When it comes to learning and speaking foreign languages, English-speaking Australians aren't exactly scoring top marks.
In saying this, there are still plenty of people who decide to pursue language learning, both for work reasons and to get to know a new culture.
Spanish, French, Mandarin and Japanese are some of the more popular languages for English speakers to study, but for many, Italian is a go-to.
Why? Well first, it's a language spoken at home by 1.2% of the Australian population, not to mention those who are bilingual or currently studying Italian.
Wouldn't you love to go to an authentic Italian restaurant and order perfectly in the language of the owner?
For others who are considering travelling to Italy, it could also be a great idea to learn some easy, conversational phrases, verbs and vocabulary so you can talk at least a little to the Italian people.
But before skip to the next chapter and start daydreaming about sipping Tuscan wine in the summer sun, we need to give you the tools to find the best teacher at the best price for you.
You'll also need to consider what the right form of lessons will be for you, as different courses help learners in different ways.
So let's get started.... Iniziamo bene!
Budgeting for your Italian Classes
Before beginning any type of course, whether group or private, via web or in person, you must consider how much you are willing to pay.
No matter whether you study Italian, French or Spanish, classes with native speakers are definitely not free!
There are many factors that affect how much your Italian course will cost:
- Your location: If you live in a remote area with few language teachers, then you might find lessons cost more. Virtual lessons don't always cost as much and can help to avoid high costs.
- The tutor: Not all teachers have the same qualification, which affects the price. Native speakers or those with high-level qualifications may charge more for their time.
- Private or group: There are advantages to both of these styles of learning. If you need to keep costs down, smaller group lessons are a great idea.
- Online or in-person: If a private tutor needs to travel to your house for each lesson, they may add an extra fee. Schools and teachers may charge less for an online lesson.
- Length and schedule of the course: You often find that teachers and schools offer discounts for learners who pay for a large number of classes in advance, especially if they are more than twice a week.
- Form of class: A conversational class takes less work for a tutor to prepare than, say, an exam preparation class. This means they will often cost less because all you do is practice and talk.
Now that we know all of this, let's look at some examples of different courses in different parts of Australia and compare the price of their language learning experience:
- Group lessons in a large city: COASIT is a well-known Italian centre in Melbourne that offers lessons for adults. A 20-hour Beginner module course costs around $260 ($13 per hour). Compare that to $180 for a 6-hour exam preparation course ($30 per hour).
- Don't forget that schools often offer discounts for concession and early bird payments.
- Individual classes with a private tutor: Looking for the perfect Italian teacher on a website like Superprof, you'll notice a range of prices across Australia, with the average being around $33 per hour. Some example prices are:
- A native speaker with no official qualification: $20 per hour.
- A non-native speaker with a qualification: $25-$30 per hour
- A qualified native speaker teacher with experience: $50 per hour
- Don't forget that teachers often add a travel fee of $5-10, although the first class is often free!
It might be tempting to simply go for the cheapest option, but remember that price is usually correlated to quality.
If you truly want to learn the language, you'll need a teacher that knows what learners need and how to help them in their learning.
Preparing for Italian Exams: High School and Beyond
According to 2019 data from the Australian Curriculum Assessment and Reporting Authority, only around 10% of Australian students studied a language in Year 12.
Remember how we said English speaking Australians aren't quite the best at studying languages?
Of those around 20% learn Chinese, 20% Japanese, 18% French and around 10% learn Italian. The rest learn languages like Spanish, Arabic or Vietnamese.
This means that high school Italian courses are usually made up of around 10 learners or less, which is actually a perfect way to learn.
Whether you're studying Italian for the love of the culture, music, art, fashion and more, or you simply want some extra points towards your ATAR, every English student wants to do a good job in their final exam.
Speaking of the final exam, let's look at how they are generally set out. Of course, every state in Australia has their own version of the exam, but they generally follow similar forms.
Luckily for all students, your final exam is not the be-all and end-all of your final mark. For example, in Victoria, it's worth 50%, while in NSW, it's only worth 30%.
Assessments from both Years 11 and 12 are included in the weighting of your mark, to give all learners a fair chance to get a good mark.
So what can you expect?
Well, every state has four components in their examination, all of which will test your grammar (verb, tense, form etc.), vocabulary (phrases, verbs, word collocations etc.) and how well you understand and speak:
For some, these are all assessed separately, while others may combine two papers, like WA, where Listening, Reading and Writing are all part of the same paper.
The part that generally gets most students quite nervous, however, is the oral examination.
These usually take about 10 to 15 minutes of your time and include a conversational section and a more formal discussion section.
