Italian belongs to the Romance family of languages and is closely connected to its ‘sibling’ languages of Spanish, Portuguese and French. It also has many commonalities and connections with English, sharing many Latin-derived words and using the same Roman alphabet. The meaning of many Italian words can be instantly recognised through their similarity to English. There are points of difference between Italian and English grammars — for example, variations in word order, tense use, the use of articles, and the gendering in Italian of nouns and adjectives — but overall the Italian language is not linguistically or culturally ‘distant’ for English-speaking learners. Phonologically, Italian is relatively accessible to the English-speaking learner. It is a mostly phonetic language, pronounced generally as it is written, which is especially helpful in the development of listening and speaking skills. There is clear emphasis on all syllables, and intonation follows regular rhythms and patterns.
As Italian is widely spoken in Australia, many opportunities exist to hear and use the language in real-life situations, as well as through the Italian media in Australia and in actual and virtual connections with Italian communities in Italy and beyond.
There are also regional dialects of Italian that are used in local contexts both in Italy and beyond. Some students may bring their experience of the use of regional dialects to the Italian classroom.
Understanding the diverse language backgrounds and competencies of students, as language learners, is the starting point for developing their language learning. The changing pattern of migration to Australia is extending the range of languages students bring with them to school.
Learners of Italian in Australian schools come from a wide range of backgrounds, and include learners for whom this represents a first experience of learning Italian; learners who have existing connections with Italian, most directly as background Italian speakers, as second- or third-generation Italian Australians; and learners who may have experience in a related variety of Italian or another Romance language.
In the Languages curriculum area the focus is on both language and culture, as students learn to communicate meaningfully across linguistic and cultural systems, and different contexts. This process involves reflection and analysis, as students move between Italian and their own existing language(s). It is a reciprocal and dynamic process which develops language use and intercultural awareness and understanding.
Students use a wide range of texts such as textbooks, teacher-generated materials and online resources. Their learning is enriched by exposure to a range of authentic texts from the language being studied, such as websites, films, stories, songs, television programs, advertisements and magazines. The texts and resources will become increasingly sophisticated and varied as students progress through their schooling.
Students are encouraged to use the language being studied as much as possible for classroom routines, social interactions, structured learning tasks, and language experimentation and practice.
Students will have opportunities to engage with members of the community who speak Italian, which in some cases will be facilitated via digital technologies.
English is used for discussion, explanation and reflection, enabling students to develop a language for sharing ideas about language and culture.