge of it. Either way, you will always retain something from the experience and be richer in some way at the end of it.
Choosing the texts.
There’s a multitude of Italian language teaching methods and manuals out there nowadays, to the point where one might end up confused about which would be best to choose. This large number of choice, very much reflects the different approaches to learning a foreign language, that people have today: manuals focusing on the essential grammar skills, multimedia-based methods, manuals for tourists, early-learning books. My main concern with this kind of over-specialisation (with the possible exception of manuals for kids) is that it often leaves out a lot of basic grammar that you simply can’t ignore or leave for later, when learning the language. I generally like to use Katerin Katerinov’s manual, La Lingua Italiana Per Stranieri (Guerra Edizioni) as a main text, along with In Italiano by Chiuchiu and Minciarelli (Guerra Edizioni), which offers a series of image and dialogue-based examples of grammar rules, as well as a larger number of practice exercises. Both rather conventional in approach, but also all inclusive and reliable. From this point on, I will implement with selected material from other texts, (exercises, listen and repeat units, articles and related questionnaires, and more) depending on the student’s level and specific needs. I also find Paola Nanni Tate’s Grammar Drills and Verb Drills to be quite useful and rich with exercises, if not for the fact that they include English translation of most material (as I said, I like to have the student doing the translation orally or in written, as a form of practice). Vicentini’s and Bettoni’s Passeggiate Italiane series (Bonacci), are an excellent resource for more advanced students.
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