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Everyone Wants to Enjoy Their Language Classes.

By Jon, published on 16/04/2019 Blog > Tutoring > Advice for Tutors > Make Italian Lessons Fun Again.

What emotions should a teacher draw upon to help a person learn a foreign language effectively?

How can you insure that your student learns Italian quickly and fluently?

Obviously, how well a student learns is not all down to the teacher: the learner must have a level of motivation.

Motivated people are more likely to apply new knowledge, ensuring retention of learned materials.

Would you think about basing your online teaching jobs and methodology on fun? Making your passion contagious?

Why Learn and Teach Italian?

That we know of, there are no bad reasons to cultivate Italian language skills; only good ones.

Thus we have to wonder: is that a reasonable question to pose?

Doesn’t every animal learn to communicate, to transmit knowledge and exchange information?

Language, in all of its rich varieties, is the exclusive purview of humans. Should it not then follow that every human should learn more than one, if only for personal enrichment?

We now dispense with pseudo-philosophical thoughts, to pose a much more pragmatic question:

Of All Languages, Why Choose to Learn Italian? 

Isn’t that question more pertinent?

Before we discuss that question’s many answers, let us talk for a moment about the theory of lexical similarity.

Lexical similarity posits that two languages, when compared, have a degree of similarity in vocabulary, grammar and syntax.

According to this postulate, Italian and English have a much smaller coefficient of lexical similarity than, say, Italian and French.

That is because Italian and French are both romance languages, meaning they draw from the same root language: Latin. English is fundamentally a Germanic language, even though a portion of our vocabulary comes from Latin.

In spite of our language having different origins, native speakers of English generally have little trouble learning Italian as a second language.

Etymology should not be considered a barrier to studying Italian.

Back to the original question: why select Italian, of all the languages to apply oneself to?

Consider this report from the British Council. It states that Italy is gaining dominance on the world stage, and in the next ten years, it is projected to become vitally important to UK’s culture and economy. That creates a market for you and every other Italian tutor.

College and university students; those at A level and sitting for GCSE – even primary school children could benefit from in-home Italian lessons!

The Parts of Italian that Frustrate Students.

As we said above, your student is not the luckiest person in the world, being English and wanting to learn Italian. English, being from a Germanic root, may share lexical similarities with Italian, but the grammatical structures are quite different. Consequently, they’re going to have a little more to make sense of compared to their French or Spanish counterpart.

Verbs

But the trouble is that they also have to engage with these annoying things called conjugations. In English, our verbs don’t usually change very much depending on when, or by whom, an action is performed. Our heavy use of auxiliary verbs means that the conjugations themselves have progressively diminished throughout the centuries.

As you know, the Italian language loves the conjugation. And these, ultimately at least, are going to have to be learned by heart. There isn’t really any other way to learn these formally – apart from simply learning them. Ask anyone English that studied language courses at school, and these verb endings will be the most common thing that put them off. So teach them wisely!

Nouns and Adjectives

But it’s not just the verbs that are problematic. A common mistake English speakers make in Italian is forgetting that nouns and adjectives need to agree. Whilst this mistake may be fun for you – there are plenty of British men that have said ‘sono contenta’, and have thus unwittingly declared themselves to be a woman – but this can be quite frustrating for the student.

Pronunciation

For some reason, we English people think that every Italian word that ends with the vowel, ‘e’, should actually be pronounced with an ‘i’. The name Giuseppe has never been pronounced correctly in the UK due to exactly this: ‘Giuseppi’, we say, or worse, ‘Guisseppi’.

(This is presumably in the same way that Italians appear to be taught that the simple ‘a’ sound in English should be pronounced ‘e’. The sentence thus becomes ‘the bleck cet is in the beg’, which isn’t quite correct.)

Anyway, otherwise, Italian pronunciation is quite straightforward, apart from those pesky double consonants. We don’t do this in English, and the constant confusion of penne for pene, cane for canne, anni for ani. Again, this can be pretty fun for you the tutor, but that’s not the point: this particular difficulty can be pretty annoying for students.

Small children learn best when entertained and engaged Teach younger students Italian through interactive games Source: Pixabay Credit: Skitterphoto

Learning Italian Beyond the Grammar.

Teaching in a way that is not grammar heavy is absolutely key to successful tuition that is fun. To be overwhelmed by verb tables, rule books, and grammar exercises is not fun for the student. Unless they are quite unusual, what students want to learn is to be able to speak. They want to be able to communicate, they want fluency (and this doesn’t necessarily mean accuracy), and they want some sort of conversational skill. 

This means that speaking exercises should be at the forefront of your teaching practice. Talk to your students about what they like, engage them in conversations (maybe these need to be quite basic) about their lives and what’s going in the world around them.

Encourage them to speak about what makes them tick – and tailor your future lessons around those themes and topics.

How to Make Your Students Comfortable

For as long as there has been language learners, there has been a struggle in coaxing them to use their language skills for more than disjointed sentences, uttered red-faced and stammering.

How can you translate your passion for the language into a flowing stream of Italian words from your students?

