The American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages says that enrollment in foreign language classes are increasing. This is good news for the United States. In a global economy, the nation’s businesses and economic institutions need employees with foreign language skills now more than ever to communicate with customers and clients all over the world. All foreign language teachers, including Italian teachers, can play an important role in helping to prepare a solid workforce.
Italian language teachers must be versatile and dynamic in their teaching methods. For students, learning a foreign language is not just about memorizing the basic mechanics of the language, such as vocabulary and grammar, but also about understanding and appreciating the culture of the people who speak the language. As a result, Italian teachers do much more than drill their students in writing and speaking Italian. They create curriculum that includes many different activities both within and outside the classroom. This curriculum can include:
- Creating extracurricular activities to help students use their new Italian language skills, such as trips to museums, Italian restaurants, operas and other events that use Italian.
- Reading and evaluating Italian literature for classroom use.
- Sponsoring Italian exchange students and organizing trips to Italy for students as part of an immersion study.
What is Italian Teaching Certification?
The purpose of certifying Italian teachers is to establish that a potential teacher has a comprehensive understanding of the language and culture. Certification ensures that a teacher is fluent in Italian and has the tools necessary to teach others the language. The certification process includes knowledge of Italian grammar, composition, and literature, as well as the principles of pedagogy.
Aspiring Italian teachers need to be certified by a state Board of Education in order to teach in public schools. The state agencies generally require several specific achievements before candidates will be considered for licensure:
- Potential teachers need to complete a bachelor’s degree, usually from a regionally accredited college or university, with a major in Italian. Those who are earning their degrees from online universities should make sure that their schools possess a regional accreditation, which is the highest form of accreditation and legitimizes the school’s programs.
- Some states require a specific grade point average (GPA) in an aspiring teacher’s college transcript. For example, New Jersey requires that certification candidates earn at least a 2.75 cumulative GPA. This ensures that those who become Italian teachers are well-qualified for the position and have successfully mastered their subject. In some cases, a high score on the Praxis exam in Italian can help aspiring teachers achieve certification.
- In addition to a mastery of Italian, most states require certification candidates also complete a program of study in education, including supervised teacher preparation experience, as well as coursework in second language acquisition and language teaching methodologies.
- Many states also require an oral exam in which the candidate must demonstrate a predetermined level of competency in Italian conversation, in addition to the written Praxis exam.
Please find specific information about the requirements to become an Italian language teacher in your state.
What do Italian Teachers Do?
Italian teachers are responsible for teaching students how to speak and write Italian, as well as translate written materials from English into Italian and vice-versa. They teach the fundamentals of Italian grammar, including verb tenses, noun cases, sentence structure, and punctuation. Vocabulary building is often a major focus on Italian language instruction, as one of the goals of Italian teaching is to help students become as conversant in and knowledgeable about the language. In addition, Italian teachers must instruct students in the proper pronunciation of Italian words in preparation for oral exams.
One of the more interesting aspects of teaching Italian is the wide variety of materials that can be incorporated into the classroom. Italian teachers can use poems, classic works of literature such as Dante’s Inferno, the great films of post-war Italian neorealism, opera, and other language-based forms of communication to engage and interest students as they learn to speak and read Italian. The American Association of Italian Teachers also offers many teaching resources to members, including information on how to prepare students for the Italian language Advanced Placement exam.
Italian teachers can also incorporate language activities into their lesson plans that make learning fun and interactive. Here are a few examples:
- Conversation: Break the class up into pairs and assign each a topic of conversation. Ask the students to conduct their entire conversation in Italian, as if one of them is a tourist and one a resident of Italy.
- The Profession Game: Assign each student a profession (teacher, doctor, web developer, etc.). Ask them to research the words they need to describe their job, and then have them present their job description to the class. Let the class ask further questions in Italian until they guess the student’s profession.
- Play “Simon Dice”: Play “Simon Says” in Italian. This is especially useful for younger students, who can learn basic vocabulary about the body (“touch your nose”= “toccare il naso”) in a fun way.
Possibly the most exciting part of teaching Italian is the opportunity to travel with students as part of a Foreign Exchange program. This allows students to continue their education of the language while being directly immersed in the culture.
Why Italian Teachers are Important
Italian teachers play a vital role in the intellectual development of their students and are therefore an integral part of any school system. Students can apply what they learn about Italian history, culture and language in their other courses, including history, literature, sociology, archaeology and many other subjects. Education experts have pointed out that students who have been exposed to the study of foreign languages perform better in other classes for a number of reasons. They develop better memory skills, exhibit higher levels of cognitive functions, and can focus their attention for longer periods of time than other students. These students also tend to exhibit more creative problem-solving abilities because they are used to thinking in different language modalities. This is an intellectual development that is fostered by their foreign language teachers.
Many colleges and universities have recognized all of these benefits and require at least two years of foreign language instruction from their applicants. More competitive colleges and universities, such as Harvard, Yale, and Stanford, require students to have completed at least three or more years of foreign language study. Without foreign language instructors, such as Italian teachers, high schools would not be able to produce the top-flight students that high-ranking universities want to enroll.
In addition, over four-fifths of the world population does not speak English, making English-only speakers a minority and potentially at a disadvantage in our global economic community. There is persuasive evidence that students who learn a foreign language are likely to earn more money over their lifetimes, and report generally higher levels of happiness than those who do not know a foreign language. Recruiters often specifically seek out job candidates who can speak and read a language besides English. Italian teachers can be proud of helping their students secure a better future for themselves.
Finally, Italian teachers help increase cultural sensitivity in their students, making our world a more tolerant society built on mutual understanding of other people and cultures. Cultural sensitivity is an important component in our ability to solve problems in the world, including political differences, financial crises, and international emergencies. Italian teachers provide their students with a glimpse of what life is like outside the United States, preparing them for positive interactions with future employers, colleagues, and neighbors.
Professions for Italian Students
Students who learn Italian have many options for future careers. Students who learn Italian can:
- Work in international businesses such as banking and finance, importing and exporting, shipping, and many more industry and corporate fields.
- Enter public service and work for the federal State Department at embassies, interpreting documents and meetings.
- Teach or tutor Italian or work in other educational positions such as museums and libraries that deal with Italian language works.
- Use their Italian language skills to help them become professional chefs, artists, photographers, and fashion designers with international clients and connections.
Italian teachers make the language and culture of Italy come alive for their students, inspiring a lifetime love of the language and enabling their students to experience more of the world and its possibilities.