Italian Language in Context: Emerging Competent Abroad I

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Course Information
Terms offered: 
Fall, Spring
Language of instruction: 
Contact Hours: 
60 hours

Proficiency at a level equivalent to IES Abroad’s Independent Abroad, as determined by placement test.


A course designed for advanced students of Italian. This class adopts an integrated method focused on the acquisition of linguistic and cultural skills which allow the students to understand complex, academic and literary texts (Interpretive Mode), to present both their own and another person's ideas and thoughts about topics not necessarily related to daily activities (Presentational mode) and to interact with other people even in a formal context (Interpersonal Mode).


Students who enter this course will have mastered most of the outcomes of the Independent Abroad level as defined by the IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication. Among other characteristics, these students are able to converse at a rate of speed approaching normal conversation. They are creative, spontaneous, and self-reliant as they solve problems, interpret texts, negotiate, and express their opinions, likes, and dislikes in the culture. Although they still make errors and experience communication breakdowns, these students tend to resolve these challenges on their own. Students who enter this level can already understand a variety of colloquial expressions and slang, and are also able to understand a wider variety of native speakers from different backgrounds.

Students entering this level can succeed in a range of moderately complex university courses designed for native speakers. Before registering, they should consult with the appropriate IES Abroad academic advisor on course selection.

By the end of this course, students will have started to acquire the subtlety of expression and control of complex structures that characterize Competent Abroad learners. However, Emerging Competent Abroad learners have only partial mastery of these structures and quite often resort to simpler and more direct modes of expression, particularly when negotiating linguistically difficult or unfamiliar situations. Students at this level begin to understand some local cultural attitudes, values, beliefs, and behavior patterns. However, there will be numerous gaps and inconsistencies in their knowledge, and they lack the depth of understanding and sophistication of those who have spent more time living and working in the local context.


"Pledge for Italian-only in class". Students are absolutely required not to speak any English in class (with the teacher or classmates). The use of the target language (Italian) will be considered as a part of your participation grade. English could sometimes come into play (the teacher might use it) when necessary, in order to point out a contrastive analysis between Italian and English structures.

Attendance policy: 

Regular class attendance is mandatory. Students are expected to attend classes each day, including course-related excursions.

IES Abroad Milano allows a maximum of TWO excused absences per semester. Each further absence will automatically result in a penalty of two points off (2/100) on the final grade. SEVEN absences per course (including 2 excused absences) will result in a failing grade for that course. Furthermore, an absence on the date of scheduled tests, presentations or quizzes does not entitle you to recover/reschedule such tests. Failure to attend your midterm and/or final exam will result in an F grade on that paper/exam.

Learning outcomes: 

Students who are placed in this level should be capable of achieving the outcomes in the Independent Abroad level as defined by the IES Abroad MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication.

By the end of the course, students will be able to achieve some of the outcomes for the Emerging Competent Abroad level as defined by the MAP for Language and Intercultural Communication. The key learning outcomes from the MAP are summarized below:

  1. Intercultural Communication
    1. Students will begin to recognize and describe key host cultures, subcultures, habits, norms, and behaviors in a variety of settings, and they will be aware of the risk that generalizations can lead to stereotypes.
    2. Students will be able to reflect on and discuss the validity of their own cultural beliefs, behaviors, and values by contrasting and comparing them with those of the host cultures.  
    3. Students will demonstrate openness toward different beliefs and styles even when they do not agree with them.
    4. Students will accept responsibility for their own learning by defining their linguistic goals and demonstrating independence in their exploration of the culture.
  2. Listening
    1. Students will be able to identify a range of social and cultural accents and some regional differences of the spoken language.
    2. Students will be able to understand a variety of native speakers and non-native experts and comprehend an array of moderately complex interactions.
  3. Speaking
    1. Students will participate reasonably well in most academic and social interactions using, when appropriate, complex language including slang, colloquial expressions, double meaning, and humor with increasing confidence.
    2. Students will be able to communicate with certain effectiveness in phone conversations and other non face-to-face interactions.
    3. Students will be able to make arguments and form opinions on almost any topic of their interest. 
  4. Reading
    1. Students will be able to read and understand textbooks, literary works, and academic articles for classes taught in the host language as well as some popular texts for enjoyment.
    2. Students will be able to read and understand authentic materials including newspapers, advertisements, brochures, instruction manuals, etc. on abstract topics with some assistance at times.
  5. Writing
    1. Students will be able to write for certain native audiences and express themselves somewhat clearly and effectively.
    2. Students will be able to write essays for classes incorporating aspects of appropriate academic style with some assistance at times.
Method of presentation: 

The course is taught with a communicative approach to make students learn by using their own resources, to let them present or discuss subjects interacting with other people and producing written texts. The course includes multimedia material activities through which students will develop both culture and language use. Working in pairs or small groups is especially emphasized.

Required work and form of assessment: 

Students are responsible for all assigned work, and should be aware that absence from the preceding class is not an excuse for non-preparation. Attendance and active participation will be factored into your final grade. Absences are considered justified only in case of illness (students will be asked to submit an excuse from the doctor in writing if they were ill) or for academic reasons.

Oral Presentation: Students are asked to present a topic about Italian Culture and present it to the class (10 minutes).

