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Digital and online adult learning of Italian

My name is Marina, and I am a teacher of Italian language and literature. Apart from working with children in primary school, I have also been working with adults for ten years, as a teacher of Italian at Studio Liber in Novi Beograd, and Akademija Oxford in Zaječar. In these private language schools, I’ve been in charge of planning and preparing classes and teaching Italian at all levels, the preparation of additional materials for course participants, as well as preparation of final exams – written and oral.  

Many course participants come with pre-set goals for language learning, and some come out of curiosity or to socialize. Every participant has an opinion on how to learn a foreign language, in this case Italian. To enable smooth work and progress, a homogenous group should be assembled of such participants.

Course participants like to have a textbook as a “safe ground”. Still, they should be gradually introduced to “learning through play”, first in the classroom, and then online, on a computer.

Italian is best learned through play, as it contributes to better adoption and revision of lessons. You may even practice grammar that way.Positive and cheerful atmosphere makes course participants relaxed and relieved from stress. Spontaneity of communication is achieved in such an environment, learners learn faster and more efficiently, as both their conscious and unconscious sides participate. The barrier is eliminated; learners feel free and have more courage to engage into conversation.

The "learning through play" principle is stimulating and challenging. It drives the competitive spirit, the interaction among course participants is constant, and they cooperate and complement each other. The course participants have fun and they do not notice that they are actually learning. Play includes crosswords and anagrams, various quizzes, and famous board games like Ludo and Monopoly.

We should mention the multimedia classes, as a real benefit for the course participants. It’s not just listening to a CD from student’s kit. Learning Italian is now available through watching video materials adjusted to a certain level of knowledge and age.  These are usually short videos about a certain topic and advertisements. They improve participants’ concentration, as they watch and listen at the same time, and they are almost always ready to give correct answers to certain questions after seeing the materials for 1 or 2 times. And they have fun all along…

Every Italian publisher has digital textbooks that the course participants can use (for example, and or they get a CD-ROM with interactive content (clicking on answers in exercises and tests, joining terms with a mouse, etc.). Duolingo is an excellent platform for independent online learning of foreign languages, and I use it occasionally myself.

I will now mention some of the examples of online quizzes and presentations I prepared for my course participants, related to grammar practicing and reading comprehension, in Google Forms and ProProfs that are real examples of online language learning through digital knowledge tests. The course participants had the most fun while doing Kahoot quiz on their smart phones, entering the pin I provided. There was a real competition among the participants, as they wanted to be faster than the others and respond correctly. There were no differences in reactions of adults and children, a wonderful experience for both them and myself, and I enjoyed watching them.

The presentations I prepared for the course participants are at SlideShare and Slideboom, and we used them for a simple exercise of language use based on Serbian translation (for higher levels). All presentations and quizzes are on my web site, that is equally visited by my course participants and my primary school pupils.

This method of language acquisition brings the satisfaction of reading in Italian that will enrich the language competence of the course participants in the best possible manner.

I always say that, when you read a text you are not familiar with, it is not important to understand the individual meaning of every word, and you should not look for every word you don’t understand in a dictionary. It is important to understand the context, understand the text in general. This is how a love of language is created, instead of aversion, as the participants are not discouraged, but quite the opposite – they understand the meaning of the text.

Apart from efforts on developing my existing teaching approach further, I plan to introduce innovative and creative solutions adjusted to achievements of pupils/course participants, their age and interests. One of such innovative approaches to foreign language teaching is the use of Skype in the classroom platform, that I have been including in for the past four years as a Microsoft Innovative Educator Expert and Skype Master Teacher. This platform is equally interesting to younger and older course participants, as it offers the possibility to practice conversation in Italian in real life situations.

“Skype in the classroom” is our window to the magic world of language learning when it is not possible to talk to a native speaker, or to learn by watching the Italian TV channels. I will mention one of the best conversations that my course participants had with a real pizza baker from Malo near Venice, who made the pizza live, step by step, explaining to them which ingredients are put on pizza in different regions of Italy. They learned that they should never use ketchup, but only peeled (pomodori pelati)!

Course participants have a great benefit from classes via Skype. They had an opportunity to practice their communication skills and overcome language barriers in Italian, as well as to learn common expressions used in conversation. And not only that… same as children, adults gradually become relieved of fear that they will make a mistake and that people they talk to will not understand them. This is the goal of online language learning – to eliminate the fear of talking to a stranger, as you will be able to talk more correctly and in a more relaxed manner. With these virtual meetings, the participants are able to expand their knowledge about other cultures and ways of living.

In the end I would like to repeat what I usually tell my course participants to do at home, as I do it too, when I need to record myself and practice for public speaking. Visit Flipgrid platform that offers you the possibility to practice language by looking into a camera and make a video of yourself talking... and you can try numerous times, until you are completely satisfied with the result.

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