Italian in 4 year colleges – how we look nationally

Copy of Map of the United States

Regularly, the MLA collects data for their investigation of languages other than English in the U.S. Their most recent report, released Feb 11/15, reflects the trends of which we are all too aware in the Humanities…smaller numbers studying that which should be backbone of every college educated individual. Nationally, our picture shows a loss of student enrollments (11.3% since the previous MLA report, 2009) vs. aggregate language enrollments decline of 6.7%

P.S. My institution, Montclair State, has seen increased enrollments, and now ranks #1 in the state of NJ, and #5 nationally 🙂

Annunci

best practices brings me out of a long haitus

lurking around many social media sites, i’ve sat passively for many many months listening and reading. Now I find myself compelled to share because one of the greatest lessons I’ve taken from my hiatus is that we share because the medium allows this quite easily. Yet much of what is shared forgets that there are best practices that help engage students, achieve objectives and develop learning (a constructivist approach).

I propose therefore a need for all media, print and internet, electronic and social, to embrace once again best practices . For language learning, let’s integrate authentic materials, realia but let’s not rely on translation or rote memorization activities. Let’s engage our students to think critically and take ownership of their learning. With all forms of authentic materials, general strategies to planning good lesson are only 3! Start with

  1. prepration (pre-reading; pre-listening; pre-viewing); then
  2. presentation (reading, listening, viewing and post-reading, -listening, -viewing) ;and finally
  3. expansion (beyond post-reading, listening, viewing)

Why use these 3 components? So that learning does not happen in a vacuum. Teach culture (practices, products, perspectives) while focusing on vocabulary building and language structures. Language and culture are inexorably linked so teach that way!

On January 21, the Ministero per lo Sviluppo Economico released an effective promotional video entitled Italy: The Extraordinary Commonplace https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LaXqHU32bm4

Traditionally, a video like this is shown to students, then teachers [triy to] solicit comments or feedback from students (think about the concept of pulling teeth!).

Instead, using best practices, teachers can skillfully guide students to learning from the video:  let’s prepare them BEFORE watching the video using their personal knowledge and experiences; let’s show them the video and have them observe certain details (the goals of the lesson) and have them apply the new knowledge acquired from the video; and finally let’s have them complete an expansion activity that has them engage in a level-appropriate activity that reflects a certain cognitive level of learning (remember Bloom’s taxonomy).

Here’s my lesson (PDF) for an intermediate level of Italian using this video. For one section of this course, it was a face-to-face activity; modified, it was also an online asynchronous assignment (a snow-day activity). Feel free to share your thoughts here or elsewhere (my social media pals 🙂 )

P.S. Please respect the creative commons license!

why shouldn’t we play in the university classroom?

Students took their midterm exam on October 25. Meteorological phenomena stopped northern New Jersey in its tracks for a week: power outages, commuter interruptions, and gas shortages all played factors in our institution’s decision to keep the University closed until November 5th. Despite the wonderful ways in which technology kept us connected throughout the worst parts of the superstorm (read this great post wp.me/p2hiSW-ib /), I couldn’t impose technology on my students to keep them practicing Italian. Even if 75% of students had access to the Internet and various other technologies, trying to continue “business as usual” (via online tools) was not an option. Anyone who experienced the impact of the storm understands this.

So 14 days later, how does a language professor proceed? Which of my students, given the events they had just experienced, would be able to recall talking about past events in Italian, recalling the conjugations of the tense, the difference between transitive and intransitive verbs, and irregular past participles? I tapped into some creative juices and I decided to that playing would be a good way to reintroduce them to the classroom and the language after an unexpected absence.

The game: Tombola (Bingo equivalent)

The main board (il tombellone): I provided students with a list of 40 activities  (which I would use as caller) that they may have done during the aftereffects of the superstorm. The question to them was “Since the university was closed, what did you do?” There were a list of daily activities, including getting up, getting dressed, showering, sending text messages, chatting, sleeping, as well as looking for gas, grocery shopping, online shopping, relaxing, being bored, etc.

