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Problems for Learners in ItalyDuring my experience as a teacher in italy
, where I live, I met several different types of students and I dealt with different types of courses; I found out some common difficulties that students may find when studying a foreign language (in our case english) in our country.
The most common I met are: finding qualified teachers, attending serious courses/schools, practicing the language during lessons and practicing language outside the classroom.
The first problem I listed is finding qualified teachers; the teacher is often the only available “living source of english” students meet in their whole life, expecially for those who live in small cities, so I think it's of vital importance to have a valid and qualified teacher. Here in Italy there's the tendecy to hire teachers without qualifications and no teaching experience at all, just because they are mother-tongue. So in my school career I met teachers who were football trainers in their previous job in england
or computer programmers that of course could spoke a good english but didn't have the basic tools and knoledge of how to teach their language to foreigners. The courses consisted mainly in general conversation on the previous weekend or the next holiday without any structure and I (as a student) felt I wasn't improving my level of english at all...
This problem is stricly related to the second one, attending serious courses/school since teachers are chosen by the school that organizes the course. I did a job interview once for an english school and I didn't say a single word in english since the boss couldn't speak it. The result was that I was sent out teaching to companies and children without having demonstrated my knoledge of the language to anyone!
Luckly lately the most serious schools in Italy are hiring teachers with a certain level of qualification, expecially related to teaching english as a second language. I have studied english for almost 15 years now, so I could be considered as a good teacher, but before doing this TESOL course many aspects related to teaching english as second language where totally unknown to me so in the end I can say I wasn't ready to teach yet.
The third problem I noticed, and that is always related to the previous two, is that sometimes it's difficult to practice english during lesson hours. Sometimes it's because classes are too crowded and teachers with no ESL teaching experience have the tendency to talk a lot/read/deliver a lot of written exercises with the result that students have only the chance to read a sentence in english when correcting the exercises. Another case is when the teacher is unsure about his/her english and prefer to use italian as language for explanation and english only when doing exercises. This of course lead students to speak italian almost most of the time.This situation happens unfortunately a lot in public schools in Italy, where teachers are often required only to have studied english for a few years to be entitled to teach it.
The last problem I found out is always related to practicing the foreign language but outside the classroom, in everyday life. If you live in a touristic city is easier to find the way to speak english but if you live in a small city, like I do, the chances to speak english are very limited.
Lately the attitude towards the practice of english has anyway changed and now you can find more opportunities; they are opening new pubs where english is spoken and english food is served, they are organizing original language movie screenings and also public schools are planning extra hours of lessons devoted to english conversation with mother- tongue teachers.
This makes me hope in a better future since I noticed that as country we are very behind with the learing of english and this penalizes us in promoting our country in Europe and abroad.