Workshop: New Audiences for Italian: Italian for Spanish Speakers through Intercomprehension

(Feb 17, 2013)
A Workshop held at the Italian Cultural Institute, Los Angeles on October 27th, 2012


New Audiences for  Italian:

Italian for Spanish Speakers through



A Workshop held at the Italian Cultural Institute, Los Angeles

Last year, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) awarded California State University, Long Beach’s (CSULB) Romance, German, Russian Languages and Literatures (RGRLL) Department a $100,000 grant to support its French and Italian for Spanish Speakers Initiative. Since then, the initiative has created special sections for Spanish speaking students of French and Italian at CSULB, sections that fully utilize a Spanish speaker’s ability to make spontaneous connections between Spanish and other Romance languages. This spontaneous occurrence, known as Intercomprehension, validates the notion that speakers of at least on Romance language have an advantage when trying to learn another, and has been a subject of interest in Europe, and now most recently, in the United States.

On October 27th, 2012, Elisabetta Bonvino, Professor of Linguistics at the Università Degli Studi Roma Tre, was invited to speak at the Italian Cultural Institute (IIC) in Los Angeles. The event, entitled “New Audiences for Italian: Italian for Spanish Speakers through Intercomprehension” and co-sponsored by the George L. Graziadio Center for Italian Studies, the Italian Cultural Institute, and the Consulate General of Italy, attracted teachers and school administrators who came to recognize the learning potential for students in classes that blend Intercomprehension with more traditional language learning methods. Dr. Bonvino noted that Intercomprehension, when used in tandem with other language learning methods, can drastically improve a student’s reading skills, which ultimately improves a student’s vocabulary and ability to produce language. Using the languages one already knows as “bridges” to new languages seems logical, and, indeed, as Dr. Bonvino demonstrated it is logical if one learns the keys to reading across the Romance languages.

The day began with Alberto Di Mauro, Director of the IIC, Giuseppe Perrone, Consul General of Italy, Olga Garay, Executive Director of the Department of Cultural Affairs, Lourdes Saab, Deputy Chief of the Office of Protocol, and William D. Chang, World Languages and Cultures Coordinator. Principal Investigator Clorinda Donato, CSULB Graziadio Chair for Italian Studies, Claire Martin, CSULB Spanish Program Co-Director, and Markus Muller, Chair of the RGRLL Department and Language Coordinator, represented CSULB’s French and Italian for Spanish Speakers Initiative as its co-directors. Their presentation outlined the process by which Intercomprehension ultimately found its way into CSULB classrooms, as well as its growing popularity among students, the majority of whom speak Spanish as their first or second language, though it should also be noted that students with a high school background in Spanish may also be admitted. Simona Montanari, Associate Professor of Child and Family Studies at Cal State Los Angeles, also presented and demonstrated the growing success of dual language programs in the Glendale Unified School District where Intercomprehension makes thinking about adding a third language possible.

The event concluded with a hands-on workshop on Intercomprehension, in which Dr. Bonvino demonstrated the strategies that can be used in reading another Romance language. Selecting three members from the audience, Daniela Zappador-Guerra (CSULB), Violet Pasquarelli-Gascon (CSULB), and Marie-Laure Hinton (Long Beach City College), Dr. Bonvino demonstrated the accelerated pace at which one can learn to read in new languages through Intercomprehension, in the case of the demonstration, newspaper articles in Catalan and Portuguese. All three, with different Romance language backgrounds, succeeded in reading the texts. Dr. Bonvino demonstrated how they could work through what they were initially unable to comprehend. Through dialogue with them about what they already know about Romance languages, they were able to arrive at the meaning by themselves. The audience followed along with their own copies of the texts in question and lived the Intercomprehension experience with them, profiting as well from Dr. Bonvino’s Intercomprehension pedagogy. It is hoped that a network of courses utilizing this method might be engendered by this workshop.

One of our goals for the 2013 year is the creation of Intercomprehension modules that can be used for the teaching of Italian to Spanish Speakers at other high schools and colleges.

To see a report on the event, please check out the following link.

To see a recording of the entire event, please check out the following link!