Problems for learners in Italy Italian is an Indo-European language
Italian is an Indo-European language directly descended from Latin. However there is a wide range of regional dialects that may be the first language for many Italians. Primarily the Anglo-Saxon elements in English cause difficulties. Additionally basic and colloquial English usage often causes more trouble than more formal or academic forms. (Swan and Smith p. 73)
General phonology problems arise for Italians in the inventory and distribution of individual sounds but are most common in the areas of stress and rhythm. Learners have the most problems in understanding and making themselves understood due to this rhythmic language difference. The stress-timed patterns of English cause great difficulty to Italian learners, particularly in terms of perception and comprehension (Swan and Smith p. 77). Special attention needs to be paid to the presentation and production of weak forms, since learners will expect full value to given to all syllables.
Italian learners have difficulty recognizing intonation patterns and may be rather resistant to adopting them. In English different emphases can indicated by changes in the primary stress and intonation pattern. However in Italian, the primary stress nearly almost comes at the end of the sentence and different emphases are created by changing the order of the individual elements. This causes students to have difficulty recognizing the role of intonation in signaling affective meaning. Additionally differences between questions utilizing rising or falling intonation cause particular problems. Main grammar difficulties for Italians learning English arise from the fact that English relies to a great extent on word order and phrase structure to indicate grammatical function, whereas Italian relies much more on morphological inflections (Swan and Smith p. 78). The great variety of syntactic devices in English will often causes students to complain that English has no rules, has little grammar and is unpredictable (Swan and Smith p. 78).
The influence of spelling on pronunciation creates several difficulties for Italian learners of English. Learners may give Italian values to each letter. Additionally because of the close relationship between spelling and pronunciation in Italian causes the problem of every letter being pronounced. Learner's expectations also lead to phonetic spelling. Other spelling problems may occur from the Italian spelling of cognates. For example the Italian cognate psicologia gives rise to spelling errors like psicology. Additionally, Italian conventions in the use of upper case and lower case differ slightly from English. Small letters are used initially in the names of the days and months and in the adjectives of nationality and the names of languages (Swan and Smith, 78).
Stylistic problems also occur because of the differences between the languages. More specifically, extended prose is a common problem by Italian learners. This occurs because of different conventions in the use of linguistic recourses, and different ideas about what constitutes good style. Students may use long, complex sentences, than more subordination than English would normally prefer, and elaborate periphrasis to avoid repeating the same word (Swan and Smith, 78). Participle constructions may be overused and abstract nouns may be used where a verbal construction would be more normal in English. Works Cited
Swan, Michael, and Bernard Smith. Learner English: A Teacher's Guide to Interference and other Problems. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press, 2001.
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