The Italian Skype Pal Project: A Deep Dip Into Culture

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Boston College

Foreign language teachers all face the same challenges. One of the largest challenges is trying to import the culture of their language into the classroom. In recent years, technology has been an important ally in this effort by providing easy access to realia. However, teachers need to choose their materials with care because sometimes they can appear “fake” or “prepackaged,” which can make students disengage. As more technology becomes available, foreign language teachers can use it to create more hands-on and personal cultural experiences for students, involing them in one-to-one discussions with pals from other countries, for example, and giving them a sense of belonging to that specifc community. In this session for Teaching Italian Culture, I will discuss how I used technology, specifically Skype, to introduce Italian culture into the classroom for a project that I called Italian Skype Pal. Italian Skype Pal consisted of a number of meetings on Skype, in Italian and English, between Boston College students and the students from the Advanced English class from L’Orientale di Napoli, a well known university in Southern Italy. In these meetings, students would discuss a pre-determined list of cultural topics that had been covered in both courses, allowing time for personal topics as well. I will use this session to explain how I handled logistics, schedules, and coordination with the Italian professor for the Italian Skype Pal Project. I will also present the achievements, challenges, reasons for success, and what every foreign language teacher needs to know to incorporate similar projects into their classrooms.

Carmen Merolla, Instructor of Italian Language and Culture, Department of Romance Languages, Boston College. Email:

Presented at the Teaching Italian Culture Conference Georgetown University, Washington D.C. Saturday, October 19, 2013

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