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Teaching English in Italy: Some Challenges That Italian Language Learners Face When Learning English
I spent the year learning Italian and being part of an Italian social club in Atlanta, Georgia. All in all, I was an English as a Second Language (ESOL) teacher at various American schools for 21 years. Later I worked in Italy as an English teacher for Italian students while, in my free time, I wrote articles, poems, and non-fiction. The purpose of this article is to give ESOL and TEFL teachers some tips about the problems that Italian speakers often face when learning English. Each group of people with a specific linguistic background faces its own challenges, but there are specific mistakes that tend to be made by most Italians learning English at the beginning and secondary levels. If not corrected in the early stages, the mistakes later will be difficult to learn.
Until the student reaches the middle level of the skill, it is difficult to search for written English. This is why the first six months are focused on reading, writing, listening, and speaking with some attention to grammar. I often use some grammar to explain basic rules before putting these rules into practical use for direct communication. Most Italian students are concerned about grammar although it is true that one cannot rely on grammar alone in order to speak clearly and accurately. After having a lot of experience with both English and Italian, I divided the initial challenges that Italians face into four categories: (1) problems with the use of gerunds, -ing verbs, and infinitives ; (2) problems with the use of phrasal verbs; (3) matches with the sound of “-ed” and “th”; (3) problems distinguishing when to use the present versus the present continuous; and (4) Italian students’ internal concerns about learning the tenses process.
First of all, it is not easy for Italian speakers to decide which verbs should be followed by -ing verbs and which verbs should be followed by infinitive verbs. . If teachers search the Internet, they can find a list of verbs that all have to follow the -ing letter or the infinitive letter. If students will devote some time to practice gerunds and infinitives that follow other verbs, they will do better in tests like TOEFL and IALTs tests. Since most students don’t know where to find a list of verbs followed by gerunds vs. infinitives, it will be worth your time to find them for your students and keep them in your files when they are useful. Students can learn to use these words correctly by practicing them. For example, the verbs “agree” and “agree” should be treated as null. So, one said, “I agree to sign the paper, and I agree to buy the books.” On the other hand, the verbs “save” and “practice” should follow the verb. So, one said, “I recognize this now, and I practice dancing.”
One of the reasons Italians show difficulty in using prepositions is because there are many English phrasal verbs that include prepositions as part of the verb. Some examples include: put up, put up with, put out, and leave out. Students should understand that phrasal verbs are like words that work in pairs to create a unit with a specific meaning. All one has to do is change the preposition after the verb and the verb’s meaning will change completely. It is helpful to provide students with a list of common verbs and encourage them to start learning these pairs rather than teaching them a few times. Many lists are available on the Internet and in books so the sooner students become familiar with the lessons the better they will be in the long run. English has an extensive list of phrasal verbs that can be easily understood.
The sound “th” is often difficult for Italians because this sound does not exist in their language. Thankfully, most Italians learn the “th” sound when they have a speaker who gives them one-to-one lessons. It does not seem to have much impact, but if one does not point out the sound correctly to Italian speakers from the beginning, there is a chance that they will continue to make the sound “t” or “d” in the place where one buys. always say “th” and this makes the pronunciation sound like “tree” instead of “th”. Once students have tackled “th” and the -ed sound, they will be able to express themselves more confidently.
It is important to point out to Italian students that -ed at the end of gerunds and adjectives is usually a “t” or “d” sound unless -ed is followed by “t” or “d” . In other words, a word like “jump” is pronounced “jump” as the letter “e” remains silent. The word “play” sounds like “play” without the letter “e”. Students benefit from learning the correct pronunciation early because these mistakes become difficult to correct later. It can be very difficult for speakers of languages like Italian to understand the idea that English is not just a language but has other patterns of sounds that are different from their writing. Such patterns include digraphs like mb and th or trigraphs like dge, tch, and chr.
The problems faced by Italians learning English are often different from the problems faced by Spanish speakers learning English. Fortunately, the Italians do not pronounce the sound “es” in front of the word, a Spanish mistake, as in “eSpanish” or “special”. Instead, the Italians like to add the sound “h” to some words, of two sounds, when the “h” is not needed such as “go h-out” and they leave the sound “h” at the beginning of many the word like “home”. Often, the words “angry” and “hungry” are mispronounced to convey a mistake.
One of the first things about tenses that I explain in class is how English uses the present continuous tense and how it differs from the simple present tense. . Any English speaker who has studied Italian in depth knows that Italians use the present simple to describe almost any action they describe in the present tense. When English speakers use the present tense to describe things in the room, describe events they have read, and describe a story they have read, English speakers use the present participle to describe an ongoing action that they are doing now. For example, English speakers say, “I am sitting at the table where I am drinking coffee and talking with my friend.” Instead, the Italians say, “Mi siedo al tavolo dove bevo un café e parlo con mio amico” which means: I sit at the table where I drink coffee and talk with my friend. If teachers do not point out that English speakers use the present continuous (do + ing) to describe actions that are happening, there is a risk that Italian speakers will still say words and spelling mistakes in the simple present for next year. Of course, English speakers who learn Italian also risk using the present continuous frequently when they speak Italian if they are not aware of the difference in usage.
For those who are just starting to learn English or teach English, I recommend starting with the following verbs: simple present, present continuous, present perfect, past simple coming, future, and future continuous. Students will be eager to learn all the time right away, but I believe that these times will be the best for getting started quickly. When I learned what I know about Italian 34 years ago, I started with the simple present tense and the infinitive form. I play with words, and I still want to start with the habit of playing when using English verb tenses. Sometimes one has to jump in and take risks in order to achieve long-term success. After all, language is often a communication tool that binds us to the development of society as a whole if we are only patient.
There are four factors that play an important role in the English curriculum, so if you are a new English teacher who intends to teach English in Italy, I recommend that you prepare to teach four factors status (0, 1, 2, 3) before you start teaching custom classes. The most important thing is the difference between 0 and 1st conditionals. The 0 conditional describes something that is always repeated whenever the condition occurs. Example: If it rains, I don’t water the plants. Instead, the 1st conditional describes something that happens once such as: If it rains, we won’t work outside. Italian students tend to understand the first two situations very well because they correspond with Italian situations. The 3rd conditional tense is used to express something that is unlikely to happen without a specific event: If I win the lottery, I will write a book. The 4th scenario is impossible because the previous scenario has not been met in the past: If I had remembered to study, I would not have taken the math test. I recommend that you make your own report with examples of the four events of it before the first day of class, and keep it. Teachers can customize their own charts to meet the unique needs of their students based on their age, ethnicity, and language level.
Adjusting your own teaching style will lead to better lessons for students. You may need to do some research to meet the needs of your class because everyone is unique with their own learning process. Teachers should not neglect to consider that different strategies work for different students and that a wide range of visual, auditory, and kinesthetic experiences will be appreciated.
Hopefully this summary of the major challenges facing English language learners in Italy will be helpful to anyone who decides to teach English in Italy. The challenges that one language group faces differ from another language group so if you are teaching in Thailand, for example, the challenges will be different from those described in this article. Much of this knowledge is based on my study of both English and Italian in comparison. I find that having knowledge of the learner’s first language is an important tool that does not deter me from using English as the main means of communication in my classes. When you are going to teach English in Italy, you will be aware of the simple challenges described in this article and it should be easy for you to follow the most important tips that you want to share.
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