The I.V.C., Chiavi di Lettura program began on a sunny June day in 2002 at a small outdoor café off Piazza del Popolo in Ravenna as a group of Italian Studies summer program students sat surrounded by plates of tramezzini di prosciutto e mozzarella and espressos. They talked about traveling throughout all of Italy on their study abroad experience, commenting on what they had seen and learned, and sharing their impressions about Italy and its people. They found themselves asking the question "What is Italy?" "Who are the Italians?" Thus followed a fascinating conversation between students and faculty, faculty and Italians hosts, Italians hosts and students, Italian hosts and Italians, which has bridged the oceans and moved into the classroom here at Emory University. Seven weeks of intense travel and study still did not produce an answer to the fundamental question of how to define a country and a people, but it did provide the academic curiosity and tools that sparked the creation of the I.V.C., Chiavi di Lettura program. The I.V.C. is perhaps still not the answer ... but it does provide exciting and different avenues of exploration into the culture and way of life of another people!
The I.V.C., Chiavi di Lettura program brings the cultural history and the traditions of Italy to life and immerses the student in this historically significant country through original videos and images of geography, history, art, and daily life. Students, who often provide their own footage and the images, can navigate the I.V.C. just as they would their travels throughout Italy, region to region, meeting Italians along the way, learning their history through visits to cultural sites, and basically living the Italian way of life.
The I.V.C., Chiavi di Lettura program is based on the premise that the teaching of culture can and should occur parallel to, and in natural harmony with language acquisition. For this reason, I.V.C. discards the traditional language textbook format in which grammar leads culture, creating instead a multimedia environment in which a systematic presentation of Italian culture, with specific regions as chapters, becomes the textual source from which instructors and students extrapolate grammatical and syntactic structures. This premise totally subverts the traditional parameters of foreign language/culture classes, which rigidly relegate the teaching of culture [more specifically the disciplines of History, Art History, and Literature] to the upper level courses and define cultural content for the first two years as a series of language driven, non-sequential units often composed of trivial, unrelated, and uncontextualized material. Since culture effectively becomes a backdrop that the student is authorized to gloss over, it rarely creates the academic interdisciplinary connections fundamental to understanding the pivotal role Italy played in the historical development of what we define as Western culture.
For the foreign student this innovative and ambitious pedagogical process begins from the first day of Italian 101 where oral and written content is authentically intense. Students are treated as if they had just gotten off the plane in Italy and they are immersed immediately in a natural linguistic and cultural environment with no allowances made for limitation in comprehension. "When in Rome, do as the Romans" states a famous saying. It is up to the students to accept the challenge posed by the I.V.C. program, a challenge, which if accepted, will reward them abundantly by allowing them to become conversant at a remarkably faster speed and with the essential bonus of having a unique sense of what Italy and Italians are about. Becoming a "global citizen" is an easy statement to make, but a difficult task to accomplish. In a sense, the I.V.C., Chiavi di Lettura program demands that students "travel to" Italy rather than expect that Italy "come to" them. It requires students to think as Italians rather than to expect Italians to make allawances for them as foreigners. As such students of the I.V.C., Chiavi di Lettura method can truthfully say they are learning about Italy from the Italians and creating authentic channels of direct communication!
As a student in this program, you will find yourself immersed in a multi-faceted approach to language learning. While navigating the course of Italian language & culture acquisition, through in-class practice and homework, you will virtually participate in a trip to Italy. During this journey you will meet real Italians and experience diverse aspects of Italian culture and life: visiting wondrous monuments and witnessing age-old traditions. You will find yourselves reproducing the discussions initiated by your virtual classmates outside of a small café in Ravenna as you discuss the marvels and contradictions of a modern and historical Italy over an authentic Italian meal! Your paths of investigation through the I.V.C., Chiavi di Lettura method will take you to Italy, furnishing you with the skills and cultural content upon which you will build your knowledge of grammar and vocabulary. Appropriate to any full-immersion experience, acquisition of the language will go hand in hand with learning about the culture.
The full-immersion into Italian culture and language through the I.V.C., Chiavi di Lettura program begins geographically and chronologically in Sicilia (volume I) because this is where the great wisdom of the ancient civilizations of the Mediterranean first came into contact with the emerging cultures of the Italic peninsula. As we travel up the peninsula and across the centuries, it is culturally appropriate to begin an investigation into "chi sono gli italiani" by exploring the rich cultural heritage of the pre-Roman Mediterranean world witnessed on this island, and the role of crossroads to Northern Europe that Sicilia pivotally played and continues to play. The Campania region (volume II) allows for the study not only of ancient Rome and its empire, but also gives students a chance to skip ahead to the court of the Bourbon kings and learn about the deep-rooted differences between Italy of the North and of the South, and the creation of the Kingdom of the two Sicilies.
Plans for volume III of the I.V.C., Chiavi di Lettura program include journies into Umbria, Toscana, and Veneto. Always with references to the city of Roma, students will explore the era known as the Middle Ages and, naturally, the early and high Renaissance. Parallel components to this period of the story will be seen in a visit to the city of Ravenna in the Emilia-Romagna region. The city of Matera in Basilicata will allow for a final conversation on Italy since the Unification.
As students progress in their acquisition of language skills, the systematically presented studies of Italian culture will increase their knowledge of Italian history, art, architecture, geography, significant people, literature, and regional traditions. Students will hear how Italians are connected to the areas in which they were born and raised, and how each region has developed its own distinct culture and traditions over the centuries, while acquiring a taste for how all these cultural aspects make Italy what it is today listening to how Italians feel about issues of citizenship with regard to their nation and the world. The I.V.C., Chiavi di Lettura program is the student's ticket to learning about Italy past and present: its historical significance as the "cradle of Western civilization" and how this relates to its current reality.
Allora ragazzi, siete pronti per partire? Benvenuti a bordo del pulman di Carlo perché dobbiamo iniziare rapidamente il nostro viaggio culturale!
Buon viaggio a tutti!