The conversation part is where the examiners will ask you questions about yourself, to check that your level is high enough to chat with native speakers.
Questions range from personal facts to your opinion about a range of issues. Some example questions are:
- Secondo te, quali sono le materie più importanti da studiare? - In your opinion, what are the most important subjects to study?
- Descrivi una bella vacanza che hai fatto recentemente.- Describe a great vacation you took recently.
- Come sarebbe il tuo ragazzo/la tua ragazza ideale?- What would your ideal boyfriend or girlfriend be like?
- Secondo te, i giovani di oggi avranno ampie possibilità di lavoro nel futuro?- In your opinion, will today's young people have plenty of work opportunities in the future?
Then we move onto the discussion part, which is usually in response to a stimulus, like a photo, story or person.
Some states require students to prepare a speech well before the day of the exam, while others give students time on the day to prepare.
For example in Victoria, students must prepare a speech based on prescribed themes. Past themes have included:
- Italian women in history
- The world around us
- Italian-speaking communities
After you speak about your topic, the examiner will ask you a few more questions. Once you've completed all parts of the examination, you're done!
We have to understand, this related mores to current Year 11 and 12 students, but what about adults? Is there a certification available for you? Well, the answer is yes!
For students who have reached a more advanced level with their Italian studies, you can look into taking the popular certification exams; CELI or CILS.
Both of these qualifications allow learners to certify their mastery of the Italian language.
But why would an adult who is not being forced want to sit such an examination? Well, there are a few reasons. Some of the most popular are:
- You need a certificate to be able to get into a university course.
- You are immigrants who want to apply for a visa to live in Italy.
- It looks awesome on your CV, showing your skills but also commitment.
- You've worked and studied for a long time and want something to show for it!
If any of these reasons resonate with you, then taking such an exam could be very useful.
If you've reached an advanced level with your Italian language skills, and you're interested in teaching, these are also important methods of proving your skills.
They are both in line with the Common European Framework of Reference (CEFR) language levels, meaning they're accepted in countries throughout the world.
No matter whether you're taking the VCE or CILS exam, you obviously want to do as well as you can. One way to help reach a better result is through private tuition.
Italian exam preparation lessons could be the difference between an okay and a great mark!
Free Resources to start to practice Italian
While you may be ready to speak and understand every word an Italian person says to you, you might not have the fiscal resources to actually start lessons.
Like we said before, they're certainly not free! But don't let that stop you...
It's so easy now to start to practice and learn Italian verbs and phrases for free. This is because there are many an app, video and audio online that can help you start to understand.
While it might not be quite the same as attending classes and getting through chaptr after chapter of your textbook, it's still a useful way to get going, so let's look...
If you've never heard of it, Duolingo is a phone app that teaches verbs, vocabulary and more.
By turning study and practice into a game-like set-up, this app allows people to really feel like they are gaining more knowledge as they go.
You start with a short calibration test to check your level. This means that if you've already studied a little Italian, you don't have to start from scratch with vocabulary like ragazza (girl), cane (dog), viola (purple) etc.
It's a really popular option for people who want to start working on their vocabulary, but it doesn't quite explain grammar points. For this, we'll have to check out another option.
Online Italian Club
The website is a dream for anyone who wants to learn more in-depth, but can't quite afford to.
All the resources are free and organised not only by level but also by type (grammar, listening, conversation, dialogues, verbs and vocabulary).
This means if you're looking to practice a specific tense like the passato prossimo (the past simple), or want to hear some audio of how to order in a bar, the resources are easy to get!
You can also find links to interesting articles on anything from Italian literature to the history of the country itself.
If you simply want to talk with a native (or not) Italian speaker and practice your speaking skills, then this site can help. While it looks a bit old, it still works a treat!
Basically, the function of this site is to pair speakers who are studying each other's languages, so they can exchange their knowledge and speak in a free, easy way.
There are two ways of using it:
- Respond to an ad from another person,
- Create your own ad and wait for the responses.
Once you've found a person you're happy to talk to, you can organise to meet in real life or try a video call first.
While some might feel a little awkward at first when talking to a stranger, after a little time, you'll start to feel at ease and free to talk.
This form of learning is exciting because it allows you to share your knowledge of English grammar and vocabulary, all while working on your own language skills.
Learning new grammar, like the future simple tense or the present continuous tense, is often difficult for learners because they have no context.
Well here, your conversation is your context! This means that with every word form, phrase or tense you come across, you'll see immediately how it's used and how it's useful for you to remember.
No matter what class you decide to try out, remember to bring plenty of excitement and passion to your studies!
Don't forget, you can look for an awesome Italian teacher using Superprof!
In bocca al lupo! (Good luck!)
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