Intensive Italian for Gamers – Giorno 1

* * *

14 lunedi, gennaio


This seems to be the magical word in Italian. It appears to be a powerful word, in such that it can open up a conversation, as well as bring it to a halt. Just by existing, Ciao! seems to be able to control the mood, rhythm, and mere existence of a conversation.

I have been looking forward to this class for many reasons. My motivations for enrolling in the class were primarily the sheer joy of learning another language, and the culture enveloped in language. Secondly, I have heard and read many wonderful things about this specific class , in person from students who have previously taken the class, articles in the media, and fellow colleagues and faculty.  I will forever and always be a student and will never cease to take advantage of learning opportunities.

Having said this, how could I have overlooked one of the most amazing benefits that being enrolled in this class would fulfill? I suppose I was oh-so eager for my own learning of the Italian language and cultural awareness, that I had not yet focused on the fact that in front of me was an entire semester of classroom Foreign Language classroom observation. 👍 #winning | I always say I am going to take time to observe this professor and that professor who I admire, and would love to observe their tactics in a live setting, but there always seems to be something that takes priority, like lesson planning and teaching my own classes as a Teaching Assistant, essay writing and submitting my PhD applications, completion of my Master’s thesis, and remembering to take care of me and keep pursuing my healthy lifestyle, inside and out. So, needless to say, how ecstatic was I, when I was sitting there, the most eager-beaver of the group probably, when I realized this incredible occasion, to not only gain a stronger awareness of the Italian Language and Culture, but also enhance my own foreign language teaching skills through observation.

Prof: “I am 12 years old inside”
I am in the right place. Phewwww! Me too. Although, perhaps my 12-year old self gets a kick out of elementary jokes and bad puns, and loves to intersperse runs with the random cartwheel here and there. Either way, it sure was good to hear that.

I am in the right place. As an instructor of Spanish, I also open up my first few classes telling my students that Spanish is a “What-you-see-is-what-you-get” language, aka, in the biz, I suppose they refer to it as a “phonetic language”. Either way, I have never heard any other language instructor refer to a phonetic language as WYSIWYG and I was quite happy to see that. I think I heard that term first when I was working reception at Capital Factory (Tech Startup Incubator in Austin, TX). In that moment, I probably just smiled super big, bobbled my head, and said “oh yeah, totally”, ha ha” 🤨 🤔 and distracted my interlocutor with “oh hey!  I think the Python meet up left some free pizza in the kitchen?’….Safe. #fakeittillyoumakeit….yes, maybe for a little bit, but then over time, you really do learn and you are no longer faking it; you are doing and you are doing it well.

On one hand I was in exactly the right space. On the other hand, not at all. And that felt, in a strange way, kind of perfect.

🎮 • lingua: my language highlight of today’s class was the phrase, “Non ho una console“, to which Simone said “that is absolutely fine, because we are going to play here.” Phew! Even though as the students went around the room proudly sharing which console they currently owned, had owned, or just wished they owned, I of course, was thinking about when I was 13 playing 600 rounds of Mario Kart on a Nintendo 64, that of course belonged to my friend. Then when I was 21, I became extremely skilled at Mortal Kombat (when I was living in an old frat house with 12 guys)….but those were phases and I really have no idea about this world, but I am happy to learn. I was also happy to learn I was not the only student in the class that did not currently own a video game console.

🇮🇹 cultura: “In Italy, if you were not watching Anime, or had never seen any episodes of Anime, then YOU were the geek”. 🤔 Well, isn’t that a twist? I honestly a) have no idea about Anime, 2) had to even look up the spelling before writing this post, and d) loved learning about this fun, cultural component of Italian life. Note to self – watch some Anime before returning to Italy.

👨‍🏫 Simone: “I am Simone for everyone at SLU”.
Piacere! 👋 He is engaging, his hands gesture wildly about, as if directing an orchestra. As language instructors we’ve learned about Total Physical Response and the power of incorporating movements with our words to foster binding, but this is a whole new level. With every hand flicker to indicate “repeat after me” or raises and drops in the arm to indicate good feelings and perhaps poor, it’s as if each gesture drags the words through the air, leaving a powdery trail of Italian script.


👁 Osservare: How has he gotten this entire class (of almost all beginners) to feel like we can carry on a beginning conversation in Italian already? In 50 minutes he has introduced us to greetings, a few basic phrases in introducing ourselves, and has gotten us all to speak.

Not only speak, but I noticed within the 50 minutes I had engaged in all of the four skills necessary for acquiring a language: reading, listening, speaking, and writing.

I also became aware of the situation that there were various levels of language learners in this class. First off, I know my own level, which is an advanced learner of Spanish, novice Italian; there were others who had previously taken Simone’s first level Italian course; and there appear to be others with native Spanish-speaking backgrounds, as well as other heritages and native languages. The thing I was really focusing on was, what an excellent experience for myself, as a language instructor, to get to experience being immersed in a group of learners where some may have zero foreign language background. Getting to experience this class from the perspective of a novice learner of Italian, as well as a professor in training (Spanish as an L2), is really quite amazing and unique.

I am a graduate student, obtaining a MA in Spanish, with no official training in Italian, no background in gaming, in a beginning undergraduate class, and I find myself sitting next to one of my previous Spanish 1010 students. What an amazing and humbling experience this is going to be. I am ready.

Ready for tomorrow, which is the 2nd day of class…and lab.