Critical Languages Program

Why learn Italian?

Apart from the fact that Italian is an exceedingly beautiful language, there are many other reasons for wanting to learn how to speak it.  You may have Italian roots and you’d like to learn the language in order to reconnect with your ancestry by communicating with family members who live in Italy. Or maybe you’d like to become Facebook friends with some Italians your own age. Perhaps you’ve always wondered what it really means to be a ‘Renaissance Man’ or ‘Renaissance Woman’ and you’d like to learn more about the culture that produced artists and thinkers like Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo. If you plan on studying art or art history, you may want to be able to read Vasari’s Lives of the Artists or Cellini’s Vita in the original language. Or you might have a flair for fashion and you hope to study in Milan to hone your craft.  If you’re a music-lover, you might like to understand what they’re singing about in Italian operas or in Andrea Bocelli’s songs. It could just be that you’re a devoted foodie who loves the Italian cultura del mangiare bene and you want to learn how to order your favorite dishes correctly while learning more about the regions in Italy which made them famous. Whatever your reasons for wanting to learn Italian, you’ll be able to connect the content of your passions with the study of the Italian language at Hamilton.

How will you learn Italian?

Studying Italian at Hamilton College involves much more than learning the grammatical rules and vocabulary of the language. While you will certainly learn these things along the way, you’ll also be exposed to songs, films, cultural traditions, food and literature as part of the overall experience of becoming culturally competent in Italian. Of course, if you want ‘full immersion,’ you can choose to study in Italy through one of Hamilton’s approved study abroad programs. But as a student of Italian on the Hill, you will also have the opportunity to experience Italian culture through a variety of activities including the Tavola Italiana, Italian Movie Night, and field trips to the Syracuse Opera. Of course, language is the starting point. To fully experience the culture, you need to be able to communicate in Italian and understand when it is spoken to you.

You’ll find that the approach to teaching the language at Hamilton is based on the ‘5 C’s’ of the National Standards for Foreign Language Education: Communication, Culture, Connections, Comparisons, and Communities. How do these terms translate into the students’ experience in the classroom?  Regarding the first of the 5 C’s, the emphasis is on being able to communicate in day-to-day or ‘real-life’ situations so that you will be prepared to ask for directions or order food when you get to Italy.  As for the second ‘C,’ it’s essential to understand cultural differences in order to effectively communicate with individuals from a different cultural background. It could involve something as fundamental as knowing when and where to use formal or informal address. Or it might involve something more subtle like learning about why there is historical tension between the north and south of Italy and how it affects politics and people’s attitudes toward each other. The ‘C’ of connections will be made by linking the language to other subject areas such as art, history, music, food and literature. As a result of achieving a greater understanding of real Italian culture (not the fictionalized version of it popularized in American film and TV), students will gain a better understanding of their own culture as well as others through comparisons, the fourth of the five C’s. Finally, the Internet has made the world community increasingly smaller through social networking sites and the ability to connect instantly with others across the globe. Students of Italian at Hamilton will find it especially rewarding and valuable for their futures to be able to make friends with students in Italy through various social networking sites. Through these new friendships, a new community of students will be established which reaches across the ocean—one that will be an informed and engaged part of the global community through continued contact and cultural exchange.  Siete tutti benvenuti!