“Io voglio imparare l’Italiano perché…”
“I want to learn Italian because…”
– Opening of a letter from a student at Burbank, 10 years old.
Every student has their own reason for learning Italian in the vibrant west coast community of Southern California, whether it’s getting in touch with their heritage, dissolving language barriers between generations, or simply learning a new skill. Catering to the great interest in Italian culture in this region, a non-profit organization, Fondazione Italia, arose in Burbank, California that offers classes centered on promoting and incorporating the Italian language at an early age. Its endeavors are encouraged by the local community and supported by the Education Office of the Italian Consulate General in Los Angeles. Whether or not Burbank’s students have Italian roots, learning a foreign language is still tremendously beneficial. Studies show that learning a second language enhances brain development, leading to an all-around higher academic performance. Fondazione Italia however, is not simply a place to learn, it is an immersion of culture, and a classroom that encourages a dynamic, creative, and interactive learning style.
Fondazione Italia recently presented its newest initiative, Il Piccolo Corriere, a publication produced as a collaboration between Burbank’s young students along with their native-speaking professors. The publication features articles from its six to thirteen-year-old contributors under the taglines: “Sapevate che…?” (Did you know that….?). “In giro per l’Italia” (Around Italy), “La tradizione a tavola” (Culinary traditions), “Sfizi e delizie” (Whims and delights), and “Musica Italiana” (Italian Music). The first edition includes recipes for il ragù alla bolognese, pizzelle, and pupazzi di neve, stories on Julius Caesar, the painter Clet Abraham, Benjamin Franklin, accounts of travels to Cefalù, Sicily, and la Città di Castello (the City of Castles) in Umbria, as well as a highlight of the music and success of one student’s favorite “Popera” (Pop Opera) trio, called Il Volo.
Writing is a great way to master a language. It is deliberate, thoughtful, and each word much be chosen with care. It compels one to pay attention to the structure and construction of a sentence, similar to fitting pieces together in a puzzle. Two of the best methods of learning are storytelling and teaching, which is exactly what this publication gives students the opportunity to do. Learning in an expressive, creative, informative outlet exponentially increases understanding and proficiency. And of course, since practice makes perfect, or better said in Italian, giocando si impara, the final section of the journal includes fun learning activities such as crosswords and word puzzles.
Il Piccolo Corriere is a special initiative, not only because the students of the Fondazione are able to learn and express themselves in a fun, creative way, but because at the end of the day, after all of their hard work and dedication to learning the language, the students are able to see the fruits of their studies in a very real way and take pride in their accomplishments. To be able to tell a story, to paint a picture with words, is a unique talent that expands the mind, allowing them to grow their vocabulary, grasp sentence structure, and deepen overall comprehension.
The first edition, published December 5, 2016, was met with great enthusiasm, and Fondazione expects to publish many more with increasing success. To read the next editions, visit www.italianfoundation.org