Culture as the Foundation of Communicative Italian Instruction: Pedagogical Strategies Aimed at Proficiency in Italian

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Musto, Angelo Giulio
The Graduate School, Stony Brook University: Stony Brook, NY.
Abstract of the Dissertation Culture as the Foundation of Communicative Italian Instruction: Pedagogical Strategies Aimed at Proficiency in Italian by Angelo Giulio Musto Doctor of Arts in Foreign Language Instruction Italian Stony Brook University 2011 The purpose of this dissertation is to offer strategies for the integration of culture in the secondary Italian curriculum, while maintaining the assertion that all competent language instruction is rooted in sound cultural objectives. As illustrated in the subsequent review of pedagogical literature, there are two essential components to the philosophy behind this study: the efficacy of employing cultural concepts in the classroom in order to enhance interpersonal communicative instruction, and the vital role that cultural awareness and sensitivity play in today's world. Since their inception in 1996, the ACTFL (American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Language) National Standards, with their strong emphasis on culture in the World Language classroom, have brought about a necessary change in the discourse concerning the challenges teachers face with regard to incorporating culture into their lessons. There continues to be, for example, a lack of consensus among language instructors on what culture to teach and how to assess it. This academic work addresses these questions, as well as offers potential solutions. In addition to the aforementioned concepts, I discuss the need to confront negative stereotypes and ethnocentric behavior in the classroom. In terms of secondary Italian classes in the United States, much of the work lies in addressing the depiction of Italian-Americans, by the mass media, as either criminals or half-witted narcissists. Furthermore, I have considered a number of issues regarding linguistic sensitivity and, in particular, the dichotomy of language versus dialects within the Italian paradigm. Film, music and visual art serve as the backdrop for the practical portion of this dissertation. In these final sections, I provide strategies for the integration of culture into the secondary Italian curriculum by means of communicative activities. It is the underlying conviction of this study, that these strategies will enable the student of Italian to simultaneously improve proficiency in the language, and attain greater cultural awareness and sensitivity.