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Pierangela Diadori, a cura di. Insegnare italiano a stranieri.

Firenze: Le Monnier, 2001.

Sitting in a classroom in Siena on a warm summer's day, I was struck by how the voice and the energetic enthusiasm of Pierangela Diadori captured her audience of teachers of Italian enroled in a professional development course. She and her capable team of speakers and workshop leaders provided the course registrants with many hours of interesting and relevant information, both theoretical and very `hands on.' It was clear that Diadori and her team were relentless in promoting the teaching of Italian as L2.

Their audience, however receptive, was limited in number. If only Diadori et al. would package the workshops so that the majority of teachers of Italian language could benefit from their knowledge, their experience and their painstaking research.

Insegnare italiano a stranieri, in a sense, is that package. Between its covers is a treasure chest of L2 pedagogy intended for every teacher of Italian as a second or third language.

Diadori's introduction to the volume ably answers the first and most important question that our students will pose to us today in our technologically oriented world: "Why study Italian?" Her nine categories outlining the `italiano di stranieri' and her concise definition of the `italiano per stranieri' that is born of the ready diffusion through the mass media, auger well as the opening chapter of a manual that is both "how to" and "why." Nor do the chapters following disappoint. The work in them is consistently excellent. Always aware that they are intended for teachers who often require a quick answer, all chapters are glossed in the margins with indications of the specific topic discussed in each paragraph or section. All 28 chapters have practical examples, suggestions for exercises and strategies for the teacher of Italian to apply. An up-to-date annotated bibliography, compiled by Susanna Bruni, complements the extensive general bibliography. And where the latter curiously omits names such as that of H.H. Stern and Alice Omaggio Hadley, it does not limit itself to Italian scholars in the field but also includes names of internationally recognized researchers in L2 pedagogy.

In a brief review such as this one, there is an embarassment of riches from which to choose to illustrate the content of Insegnare italiano a stranieri. I shall highlight a few chapters, and invite individual readers to discover for themselves all the other aspects of this superb volume.

Letizia Vignozzi provides a detailed overview of the theories of L2 learning. She takes care to include most of the dominant approaches, including Robert Di Pietro's "Strategic Interaction" which was first proposed specifically for the Italian language classroom. While she overlooks the work of the late Raffaella Maiguashca on structural communicative methodology (now more often referred to as form focused instruction), Vignozzi must be commended for her work in this chapter.

"La competenza culturale" by Antonella Benucci is another study that is of particular relevance to the North American teacher of Italian. Presenting first the problematic of even defining `culture,' Benucci then asks us to consider which culture of a multicultural, multilingual Italy we propose as that designated "Italian." She suggests that for the classroom teacher, the initial approach to teaching culture is that of focusing on daily life; this is admittedly small-c culture rather than formal culture, but it is also undeniably the first encounter that a student of Italian language will have with the culture/Culture of Italy; it will ineluctably reinforce or break down previously established preconceptions. Her brief questionnaire asking students to share their personal ideas of Italian culture is an excellent tool for analyzing culture competence.

The chapters entitled "Programmazione e curricolo" by Lucia Cini and "La verifica" by Franca Biotti are essential points of departure for all Italian language teachers, outlining effective implementations of syllabi and curricula and offering, in the latter case, reflections on the objectives and the process of testing and evaluation. They complement a later chapter, again by Antonella Benucci, focused on error correction. Benucci includes an effective Self-evaluation sheet for group work, an interesting approach that I have found to be most effective in a L2 pedagogy course but have not used in Italian language classes.

Other chapters deal with using visuals/audiovisuals, with using the grammar text, with presenting newspapers and magazines, with introducing texts of a technical orientation. There is also a separate chapter dealing with the teaching of Italian to young children, which surprisingly overlooks the superb work of most Canadian researchers in the field, and especially the well known contributions of Caterina Cicogna. Also most helpful to teachers of Italian grammar is the chapter by Cecilia Papi outlining changes in approaches to the use, and consequently, to the teaching of the passato remoto, the future tense and the subjunctive mood. There are also chapters describing the excellent certification programs in Italian L2 pedagogy.

In the introduction to the volume, Pierangela Diadori writes that no teacher of Italian language whose pedagogical formation took place before the 1990's can admit to having undertaken specialized studies in L2 pedagogy specifically geared to Italian. Certification programs such as DITALS in Siena and ITALS courses in Venice axe a remedy. But for those who cannot take advantage of these, there is Insegnare italiano a stranieri. Not only should it be required reading and reference for all graduate students in Italian, and for all students looking to teach Italian, but it should deservedly become the vademecum for all teachers of L2/L3 Italian.
University of Toronto
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Author:Urbancic, Anne
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Dec 22, 2002
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