One way is to broach topics that interest them. You don’t really have to look too hard to find out what captivates students’ interest, these days: gaming.

The world of online gaming is competitive and attracts players of all ages.

We would venture to say that, if you started your class by asking what games your pupils play – and why, you would be treated to a lively discussion of weapons and levels, and the comparative merits thereof.

Could they have that discussion in Italian?

Present this idea for conversation during class: Leonardo Da Vinci comes to life for one day, and wants you to introduce him to gaming.

Don’t hesitate to point out that the most renown Renaissance polymath would have been as fascinated with the technology behind gaming as with the game itself.

You could also invite Dante Alighieri to critique the Harry Potter series.

Challenge your students to become Dante by tasking them to impersonate the father of the modern Italian language and comment on their favorite book or television show. Costumes are optional.

The ideas are just a few ways to get your students to speak freely. Just let your imagination run wild!

Teach Basic Italian Through Interactive Games.

Language instruction should be lively, engaging and fun, especially for the youngest learners.

Fostering an attraction to learning is vital to tots’ and tykes’ future educational undertakings.

It wouldn’t hurt teens, either: it is never too late to cultivate a love of learning!

That seems like such a common sense solution to reach reluctant learners of any subject, yet traditional teaching methods still resort to rote repetition and recitation.

Imagine how fertile the child’s mind would be if constantly engaged through interactive learning!

Transmitting Italian grammar fundamentals; expanding Italian vocabulary: both can be done through play.

How should a teacher engender such a situation?

Start by teaching basic vocabulary through song or mime:

  • simple greeting words: buongiorno, buona sera, buona notte
  • introductions: mi chiamo_____
  • Vital statistics: ho 30 anni
    • sono un/a ragazzo/a
  • Where you come from: Vengo da________
  • Where you live: io vivo a_______
  • More informal greetings: come stai? ciao

Naturally, each of these questions would be addressed in the second person singular, giving your student early exposure to verb conjugation and the use of pronouns in Italian.

A way to make this game fun is to inscribe each of the words from these sentences on index cards or small pieces of paper.

Scatter them on the table and then, as you speak each sentence, your student picks out the individual words. Or, permit your student to construct sentences by stringing the words: Imagine the crazy phrases you could laugh over together!

Sono un buongiorno. Lo vivo a ragazzo. You get the picture.

This teaching style cannot help but grow your reputation as a quality instructor of Italian, and once word gets out, you would be able to command a higher fee!

Teach the Italian Language Through Song

Are you one of the lucky language learners whose teacher felt no shame in bursting into song at the start of the lesson, or would strum a guitar in accompaniment to new vocabulary recitation?

What do you think of finding Italian students with whom to foster a love of language and culture through music?

In China, people who learn English often employ music apps that show the song’s lyrics in English, so they can sing along.

You could follow that lead by printing out words of Italian music for your students.

Here are a few more or less famous titles and artists whose music you could consider incorporating in your lessons:

  • Ti Amo, from Umberto Tozzi
  • Vivo Per Lei, a duet by Andrea Bocelli and French singer Héléne Ségara
  • Il Volo – Zucchero
  • Cosa Piu Bella from Eros Ramazzotti,
  • Il Regalo Piu Grande Tiziano Ferro

The rhythm, the tempo, the melody and the lyrics; the arrangement and orchestration of these songs all become vehicles to transport your students to a joy of Italian language learning.

In repeating the song, in singing it over and over, in learning it by heart, your student is in fact embracing rote memorisation and repetition, but in a much more entrancing way.

We never said there was anything wrong with rote repetition; just that it needs more engaging ways of doing it!

You too can make use of technology to teach Italian Many language tutors make use of online tools to teach their students Source: PIxabay Credit: rawpixel

Learn Italian Online

“Italian online”, “Learn Italian online”, “Learn to speak Italian”, “Free Italian”, “learn Italian free”, and “learn Italian free online”

Oh, the Google searches launched in the quest for Italian language lessons!

And my goodness, the many returns those searches yield!

But are they quality returns?

How would anyone know what quality a free lesson in Italian would have?

You know all about quality. In fact, you are most likely a quality teacher who delivers quality instruction.

In the process of establishing yourself as a teacher of Italian courses, you have probably perused all of those websites and seen what they have to offer.

Italian for beginners: Everything from the Italian alphabet to nouns and pronouns, verbs, prepositions, adjectives and adverbs; all of the parts of speech.

Intermediate level: Italian phrases and expressions; pronunciation and phonetics. Exercises in comprehension.

Sites such as Duolingo and HelloLingo! are very popular among people who wish to learn a second language without the expense of formal tutoring.

Others, such as Lifeknot and Meetup focus more on the cultural aspects of language learning, discussing Italian movies and cuisine; art and history; and even sojourns through Italy.

You could make use of your students’ online learning experiences without directly resorting to using online materials yourself.

For example: assign your students a voyage through Italy by tasking them to talk with people from various regions: Tuscany, Piedmont, Sicily, Sardinia, Campania and Umbria.