Students were given a blank board, resembling an Italian cartella rather than the Bingo game card.  Image

Students were then asked to fill in 5 of the 8 spaces per row, and shade in 3 per row (like free spaces). They were allowed to use any of the 40 activities in any order. The only requirement was they phrase it in the present perfect. I modeled a few of them
 “Io ho bevuto molto vino” and “Io non mi sono depilata perchĂ© sono stata a casa”. In addition to getting a few laughs, I modeled both transitive and intransitive verbs. It started the recollection process for many of them. As they completed their game card, they helped each other recall vocabulary and verb conjugations.

Once they had completed their first task, I had shared with them the rules on how to win. I asked what they knew about winning in Bingo. Students told me (in Italian) that it was getting a line horizontally, vertically or diagonally, and also the whole card. I wrote the words terno, quaterna, cinquina on the board. I asked them how many spaces they needed to get in a row to win. They recognized the number base in each of the words, and so once it was clear, the game began.

I called out each activity; I had each activity on a slip of paper and pulled them out randomly from my bag one at a time. I formed a question (Chi ha dormito molto? Who slept a lot?) and students marked their card and some even raised their hand if they did the activity. If they shouted terno, quaterna, cinquina, they were required to read out their activities to the entire class and I would confirm the win (or in a few instances, tell them they hadn’t won!). We played until all 12 prizes had been won. When we were close to the end of our activity, students were anxiously calling out the activity they needed for a win.

This entire activity took about 35 minutes (of a 75 minute class) from start to finish: 2 minutes to introduce the activity; 10 minutes to write out their 15 activities on their game card; 3 minutes to explain how to win; then 20 minutes to play and verify their win.

Students were excited, engaged, and had great fun. Their disposition had changed dramatically from the start of class to the end of it. They walked in with heads hanging low as a result of the superstorm and snowstorm (which was the day before, on Nov. 7). For a little while, they were able to forget about it by reviewing, practicing and playing in Italian. Playing Tombola helped also transition into the next part of the lesson, which introduced new material via an Italian song.

This isn’t part of the regular curriculum
perhaps games should find a more regular place in our teaching, even at the university level.

google’s voice in translation

Do you have Google voice? Have you ever seen a transcription of a voicemail left for you in a foreign language? The other day I had the pleasure of receiving this and the linguist in me found this really amusing. The message, left in italian, was transcribed in English.

Google asks you if the transcript was useful. I’d say yes and would love to use it an intro course to Italian phonetics!!

Here is the voicemail in Italian, if you care to play a linguistic game comparing Italian phonemes to English words 🙂

Buon pomeriggio dottoressa Conforti. Ho ricevuto il suo messaggio ma non ho avuto l’opportunità di risponderle quando ha chiamato. Sì, mercoledì andrebbe bene se avremo la possibilita di incontrarci. Umm, se ha la possibilità di richiamarmi sarebbe fantastico altrimenti mi lasci un messaggio per cortesia almeno per sapere a che ora possiamo incontrarci e parlare, okay? Grazie mille e buona giornata.

Challenging all foreign and English as a second language teachers

During a wonderful colloquium at the American Association of Applied Linguistics (AAAL) in Atlanta (more on that in a subsequent post), I set forth a challenge to the audience and co-presenters who were interested in using Twitter with their FL and ESL/EFL students: Try to learn a language using Twitter yourself.

As teachers/researchers, we always deliberate the implementation of new tools (especially Web 2.0 ones) in our classes. We research the literature, we outline our agenda, implement the tool and make the necessary adjustments as our project proceeds. The most rewarding part of our research is when we analyze our data and review the students’ perceptions so then we can reflect on the challenges and reconsider the project for future implementation.

So we’re ready to go with our action research, right? Well, why not familiarize ourselves first hand with what we want our students to do by putting ourselves in their shoes? I know that although we are already bilingual (or trilingual or polyglots), we are interested in learning other languages. So why not use Twitter as a tool to language learning ourselves?

Start by finding speakers of the language on Twitter. Start following them. Create a Twitter list (see my list for my Spanish tweeps from whom I’m learning) so you can follow their tweets. If you are a little gun shy initially, that’s OK…just read their tweets, follow their conversations, view their links (no, this is NOT stalking 😉 ). Eventually though, you may want to say “buenos dĂ­as” and “ÂżcĂłmo estĂĄs?” so that later you will be in a position to interact with them as you become more comfortable with the language you are trying to learn.

