Intermediate Italian Through film, Mount Holyoke College


Students of the Italian 201 course Intermediate Italian Through Film reinforce and refine grammar and vocabulary at the intermediate level and improve skills in speaking, writing, reading, listening and comprehension by watching and discussing Italian films. With disparate oral comprehension and speaking skills, my goal is to provide opportunities for students to receive extra practice, and at the same time learn more about the Italian culture. The incorporation of TalkAbroad conversation exchanges will include detailed preparation of the conversation topic prior to the exchange, application of studied vocabulary and grammar during the exchange, and comprehensive reflection of what was learned from the entire process. By using the TalkAbroad curriculum we will improve our students’ communicative competence, enhance listening comprehension and help them make connections with Italian native speakers. Furthermore, it will have a positive impact on the students’ curiosity for study abroad and for continuing study of the Italian.

Course Description

Mount Holyoke College offers Intermediate Italian Through Film (ITL 201), in which films provide the central pedagogical structure. Students have the opportunity to reinforce and refine grammar and vocabulary at the intermediate level and to improve skills in speaking, writing, reading, listening and comprehension through the viewing of Italian films. The course introduces students to major aspects of Italian society, such as: changes in the Italian family and society, immigration in Italy, Italian stereotypes and food, just to name a few. There are two meetings of 75 minutes each week and one weekly additional 75-minute meeting with the Language Assistant (4 credits). In Fall 2016 we will have 25 students enrolled. We watch 5-6 movies. Students have four quizzes in class, discussions centered on the movies they viewed, in-class culture presentations, four essays, several video assignments, and a final written and new oral exam. The book that I will adopt is Nuovo Contatto B1 by Rosella Bozzone Costa, Chiara Ghezzi, Monica Piantoni (ed. Loecher). It uses the communicative methodology with a web component, where students work outside of class time to practice the material they have learned. The web component includes grammar and listening comprehension exercises and authentic videos.

Using Italian films to teach Italian language effectively engages students and changes their perception of learning a language from work to communication. The current course curriculum has a number of strong points, starting with grammar and vocabulary acquisition and a strong emphasis on writing in Italian and learning about the culture. The weakest aspect of the course is the speaking part. There is simply too little time to practice speaking during class, and outside of class this task is very hard to accomplish and evaluate. As the student population becomes more and more international, the process of learning a Romance language changes. Because of the varied demographics of incoming students and their disparate proficiency levels, not only in Italian but also in English, my Intermediate Italian courses are far less homogenous especially in the areas of oral comprehension and speaking. All these factors contribute to a general lack of continuity in the course, as too often class time must be used to address individual needs. Now more often than before, in-class time is spent on grammar exercises and less on conversational activities. In order to raise fluency and conversational levels, students should practice the language outside of class and actively use it in class.

TalkAbroad Implementation

With TalkAbroad I would like to create more opportunities for my students to practice their conversation skills outside of class. The proposed program will cover six modules (each one lasting two weeks). By the end of each week, the students will have completed a chapter of material, including reading assignments, grammar, viewing of a film and practice with composition. It is at this point that I would like to introduce TalkAbroad into the course.

There will be three aspects: Activation, Interaction and Reflection.

  • Activation: Recall material learned about the topic under discussion by preparing a set of questions on the topic.
  • Interaction: Application of new grammar and vocabulary to real world situations using virtual exchanges. We will be completing a total of 5 conversation sessions per student. Each conversation will begin with a simple topic such as college experience, current events, etc.
  • Reflection: Transcribe or record a short video to highlight reflecting on what students have learned and what they would like to know more about. They will then share them in a forum in our course management system, Moodle. The conversations with TalkAbroad, which will be recorded, will help the students compare information that they are studying in class with what they hear from native speakers and share it with the rest of the class through presentations, discussions and reflections.

With the implementation of the TalkAbroad curriculum we wish to accomplish the following learning goals:

  • to improve our students’ ability to communicate in Italian
  • to ensure that our students make connections with Italian native speakers which will enhance their understanding of Italian language and culture
  • to provide a means to reflect on the cultural topics that we study in class, in particular through discussions of the movie with a native Italian speaker who is living in Italy
  • to prepare our students for study abroad and internship abroad

As a way of assessing what students have learned with the help of TalkAbroad, we will incorporate a new oral exam requirement at the end of the semester. The questions will be related to the main cultural topics covered in class. This will also be beneficial to the students that study abroad in Italy as often the exams are oral, and therefore TalkAbroad would be an excellent way for advancing their oral skills. I’m also planning to create a survey at the end of the semester where students can give us feedback about the implementation of TalkAbroad.


By using the TalkAbroad curriculum I improved tremendously students’ communicative competence, enhanced their listening comprehension and, last but not least, helped them to make connections with Italian native speakers in view of study abroad and internships in Italy. With TalkAbroad I created more opportunities for my students to practice their conversation skills outside of class. The syllabus covered six modules (each one lasting two weeks). At the end of each module students applied the new grammar and vocabulary to real world situations using virtual exchanges. After each conversation I required students to record a short video to reflect on what they have learned during the conversation. Students were also very satisfied with the technology that supports the conversations. The possibility to listen to their conversations sessions gave me the opportunity to assess their language progress. Overall, there was very positive feedback from both my students and from me, as instructor.

Project Lead

Dr. Morena Svaldi, Mount Holyoke College