Squola - Center for Contemporary Italian Studies

Language through the Media

By Marta Russo
Photo courtesy of sQuola

As Italian language instructors we often ask ourselves how we can better enhance traditional resources (i.e. textbooks) by integrating more “authentic” materials, in the sense that they are not pre-prepared or modified for usage in language courses, that help students to interact more directly with the daily language in Italy. For beginning courses, examples could be a song, brief announcements, or recipes. An essential tool for intermediate and advanced courses is without a doubt the newspaper. 

During a recent semester, I had my advanced students study major Italian newspapers as a part of the coursework. I first divided them into small groups that each analyzed an example in hardcopy and online formats. Students browsed the entire newspaper, page by page, and indicated sections according to content and number. This first activity made participants notice the differences between Italian newspapers and the ones they normally read in their home countries. 

The second step required students to examine the front page to determine which news items were given more focus and what areas they represented such as politics, economy, or other news. Even in this phase groups found differences compared to newspapers abroad, especially in comparison to countries that may favor national over international news on front pages. 

The final stage of the newspaper activity was dedicated to a close reading of article titles to better understand how language presents news: the groups were surprised to discover that the Italian used is often metaphoric, which also allowed participants to learn more colloquial phrases and expressions. And last but certainly not least, we analyzed how the same news was relayed as different messages according to the type of newspaper. 

Thanks to this activity, students were able to grasp several linguistic and cultural aspects of Italian through its usage in the media, as well as learn important facts related to current politics and society. Working in small groups that are guided yet independent is a positive experience for participants, who mature to feel more linguistically competent and to help out fellow team members in a process that encourages both individual and collective learning. 

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