Everyone loves Italy, right? It’s the country of the dolce vita, opera, pizza, arte … plus, Italians are so laid-back … although, well, a little loud, aren’t they? Well, maybe. Because while all those things about Italy may be true, and likewise all those things about Italians, there’s more to them than meets the eye.
In class, I have always used the things we (think we) know about Italy and Italians, or even Italian as a language to break the ice. After all, there’s always a foodie, or piano player, or fashion lover in class. But after listing all the designer names (always good for pronunciation practice, by the way) and Italian dishes (and disclosing some secrets about the most notorious non-Italian-dishes along the way), it’s important to discuss the other side of the coin—which can be equally and, at times, even more interesting. Italy the Extraordinary Commonplace, a video created a few years ago by the Italian Minister of Economic Development, gives a hint of what lies behind commonplaces, like manufacturing and scientific excellences, for instance.
Another aspect that often goes overlooked is how Italian society has changed over the last decades and is still changing. Italians are a more diverse group of people that we tend to think and family structures have changed a lot. What if I told you that single households are more numerous in 2022 that “traditional” ones—made up of one couple with children? And that, according to some estimates, by 2045, couples without children will outnumber the ones with children? Among the European countries, Italy is the one with the least newborns per year. There are many issues and challenges at stake while dealing with such stats: population aging, welfare policies, same-sex couples’ rights, women’s rights and equal pay and opportunities.
Having access to authentic, contemporary material in the classroom is vital to the process of looking deeper. Vista’s Sentieri, Attraverso l’Italia contemporanea, designed for beginning Italian learners, gives students access to resources featuring a variety of authentic inputs, from media —TV clips, news reports, public service announcements, and ads—to short movies made by Italians for Italians. In addition to checking comprehension and practicing relevant vocabulary, these resources and related activities encourage students to reflect upon everyday matters as well as deeper social issues; and to make comparisons with their own culture, thus stimulating a positive, respectful, and inclusive discussion in class and more personal reflection on one own’s time.
Finally, grammar, often considered a sore subject when learning a language, can be fun to teach and to learn too! The all-new interactive grammar tutorials in Sentieri engage students so they can actively learn in a low-stakes environment. This makes it possible for students to build confidence and review concepts at their own pace, with the help of an “Italian,” approachable, and low-key virtual teacher. For teachers, these tutorials make it possible for students to use class time for more contextualized and communicative language practice.
Learn more about Sentieri!
By Claudia Quesito
Also read: Social Justice: Moving Beyond a Single Story