Can you learn the language by using Twitter alone? Of course not! But the tweets are a good springboard and I hope they encourage you to discover all other media available out there (books, blogs YouTube videos, music, movies (and clips), etc.)

iPods in the Italian class…again :)

In the fall semester, I introduced the iPod Touch in my senior level Italian courses. Our majors and minors were excited about the idea of the iPod Touch but their excitement was far surpassed this semester, when I introduced the iPod to intermediate level students. These students, few of whom will declare Italian as a major or minor, were thrilled beyond words. I remember the looks on their face when we started distributing them last Thursday. I hadn’t provided them with the syllabus yet so they did not know that some of the usual language learning objectives were going to be reached via mlearning.

I walked into Monday’s class with time to spare and all the students present were using their iPod. Were they doing anything class related (i.e., in Italian)? Only 2 of them. The others were just using them, making it a part of their daily routine. Will this help them become better Italian students? I hope it will be giving them immediate access to information (see this interesting article on learning & technology in eLearn Magazine) in the target language and give them access to it whenever they seek it rather than waiting to get this information from me in class those 150 minutes a week.

I will share via Twitter some milestones and would like to blog more about it…however, for different reasons, I can’t make any promises as to the frequency of these updates. For the time being, remember Marshal McLuhan‘s famous expressions: “global villages” and “the medium is the message”.

il tiramisĂč di mia madre

Yesterday’s fun event for Simone and I was to make tiramisĂč, a no-bake dessert which just needs to sit overnight to set. This morning, she proudly presented it to her principal.

Here is my mom’s recipe…one of the best I know of so I hope you try it and let me know how it went.

tiramisu2

Ingredients:
3 eggs
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 500g container of mascarpone cheese
1 pack (450g) of savoiardi (lady finger cookies, more or less)
325ml espresso coffee
liqueur(s) of choice

Make the espresso (I use a 6-cup Bialetti Moka & Lavazza crema e gusto). After it perks, add an ounce (more or less) of liqueur of choice (I prefer Sambuca/Anisette because it is sweet so I don’t need to add sugar to the coffee). Let it cool completely before dipping the savoiardi.

Separate the egg yolks from the egg whites. Beat the egg whites till nice & fluffy. Add the sugar to yolks and beat till frothy. Blend the egg whites into the yolk-sugar mix. Beat together well. Add the mascarpone and blend very well.

Here, the consistency of this creamy icing is very important, as it will dictate the amount of alcohol you can add. Mom’s rule of thumb, if it is dense, you can add a healthy dose (1.5-2 ounces) of your alcohol of choice (her preference, Vecchia Romagna, an Italian Brandy). If it is runny, minimize the quantity to half of the original suggestion.
Mix in the liqueur well and set aside.

Now you’re ready to start the cake component. Dip each savoiardi cookie, one at a time, into the coffee mix (not soak, immerse or submerge, just DIP or else you’ll end up with zuppa inglese/English trifle). Place the dipped cookie on a lasagne-size tray. Complete the first layer of savoiardi (generally Âœ of the cookie pack). Add three or four spoonfuls of the creamy icing on top of the first layer and spread evenly. Continue with the second layer of coffee-dipped savoiardi. Remember, we don’t want them soggy! After the second layer is complete, cover with the remaining creamy icing and spread evenly. Chill for 24 hours (more or less) so it sets well.

Before serving, sift unsweetened or semi-sweet cocoa/powdered chocolate lightly over the tiramisĂč. Cut and serve. (Approximately 15 generous servings).

If you have leftovers–good luck with that–refrigerate.

Using the right tech tool for teaching
how did you decide?

I have deliberated this post to death, wanting to ensure that I made a positive contribution to the discussion of social network sites (SNS). As an educator, my use of SNS is always from a professional perspective (yeah, right), wanting to investigate different tools for language learning and teaching. 😉

During one of the umpteenth revisions to my chapter on Twitter and teaching Italian, I came across a series of articles on identity, community and SNS. danah boyd, sorry Dr. danah boyd, has been very instrumental in much of the research on community and SNS and from her and co-author Nicole Ellison, I give you the history of SNS. If you haven’t seen this, it is the intro to a volume available online.
boydellisonfig1

Can you pinpoint your introduction to SNS ?

