Luigina Cerri teaches beginner and intermediate-level Italian language classes here at Bridge in Denver. We recently interviewed her to find out what she likes best about teaching, what is most challenging for students, and what advice she has for beginners learning a new language.
First, can you tell us a bit about yourself, Luigina?
I was born and raised in Italy and came to the US rather young, where I finished my education. I eventually received a Master’s degree in French Literature & Language with a related field in Italian Cultural Studies from the University of Colorado, Boulder. I have been teaching for a very long time and through the years I have acquired different teaching methods and techniques. Some of these techniques are still around, while others have disappeared over the years. I try to incorporate different styles of teaching in a classroom setting.
What made you decide to teach Italian?
I have been teaching both Italian and French since graduate school at CU Boulder, and have decided to continue teaching languages to a variety of students.
What is your favorite thing about teaching Italian or about teaching in general?
My favorite thing about teaching is the student interaction in a face-to-face classroom setting, and seeing how students improve their conversational skills over time.
What tips do you have for beginner students?
My one important tip I always give to beginning students is not to translate verbatim from Italian into English, or vice-versa, but instead to always look at the context in which specific key words are located in a sentence, and refrain from translating words in isolation.
What is the biggest obstacle for most people to learning a language, and how can they overcome that?
The biggest obstacle for students, is not realizing that languages work separately, and they do not rely on each other to express the same meaning, or even have the same structures or vocabulary. Each language is its own entity. Also, students in general do not know their parts of speech, which are essential building blocks in the acquisition of a foreign language, especially one that has gender.
What can students do outside of class to improve their language skills?
Students should study in short bursts, and incorporate material that was previously presented in class and use it extensively. They should look at the examples given and incorporate them into a written assignment, or try to come up with oral sentences using vocabulary and grammatical structures that have already been presented. In addition, listening to the language is essential.