Hello teachers of Italian as a foreign language!

As you well know, foreign language teachers play a fundamental role in the education and success of their students. This is even more true for us at GIGA – INTERNATIONAL HOUSE in Catania, as we believe in a highly communicative method!

Our teachers must learn to go beyond grammar and vocabulary aspects because what matters in our Italian school for foreigners is not teaching how the language is structured – in the strict sense of meticulously learning grammar rules, word lists, and phrases – but using this blessed and magnificent language that is Italian!

However, to carry out this work effectively, it is essential for our teachers to be constantly updated, trained, and informed about the latest trends, techniques, and methodologies in foreign language teaching.

As teachers, our main task is to guide our students so that they can learn effectively. But how can we be sure to do our job to the best of our abilities? The answer is simple: continuous updates and constant exchange with colleagues and trainers.

Therefore, even this year, we are getting ready for the new season with an internal Didactic Update Course.

In this article, I will talk about the importance for teachers to invest in their professional development and continuous updating of their skills in glotto-didactics of Italian as a second language or foreign language.

If we want our students to approach, day by day, the fluency and linguistic competence of a native speaker, we cannot do without exposing them heavily and continuously to authentic materials. And by authentic materials, I mean those same materials that we, native speakers, use in our daily lives: newspapers, magazines, videos, podcasts, films, news broadcasts, advertisements, music, webinars, etc. Everything that fills our days.

But to do this, foreign language teachers like us need to learn how to turn authentic material into didactic units, meaning we have to transform everything that real life presents us with into teaching units. In other words, we need to learn how to create learning situations by choosing materials, content, activities, tasks, and assignments based on everything that sets the pace of our real life, the everyday life, the very life that our students want to learn to interact with.

And that’s why all the teachers at GIGA – INTERNATIONAL HOUSE in Catania, before starting to teach at our school, must undergo a training and updating period that I would describe as “tenacious and continuous”! Especially out of respect for our students’ dreams: the dream of being “Italian” themselves, one day…

And we certainly cannot achieve this goal using textbooks, no matter how good or excellent they may be. The teaching material in class must be authentic because only constant and continuous exposure to the Italian language and massive doses of exposure to the target language can lead us to that goal and achieve that dream!

“I always say to my teachers and my students that knowing another language is a bit like having another pair of glasses to look at the world.” But if we never let them wear those glasses and instead, we always measure their eyesight with rules, exercises, tests, and evaluations, they will never see or experience the Italian world that surrounds them!

My “Maestro”, Christopher Humphris, used to say, “When teaching a foreign language, there are only two exercises: either use the language or study how it is made.” We have always sided with those who want to use the language!

As I always say, can you learn to play an instrument without ever listening to music? Can you learn to swim without ever diving into the water and studying swimming only “in theory”?

The teacher’s task is to select and propose language reflection activities with interesting and understandable input and with a low level of anxiety. The language should be acquired through “exposure” (Wolfgang Butzkamm and John Caldwell), linguistic input (readings or listening) slightly more difficult than the learner is already able to understand and interpret (Krashen: “i + l”).

The teacher’s intrinsic task and fundamental duty is to pay attention to the importance of linguistic input and material selection (keeping in mind the student’s skills and the threshold of sustainable stress) and not to explain grammatical rules on the blackboard and assign exercises for homework or in class!

The student should receive the right materials and correct instructions, and then immerse themselves in their role as a RESEARCHER STUDENT, and through DEDUCTIVE RESEARCH, in the literal sense of the term, by making research hypotheses about the material proposed by the teacher and deducing rules, meanings, and morphosyntactic structures.

Hence the importance of “calibrating” the proposed linguistic input so that the student is relaxed and ready for research and learning. Nervous or anxious students block their receptive channels.

Materials should be motivating or challenging, as it is said today (ref. “affective filter,” Krashen). The activities in the “Natural Approach” focus on the comprehension of messages/texts in the target language, giving little space or importance to error correction or rational learning of grammatical rules.

As Stefano Urbani has taught us, the input must be authentic and abundant so that the learner can understand native speakers in a natural and spontaneous way, and have the opportunity to learn analytically and acquire the grammar of the target language both consciously and unconsciously. This allows them to connect with the culture of native speakers, in the anthropological sense, as manifested through linguistic behaviors.

As foreign language teachers, we must be able to provide our students with sufficient learning resources to enable them to acquire Italian in a “natural” way. In this way, we can help them “live” in Italy and in Italian!

Continuous professional development is crucial to improve and update the knowledge and skills of teachers. For us at GIGA – INTERNATIONAL HOUSE, it is a condition sine qua non!

The advent and widespread use of technology has revolutionized the way we teach foreign languages. Nowadays, there are various applications and online tools that make our work more interesting, lively, and effective. However, in order to use these new tools, we must always keep up with the evolving technology.

Training and professional development enable foreign language teachers to continuously improve their teaching, language, and cultural skills. Teachers who attend training courses can learn how to use digital tools to create teaching materials or deepen their knowledge of new research and methodologies in language teaching. Professional development stimulates teachers to develop new cross-cutting skills such as communication, creativity, and collaboration.

Being a foreign language teacher and an Italian teacher for foreigners is a challenging task, especially when we face students with different language abilities and skills. Keeping up with pedagogical research allows us to identify the problems that students encounter and find educational solutions to present in class. These difficulties may be grammatical, cultural, or simply motivational. If a student has learning difficulties, we can use alternative teaching strategies to help them achieve their goals.

Being a foreign language teacher has never been easy, and continuous learning is one of the best ways to make our work more effective and rewarding. As teachers, we have the responsibility to help our students develop communicatively, professionally, and culturally, and we couldn’t do it without constantly improving ourselves. There is no limit to learning.

That’s why it’s so important for foreign language teachers to invest in their continuing education. As teachers, we are responsible for introducing new ideas and teaching methods to enhance our students’ learning.

That’s why we are “relentlessly and continuously learning“!

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