In an innovative project to promote cultural integration with language learning, Dr. Monica Giovannini, the Resident Director in Florence, arranged for the 2015 fall semester students to meet with the senior citizens of Bobolino, an elderly care home in Florence. Their assignment was to talk about aspects of their own culture while familiarizing the Italian seniors with a few English words. The idea is part of a Richmond in Florence program called “Teacher for a Day,” which offers an interdisciplinary and interactive approach to language and culture learning.
Each of the four Italian language classes that participated in the project focused on a particular aspect of the American culture — such as American food and American families. Each student prepared a lesson in Italian using Power Point and used strategies learned in class to teach a few English words and involve the audience. The setting provided for an authentic social, interactive context, and promoted students’ reflections on cultural differences.
In a survey distributed to the students who participated, almost all of them rated this experience an excellent learning opportunity and, although challenging, declared that they enjoyed it because it gave them a good chance to use the language, improve pronunciation and focus on cultural differences.
Student Alec remarked: “The assignment asked us to each pick a topic that we felt represented a cultural icon from America that transcends geographic borders. Presentations included topics such as Starbucks, Thanksgiving, and the National Football League. Every student, whether they intended to or not, improved their oral Italian skills, and by presenting to such a welcoming crowd, every student immediately developed a sense of comfort upon walking through the doors. At the end of the day, the residents seemed happy just to listen to and meet the young American students.”
And student Alexandra added, “I was nervous to speak in front of the residents but it was a lot more fun and easier than I expected. They were very funny, kind and interactive. Seeing how appreciative and excited they were to hear us speak warmed my heart.”
Read more about our programs in Florence, and our new Service Learning and Active Citizenship course here on our website.