Intercultural activities: Students may choose between language partner program, IES lectures, cinema or theatre and write an Intercultural Report by the end of the semester (2 pages). The teacher will give further and detailed instruction about this.

Intensive course:

  • Test 1: 5%
  • Test 2: 5%

General Course:

  • Test 3: 10%
  • Midterm Exam: 15%
  • Oral Presentation: 15%
  • Final Exam: 20%
  • Weekly Assignments: 10%
  • Active participation through discussion, reading and writing: 10%
  • Intercultural activities: 10%

This breakdown may be subjected to changes (TBA); in total, the course consists in 60 contact hours. At least one guest lectures of the IES Guest Lecture series, on Tuesdays from 17:30 to 19:00, will be designed as mandatory (TBA). During the first weeks of class we will review most of the prerequisites in order to create a level of homogeneity among students. The course pace will be adjusted (accelerated or slowed down) according to class response to teaching methodology.






Corresponding Learning Outcome(s)

Week 1

  1. Functional: knowing Italians; cities of Lombardy.
  2. Grammar: Past tense (passato prossimo, passato remote), pronouns.
  3. Vocabulary: idiomatic expressions related to gestures.
  4. Culture: Italian gestures and dialects.

- The ABC of your culture

- Research on a city of Lombardy.

- Write a biography.

- Test 1 (5 %)

I.B., II.B, III.C, IV.B, V.A

Week 2

  1. Functional: knowing about Italian and Milanese cooking traditions.
  2. Grammar: Passato prossimo versus imperfetto; imperative; ci and ne.
  3. Vocabulary: food, recipes, cooking, idiomatic expressions related to food.
  4. Culture: Traditional recipes of Milan; Milanese best food shop.

- Paper on the field study at Peck

- Cross-cultural report on food and cooking traditions.





  1. Functional: Stereotypes about Italian people.
  2. Grammar: the conditional; combined pronouns; complex prepositions.
  3. Vocabulary: Expressions with prepositions
  4. Culture: Italian movie on stereotypes.

- Interviews to people of Milan on their food habits.

- Write a short essay on stereotypes.

Test 2 (5%)

I.B, I.C, II.A, III.C, IV.B, V.A


Week 1

  1. Functional: Knowing about Italian university students; writing a formal letter.
  2. Grammar: the conditional, the subjunctive.
  3. Vocabulary: academic Italian; universities.
  4. Culture: the Italian academic formal code; exchange Italian students’ experiences.


- Write a cover letter.


Week 2

  1. Functional: writing a cover letter; answering to job posted position, having an interview.
  2. Grammar: uses of the subjunctive.
  3. Vocabulary: job, people and objects at work.
  4. Culture: dress code in Italy for job interview (articles from magazines).


 - Job applications.


Week 3

  1. Functional: Knowing about the history of Milan
  2. Grammar: conjunctions with subjunctive
  3. Vocabulary: building, architecture, politics
  4. Culture: Field study at the town hall in Milan


- Write a paper on the field study

- Test 3 (10%)


Week 4

  1. Functional: Reading newspapers: the ‘cronaca’.
  2. Grammar: the passive forms
  3. Vocabulary: journals and magazines technical words
  4. Culture: Understanding cultural differences in the News

- Write an article

- Interviews to Italians on their reading habits





  1. Functional: Writing an article for a newspaper
  2. Grammar: ‘Figure retoriche’; ‘Punteggiatura’.
  3. Vocabulary: journalistic language
  4. Culture: Cultural differences in the News



- Write an article on ‘cronaca’


Week 6


Field study @Corriere della Sera (leading newspaper in Italy)

-Midterm Exam (15%)

- Write a paper about the job of the journalist


Week 7

  1. Functional: knowing the symbolic meaning of Pinocchio in the Italian culture.
  2. Grammar: the future perfect functions.
  3. Vocabulary: idiomatic expressions in the text.
  4. Culture: C. Collodi’s Pinocchio.


- Reading comprehension on Pinocchio.


Week 8

  1. Functional: Comparing and discussing movies’ production on Pinocchio
  2. Grammar: Hypothetical clauses
  3. Vocabulary: dialect expressions in the text (dialect from Tuscany)
  4. Culture: Exploring Collodi’s works.


- Ex. on Textual Connection


Week 9

  1. Functional: Talking about identity
  2. Grammar: Indirect Speech.
  3. Vocabulary: formal vs informal expressions
  4. Culture: Knowing Pirandello, Il fu Mattia Pascal

Oral Presentation (15%)




Week 10


  1. Functional: Expressing sense of humour in literary text.
  2. Grammar: Indefinite verbs (Past participle, Gerund, Infinitive).
  3. Vocabulary: idiomatic expressions.
  4. Culture: Reading by G. Guareschi ‘Alla scoperta di Milano’

- Essay on guest lecture


Week 11


  1. Functional: Exploring Italian jokes
  2. Grammar: the passive si.
  3. Vocabulary: slangs used by youth
  4. Culture: understanding sense of humour in Italian culture.


- Interview with people of Milan above jokes.


Week 12

General review

Intercultural Essay

I.B, V.A

Week 13


Final exam (20%)



Required readings: 

Course Handouts.           

  • Martin Maiden, Cecilia Robustelli, A Reference Grammar of Modern Italian - 2nd Revised edition, Hodder Education 2007.
Previous Course Name: 
(Formerly IT300 Advanced Italian I)