How can you increase students’ engagement and intercultural awareness in your Italian class? Personal anecdotes and experiences—with a pinch of humor—always do the trick. In addition, you can rely on some specific topics related to Italian culture and daily life, and on plenty of online resources:
- Sports tell you a great deal about a country. In Italy, the sport by definition is calcio (soccer). Soccer is so ingrained in Italian life that giocare a pallone (literally, to play with a [big] ball) means “to play soccer.” Every place is good for some soccer practice, and every kind of thing has been used to recreate the goalposts. Ultimately, that is the beauty of this sport: You don’t really need much other than your pallone. There’s a plethora of movies that show the status of soccer in Italian culture, from the Oscar-winner Mediterraneo to the recent È stata la mano di Dio from Sorrentino. And soccer can be easily tied to current events: Between national and international competitions, updates on clubs or the national team, there’s always some news related to calcio.
- Food: Whether it’s Italian specialties and their history, the prominence of food in Italians’ social life, Italian food that is really not Italian (spaghetti with meatballs anyone?), or everything in between, food is a great topic. It’s good for comparing and contrasting with student’s own habits, for debunking myths (there’s no such thing as cucina italiana, for starters), and for debating the importance of food, health, and even family values in relation to students’ own and those from other cultures.
- Fashion: When you say Italy, you think fashion. And this is accurate, to a certain extent. Fashion plays a big role in Italians’ everyday life—and in the Italian economy, for sure. People have a general, almost innate perception of what is appropriate, cool, or “mandatory” in certain circumstances, and the legendary concept of bella figura is undoubtedly a thing. Although high fashion is a mirage for most people, and many people do not even long for it, la moda is still a magical, sparkling world that screams Italy. And it can give interesting insights on where the Italian society as a whole is going in terms of inclusivity, accessibility, and beauty standards.
- Beyond sport, food, and fashion, Italians are definitely pizza makers, gesticulators, dolce vita lovers, and soccer maniacs. But there’s much more to Italy as well! Infrastructure creation, manufacturing, biomedical research … Did you know that one-third of the world’s contrast agents are produced in Italy? Or that Italy was the third country in the world to send a satellite into orbit? The Belpaese is an “extraordinary commonplace,” as per the Italian Ministry of Economic Development. Going beyond stereotypes is always good practice and can teach you a lot about other cultures, and even your own. So: Mente aperta e buon divertimento! (Keep your mind open and have fun!)
By Claudia Quesito
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