An Italian Language Prototype for a Conversation Immersion Program at the Post-intermediate Level, Adaptable to All Languages

Project Director

Denise Caterinacci

Instructor and Section Head of Italian, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures

International Collaborator

Sanzio Balducci

Professor of Italian Linguistics, L’Università di Urbino Carlo Bo, Urbino, Italy


This project explored the validity of a systematic approach to advancing students’ Italian language proficiency from the intermediate level to advanced levels, aligned with the American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language (ACTFL) proficiency level guidelines. Students interacted with native speakers to improve their listening and speaking abilities. Recordings of students and native speakers were carefully edited and then re-introduced in a classroom setting. The objective was for students to use the full range of grammar and idiomatic expressions in every conversation, with brief grammar reminders only as needed. Students connected to native speakers using Skype, interactive websites, blogs, videoconferencing, and video recording and editing.

The project incorporated a seven-step process to advance student proficiency in several areas. Focus, clarification, demonstration, repetition and synthesis are key components of this model.

  1. “Attenzione!” (“Attention!”) introduces an audio/visual effect that reproduces the main theme of the key text.
  2. “Che ne pensi?” (“What do you think about it?”) registers first reactions of participants.
  3. “Leggiamo.” (“Let’s read.”) prompts students to read the key text.
  4. “Allora?” (“Well?”) is designed for more in-depth student reaction.
  5. “Che si dice?” (“What do you say?”) reproduces a realistic example of how many speakers of the language might approach the reading.
  6. “Ora provaci tu.” (“Now you try it.”) engages the students in a variety of exercises which provide new contexts for already learned terms and phrases as well as new vocabulary.
  7. “Adesso tocca a te.” (“Now it’s your turn.”) involves creation, as students utilize their new knowledge.


Students at all levels in the Italian program at CWRU became acquainted and interacted with the faculty collaborator and other native speakers who visited the campus during the project. Students and instructors gained more advanced knowledge of the technology used in the project. Despite some software incompatibility with Polycom videoconferencing, the other Internet tools, particularly Skype, generally worked quite well, though there were occasional disconnections and interruptions. The archived and edited video footage can be used for future applications. Most importantly, students were able to see the results of their language advancement through the feedback from the recordings.

Adobe Premier Elements Version 4 movie editing software was the tool of choice for editing the film footage. The software is rather complicated and at times presented problems that not even good technology assistance could resolve. Premier Elements 8, the current newest version, unfortunately does not allow the editing of footage used in previous versions of Premier Elements.


Total funding: $7,256

The grant supported a campus visit for the Italian faculty collaborator Sanzio Balducci, compensation for the native speaker contributors, and technical and editing assistance. The grant also funded the purchase of video and voice recorders.

In addition, the successful institutional relationship with L’Università di Urbino led to a second successful WLE grant with Professor Caterinacci and Professor John Orlock (Department of English), “The International Dramatic Writing and Translation Workshop and CyberFestival of New Plays.”

Denise Caterinacci

Denise Caterinacci

Instructor and Section Head of Italian, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures
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