“Sbagliando s’impara” is an Italian proverb akin to “practice makes perfect,” but it’s truly about learning from our mistakes.
I have been teaching at the college level for nearly three years now at Centro Tecnológico Universitario (CEUTEC). I was hired into the graphic design department in April 2013, where I have had the privilege of leading courses such as Editorial Design and Print Design.
This year, I’m also CEUTEC’s newest Italian professoressa, and I’m so happy and proud of this new challenge. I certainly have as much to learn from my students as they can learn from me!
The biggest challenge thus far is getting my students to feel comfortable enough in the classroom to practice producing the target language.
From my readings in Second Language Acquisition and from personal experience, I know we all have “Language Ego,” which can make us feel very vulnerable while working on learning a new language.
At CEUTEC, we have worked with assigned group presentations and in-class dialogues, which has worked somewhat, but it is mostly rehearsed language. We’re lacking the naturally occurring conversational skills that all learners hope to acquire in their courses.
As the term came to an end a few days ago, I let them know that in upcoming levels, there will be several phrases that I won’t allow in Spanish in the classroom anymore, like “how do you say ______?” and “what does ________ mean?” There was quite a list, which I think I might complement with a few more once the new term begins.
I’m hoping this inquisitive “academic speak” might get them the confidence boost they need to continue developing their speaking skills in Italian.
Making mistakes is a big part of learning, and my students know this. I think a good teacher strives everyday to make sure the classroom feels safe enough to the students so that they aren’t afraid to risk making a mistake. For now, they’ve already learned this great Italian phrase.
What kind of strategies have you used to encourage your students to produce the target language inside the classroom?