Blended Italian: Enhancing Oral Proficiency
At the end of the second semester of Italian, students seem to have less oral proficiency than at the end of the first semester of the language. This has been verified by widespread anecdotal evidence reported by all instructors and exit interviews with students throughout the years. While a diminished fluency in the intermediate level of languages is a well-known phenomenon in language acquisition( generally occurring as students progress in learning more complex grammar structures), the Italian program at UMD is seeking to minimize this decrease in fluency observed in the second semester of Italian by increasing the class time devoted to language practice rather than to first-time explanations or grammar drill. The first step to revamp the first two semesters of Italian with a view to enhancing oral proficiency was to observe language classes in which the “flipped” and “blended” model had been successfully implemented (French classes). The second step was to adopt a new textbook with reliable self-correcting online vocabulary and grammar exercises, as well as emphasis on fostering retention and oral proficiency by continually recycling vocabulary and structures. The third step was to develop class sessions in which students, after an initial daily quiz on what they learned at home, engage in practicing the language through modeled dialogues and information gap activities. These classes (ITAL 103 and 203 in Blended Format) were taught for the first time in the spring semester of 2015 and will be taught again in the fall of 2015.