The new spring 2023 course “Italian 10” will provide a practical and cultural education

Tufts will be offering a new course, officially titled Conversational Italian, starting next spring.

Unlike Italian 1, the course will focus on listening and speaking skills in practical everyday life situations, as well as learning about social and cultural norms.

The program is designed to prepare students who plan to participate in the Data and IT and Italian in Pavia summer study abroad program, according to Carmen Merolla, lecturer in Romance studies and coordinator of the Italian language program at Tufts.

The five-week program was first offered last summer. The students traveled to Pavia, Italy, and took two courses, one on the Italian language and the other on data or computing.

Merolla notes that the majority of students in the program came from the School of Engineering. After returning from Pavia, some students participated in a focus group in which they were asked what was working and what were the potential areas for improvement.

“Many students said, ‘We wish we had learned Italian before we left because we felt like we were much better prepared for culture shock,'” Merolla said.

Student feedback was the main motivation for coming up with Italian 10, according to Merolla. Italian 10 is specifically intended to prepare students for travel to Italy and interactions with Italian culture and people.

The idea is to prepare students for their summer in Italy or their study abroad in Italy, and to be ready for conversations in Italian – not just for reading, writing, but above all for speaking in Italian,“said Merola.

Students will learn 10 key Italian skills, including how to greet and introduce themselves to people, order from a menu, and ask for directions. They will also learn practical skills such as reading train timetables and understanding Italian shoe sizes.

Professor Rose Facchini, lecturer in the Department of Romance Studies, will teach the course this spring.

“[Italian 10 will be] a very good complement, which works in tandem with the language courses we already have,” Facchini told The Daily.

Students will not only learn to speak and listen, but also learn the unspoken rules of cultural communication.

“We think it’s really important to help prepare students for their experience in Italy, not just with functions, [like] how to order ice cream, … but also learn how gestures can be important … or rules of engagement that can be easily misinterpreted that we’re not necessarily used to as Americans,” Facchini said.

Facchini noted that this course will aim to use more varied and timely materials in the classroom to produce more engaging lessons.

“We are trying to use a lot more technology [to] to have more engaging lessons, more meaningful, authentic and timely materials that students engage with…instead of using something from 30 years ago,” Facchini said. “[Students will be] looking at Italian Instagram, for example, or influencers who are really important right now on YouTube.

The course curriculum will also include readings in English on “hot topics in contemporary Italian society,” such as citizenship issues, according to Facchini.

Merolla explained how the course hopes to focus on contemporary Italian culture.

“We want [students] to learn more about the concept of family and how it has changed over the past 20 years, and so through this we will also cover the LGBTQ community in Italy… [and] social rights in general,” Merolla said. “Another thing we want them to learn is… how climate change is actually changing agriculture and food production in Italy.”

The class counts towards the engineering school’s humanities requirement, but is open to all students. Programming was done with SMFA students in mind as offering class later in the afternoon will give students a chance to travel to the Medford/Somerville campus.

Sophia Nuñez is a third year in the combined degree program at SMFA who began her Italian studies at Tufts. Nuñez helped Merolla determine which course times would work best for SMFA students.

Nuñez notes that many lower-level Italian classes conflict with SMFA studio classes, which start early in the morning and last several hours.

“[Merolla] wanted to specifically pick a time in the afternoon when people could come back from SMFA if they want to take this course,” Nuñez said.

Nuñez went to Italy last summer on a program that Merolla connected her with. Although she says she thinks her four semesters of studying the language before going abroad prepared her well for the experience, Nuñez thinks Italian 10 might be a great fit for many students.

“I think if anyone is considering going [to Italy] who hasn’t studied Italian at all or maybe just [studied] elementary [Italien]I think that would be incredibly helpful,” Nuñez said.

James C. Tibbs