As your tutees learn the major cities in these regions and their indigenous foods, they will also tune their ears to the regional dialects. What a great way to develop listening skills!

As a reward for touring all twenty regions, you could bring a traditional Italian sweet to start your next lesson. Gelato, anyone?

Let technology help you teach your students Italian Your phone can bring Italy to you through language apps Source: Pixabay Credit: FunkyFocus

A Word on Translation

As long as your students are fascinated by the concept of seeing today’s standards through an historical personage’s eyes, why not broach actual translation of text?

Your students have just finished a lively discussion about gaming. You present them with a photocopied article on the same topic, to translate into Italian.

Studies have proven that translating from one’s second language into native language is easier than from mother tongue to foreign language.

This more complex activity challenges language skills but the end result is better retention and usage of learned Italian.

We recommend that this activity be done in session, with you present to help, rather than as a homework assignment.

Translation software is ubiquitous, but the results are sometimes laughable.

While we certainly don’t want your students to suffer ridicule, the primary reason we advocate against online translators is that translation software teaches your students nothing.

By assigning translation exercises in class, you will effectively remove the temptation to feed fledgling attempts at language conversion into Google or Babbel.

Language Reinforcement Apps

While you should strongly discourage your students from using any automatic translation, there is nothing wrong with rounding out your lessons by recommending language learning applications.

This technique may well appeal to younger learners, especially the apps function like a game.

Almost as soon as Smartphones became the vogue, language learning apps have proliferated.

That is why, today, we see so many apps that promise people they too can learn French, Learn Korean, learn Spanish, learn Russian.

For native speakers of Russian, Spanish, Korean or French, there are apps that can help them learn English.

And, of course, there are apps for Italian learning. You can encourage your students to establish a free account with Mosalingua, Babbel, or Busuu. You could even set up a Quizlet page for yourself and invite your students to join. There, you could post words and phrases, grouped level-appropriate – from absolute beginner to near fluent.

Never let it be said that you can’t learn anything through fun and games!

Other Resources to Teach Italian.

There are plenty of other resources to help you make the most of your Italian teaching.

TeachItalian is a UK-based website with resources that help Italian students and teachers to bring their lessons to life. They host resources for students of any level, and they might take the pressure of you to design every lesson.

Meanwhile, other sites like the BBC and Tes have lots of helpful tips and tricks on how best to teach the language.

Take a look through some of these, and you’ll have enough material for an unlimited number of fun lessons.

Taking Your Italian Lessons Out of the Classroom.

Something that private tutors don’t often think of doing, but maybe should, is taking their lessons outside of the classroom. This doesn’t mean doing every lesson in the rain, but, once in a while, a change of environment can be nice. 

Changes in learning environments help learners learn better. Before you question it, this is science! Classrooms can be a little stifling – particularly if you are in the same space week after week – and are thought to be stifling of creativity.

Meanwhile, different environments help students to cement knowledge: things you learn in different places becomes associated with that place, and so help memory function better.

But the main thing about taking lessons outside – particularly for learners of different languages – is that you are exposed to linguistic opportunities that the artificial space of the classroom might exclude.  If you take a class on a sunny day in the park, you can focus on a range of vocabulary for animals, weather, nature, and outdoor activities. If you sit in a cafe, you’re focus could be on Italian coffee culture, food, and social conventions.

Teachers might also consider a trip to an ‘Italian’ event. In Scotland, an Italian sagra takes place in Glasgow annually, whilst pizzica or tarantella nights provide a nice opportunity for students to understand a bit more about Italian heritage.

You don’t necessarily need new technologies to provide an enjoyable lesson – particularly if you have the imagination and interest to make lessons varied.

Good Teachers, Good People.

But, also, remember what makes people enjoy people’s company outside of the classroom. If you are too stern, overbearing, and teacherish, maybe your students aren’t going to enjoy your lessons so much; if they don’t like you, they ain’t going to have fun in the classroom.

Despite all this, you might find that your students prioritise things other than fun. Maybe they want to work seriously hard, to do all those things – like completing grammar exercises and learning verb tables – that others find off-putting. There’s no one type of student – and some might find the notion of ‘games’ in the classroom a bit of a waste of time (teachers are often encouraged to call them ‘activities’ among serious students for exactly this reason).

The point here is that getting to know your students is the most important thing a teacher can do. You need to be adaptable, interested, and engaged. Everyone who wants to study Italian didn’t start an Italian class for the same reason – and so not everyone will want the same things from their lessons.

Getting to know a student means more than asking them how they are and how their week has been. Someone learning Italian for work will need a different lesson to someone learning Italian because they want to order a vino rosso or a panino in a bar. The same applies in terms of age: a kid won’t want the same lesson as a middle-aged couple. Slapping down the same grammar exercises in front of each one of your students might save you time, but it won’t make your lessons particularly effective – or fun.

So, bring a smile, bring a relaxed demeanour, and bring an attitude that can help everyone enjoy the lessons. Indeed: learning is serious business, but nobody said you can’t have a laugh while you’re learning!

 

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