The study of the Italian language and culture has been an integral part of Good Shepherd Kelmscott since 2006. It is a fitting language of choice since there are a number of students in every class who have relatives who migrated from Italy to Australia and, in some cases, there are also students who migrated from Italy themselves. According to the most recent census, Italian is the third most widely-spoken language in West Australian homes.
In addition to the personal links that many members of our community hold with Italy, Italian is a useful language to learn, not only for the general benefits that language-learning offers (such as a greater understanding of English grammar and increased problem-solving skills) but also for several other reasons. Since it is a Latin-based language, a sound grounding in Italian will assist students in the future in learning other Latin-based languages for both professional reasons and for pleasure. These include Spanish, French and Portuguese.The study of a Latin-based language is also useful for students who wish to go on to study subjects where Latin terminology is used, such as medicine, science and law. Moreover, being the language of music, Italian is useful in the study of music theory.
Italy is also a very popular country for tourists and is consistently among the top 5 most visited countries in the world. In fact, the number of annual visitors to Italy almost outnumbers its population. The likelihood of our students at GSK visiting Italy at some stage of their life is therefore very high.
While at an advanced level, Italian has a highly complex grammatical structure, it is not a difficult language to grasp an elementary and intermediate level of understanding. The pronunciation is phonetic, meaning that once the rules governing pronunciation are learnt, they can be accurately applied to all new words the students encounter (this is different from English where the rules of pronunciation can be inconsistent). As a result, students are able to quickly gain basic skills in speaking, reading and writing, which leads to a sense of achievement and confidence within themselves.
At Good Shepherd Kelmscott, Italian is studied from Pre-Primary through to Year 6. The students have one lesson per week throughout the year and are graded at the end of each semester in two areas: understanding and communicating.
In the early years, the lessons include a lot of songs, games and story-telling, with focus being on learning greetings, basic conversation, numbers, colours and animal names.
Although the exact topics studied at each year level undergo variation, at present they include but are not limited to:
Year 2: Family, gelato and going to the supermarket.
Year 3: Pizza, parts of the body, and the home.
Year 4: Personal descriptions, re-writing The Very Hungry Caterpillar and writing and performing a short play or film.
Year 5: Ancient Rome and how the days of the week got their names, sport, a trip to Italy and going to a restaurant.
Year 6: research on a famous Italian, writing a book about themselves, designing an Italian town and making a board game.
Within each of these topics, students are given speaking, listening, reading and writing tasks. Essential points of grammar such as using definite and indefinite articles, forming plurals and effectively using noun/adjective agreement are taught and put into practice. Prior knowledge is frequently called upon to make whichever topic the students are focusing on more interesting and also to ensure they have the opportunity for revision.
Cultural discussions also arise alongside the linguistic studies. These include activities and conversations relating to festivals, famous monuments and the similarities and differences between life in Australia and in Italy.
Outside of the classroom, the students in the upper primary have enjoyed annual visits for the last 2 years from a bilingual puppet theatre. They have also had the opportunity to complement their classroom studies with participation in online language competitions and last year, we were able to host an Italian Day with the help of many of the parents who cooked delicious Italian food for the students for their lunch.