I must admit that I am a late adopter of SNS, joining this wave of new technology at the personal level only in late 2006. I deliberated very briefly introducing Facebook to the classroom, but there was too much happening on Facebook and I think it was more a personal reluctance bring it to my language students
I couldn’t focus on a single community with its multiple apps (really so many fun things happening—invites, “poking” and updates). I do know some teachers who have incorporated Facebook to their classroom as a learning management system. If you are an educator but are not yet a member of http://www.classroom20.com/ I would strongly urge you to join and read the forums available there for Facebook (and other SNS) and share your own thoughts.

Next, I joined Twitter
and I discovered I could tweet with people around the world. Immediately I knew that I had to integrate Twitter into my Italian language curriculum. How could it not be successful?

ONE: an overarching question: What are you doing?
TWO: a limited message size: 140 characters.
THREE: people would read my tweet if they saw it
it is really hard to ignore tweets if you are using Twitter when others’ tweets appear.

Then, finally, FOUR: I could communicate with people I don’t know. OK, there’s a FIVE: just because I wanted to communicate directly with someone doesn’t mean that twitterer will reciprocate (but that didn’t discourage me, eventually some did answer me and I have made many virtual connections!).

Bringing Twitter to students has not been an easy task—initially, students are a bit reluctant to join this community because, after all, they are “being graded on it” and perhaps it should be an “extra-credit” component. They also think it is too much work for a language requirement course (“I just need to get my credits to graduate”).

However, for the most part, college students generally like it once they are comfortable with what it accomplishes in terms of connections and the building of a community outside the classroom. And they tweet—one student this semester tweeted 400% more than expected (245 vs. 52 tweets required) over the 13 weeks of the course. This student has also made connections with Italian twitterers in Italy (beyond the 4 introduced to her in the class community) and it seems like she’ll be tweeting in the future.

What’s next? Well, my head is spinning
there are so many Web 2.0 tools (just look at http://www.go2web20.net/) that I really have to think through what I’d like to accomplish next and how best to achieve my goals. I’m going to be looking at some other investigations conducted by language colleagues and use that as a model.
So I ask you to share with me:

  1. What was the first SNS you used personally? in your classroom?
  2. What would you like to investigate that you haven’t yet?

Your comments would be invaluable not only to me but to many others. I would be more than happy to share what I have done with anyone who asks and hope you would do the same.

Twitter in the Foreign Language Classroom – my investigation

Another update: paper has been removed as it is under revisions as  you read this. Will share once again in the near future…

update: if you would like to read the manuscript, it is password protected. Thanks for the head’s up Luke.

I’ll keep this post brief and to the point, as I should be concentrating on my upcoming Personnel Action Committee (PAC) class observation tomorrow. I am, however, deliberately trying not to think about it.

We’ve been asked to post our entire manuscript on the wiki (of which I spoke some time ago) even though it is currently being peer-refereed. Last night, in a fit of sleeplessness, I cut, paste and formatted “Micro-blogging on Twitter: Social networking in Intermediate Italian I“, and now it is up for public perusal, if you so desire.

Any comments would be appreciated, but I believe they have to be given here, as you do not have permission to join our wiki discussions. Also, anyone good with titles? This current one is missing something…

*Can’t view the site? use your openID to view the chapter*

Nota bene, “Contributions to https://secondgenerationcall.wikispaces.com are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 License.”

to learn italian or english? both…

One of the greatest rewards of teaching is when your students teach you something. I have taught one of the most challenging courses in my 4 years here this spring semester: Advanced Italian Grammar a.k.a intro to Italian linguistics. I attempted to present students to the scientific study of language, from phonology to morphology to syntax to sociolinguistics. Interspersed there was also the history of the Italian language as well as a unit on dialects. I was very enthusiastic about this course and we all know that a good dose of enthusiasm is contagious


As part of the course requirements, my students were to keep a linguistic diary. I wanted them to consult various forms of media and reflect metalinguistically on Italian. These 10 journal entries for many were expected: influences of foreign words in the Italian language, phonetic and semantic variations of dialects, denotative and connotative significance in newspaper headlines, web, etc. Then, a few students surprise me: YouTube videos, movie clips, Italian corporate websites & advertisements to provide great examples of living language and how the scientific study of it is actually relevant.

