Friday, January 13, 2012

Instructional modification of Spanish and Italian to facilitate intercomprehension

Author: Hernández, Julie Marjean Corvera

San Diego State University (USA)

In the United States, Spanish is the most studied foreign language in the university setting, and Italian is the fourth most studied spoken language in the university setting. When it comes to travel, in 2010, Mexico was the most visited country by Americans, with Italy ranking fifth and Spain ranking tenth. The second and third most visited countries by Americans were Canada and the United Kingdom, respectively, both English speaking countries. Based on student interest and travel statistics, Spanish and Italian could be considered very worthwhile of study in the United States. What if the efforts put into studying the Spanish language could result in competency in communicating in the Italian language as well? By developing intercomprehension skills in students, this is an outcome that is very possible to achieve. Intercomprehension has been defined as the process of developing the ability to coconstruct meaning in the context of the encounter of different languages, and to make pragmatic use of this in a concrete communicative situation. This thesis provides several suggestions on how to teach Spanish and Italian in such a way that facilitates intercomprehension between the two languages. This thesis suggests using mutual intelligibility as a key factor in selecting lexical items and phrases to teach students. This sometimes will entail the teaching of a less commonly used word or phrase that is more mutually intelligible than the common word or phrase, resulting in increased intercomprehension success. The foreign language textbooks Oggi in Italia and ¡Claro Que Sí!, as well as the Kindle electronic travel phrasebook guides Language for Travelers-Spanish and Language for Travelers- Italian, are utilized to illustrate how the vocabulary and phrases provided by these resources could be modified in order to facilitate intercomprehension. In addition to modifying vocabulary and phrases to be instructed in language courses that seek to promote intercomprehension, charts indicate how pronunciation can be modified depending on whether one is communicating with a Spanish or an Italian speaker, in order to increase intercomprehension. This thesis also provides charts illustrating common morphological differences that exist in areas such as plural formation and infinitives. In addition, this thesis demonstrates how gestures can be a useful tool in making less mutually intelligible words comprehensible. Lastly, this thesis argues for the importance of multilingualism and suggests populations of students that could greatly benefit from the development of intercomprehension skills.

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