One student used this as a sample of the development of oral proficiency for an Italian ESL (English as a second language) learner and takes this discussion to the concept of sociolinguistic awareness. The ESL student asks the Corriere della Sera’s resident expert of Italians why it is so difficult to understand spoken English. Beppe Severgnini (columnist, author) replies to this question:

L’inglese, come mi ha spiegato il guru Giles Watson con cui ho aggiornato “Lezioni Semiserie”, Ăš ostico per l’orecchio italiano. Noi – come i francesi e gli spagnoli – parliamo una lingua “syllable-timed”, in cui la velocitĂ  di pronuncia corrisponde grosso modo al numero di sillabe che contiene. L’inglese Ăš una lingua “stress-timed”: la durata della frase corrisponde al numero di accenti con cui chi parla sceglie di scandirla.

English, as it was explained to me by the master Giles Watson
is unpalatable for the Italian ear. We (Italians)-like the French and Spanish-speak a “syllable-timed” language whose pronunciation tempo is determined by and large by the number of syllables contained in an utterance. English is a “stressed-timed” language: the length of the statement corresponds to the number of inflections that the speaker wishes to articulate.

Interesting


Even more interesting are the “one-a-day for a month” reasons Severgnini provides to encourage Italians to learn English. I will highlight those that I found utterly amusing 😉 (all translations are mine
)

1 PerchĂ© siete stanchi di dire “Non parlo l’inglese, ma lo capisco…”.
1. Because you are tired of saying “I don’t speak English but I understand it
”

2 Perché parlare con le mani, alla lunga, stanca.
2. Because speaking with your hands, in the long run, is tiring.

3 Perché capirete come riempire quel modulo su internet (un terzo della Rete funziona in inglese).
3. Because you will understand how to fill out that online form (1/3 of the Web is in English)

4 PerchĂ© cosĂŹ, quando vi insultano all’estero, evitate di ringraziare.
4. Because when Italians are insulted abroad, you won’t thank them.

6 PerchĂ© in America saprete leggere i cartelli stradali (one way non Ăš una canzone di Frank Sinatra: vuol dire “senso unico”).
6. Because in America you will know how to read street signs (one way is not a Sinatra tune:
)

14 PerchĂ© quando sentirete “Vorrei shiftare la vostra attenzione sul break-even del nostro business, un must che stressa la necessitĂ  di downsizing”, almeno lo sapete: vi stanno licenziando.
14. Because when you hear “I would like to shift your attention to our business’ break-even point, a must which stresses the necessity to downsize”, you will know that you are being fired.

15. PerchĂ© un po’ giĂ  lo parlate. No comment, in fondo, Ăš una frase completa.
15. Because you already speak it a bit. No comment, is in fact a complete sentence.

20 PerchĂ© comunque Ăš impossibile far peggio di quel ministro italiano che, a New York, ha chiesto “gamberetts and fagiols”.
20. Because it’s impossible anyway to speak worse than that Italian minister in New York that asked for “gamberetts and fagiols”.

26 PerchĂ© capirete le canzoni inglesi e americane, e vi renderete conto che spesso sono piĂč cretine delle nostre.
26. Because you will understand American and English songs and realize that often they are more idiotic than Italian songs.

27 PerchĂ© se George Bush dovesse invitarvi a cena, potrete commentare la cucina della Casa Bianca (Good heaven! How can you eat this junk, old boy? Now I see why you’re so nervous all the time and you ended up messing around in the Middle East…).
27. Because if Bush were to invite you to dinner, you could comment about White House cuisine (Good heaven! How can you eat this junk, old boy? Now I see why you’re so nervous all the time and you ended up messing around in the Middle East…).

29 Perché un brasiliano, per chiedere a un tedesco in Italia di presentargli un collega francese per discutere dello svedese Ibrahimovic, parlerà inglese.
29. Because a Brasilian asking a German in Italy to introduce him to a French colleague to discuss the Swedisch Ibrahimovic will speak in English.

31 Perché Ú trendy, baby.