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Second International Symposium on European Languages in East Asia
The Common European Framework of Reference for Languages and its Relevance for
European Studies in East Asia
Taipei, Taiwan, 5 - 6 November 2011
National Taiwan University
BUILDING LEARNING STRATEGIES FOR EUROPEAN LANGUAGES
IN EAST ASIA, WITHIN THE COMMON EUROPEAN FRAMEWORK
OF REFERENCE FOR LANGUAGES
Comitato di Tokyo
What follows is the transcript of the speech delivered by Fabrizio Grasselli, the
President of the Dante Alighieri Society in Tokyo at the symposium.
NOTE: This publication is not for commercial purposes. You may not use, copy or transcribe all or part of the text, in print or digital, without permission of the Committee
of the Dante Alighieri Society in Tokyo.
The proceedings of the symposium will be published in early 2012 by the publishing
house of the National University of Taiwan.
Profile of the author
He is living in Japan since 1992, where he organizes, in different academic institutions
around Tokyo, language courses, seminars and training courses for Italian language
teachers. His work has always had the intention of improving teaching methods and
curricula of Italian language studies.
He wrote different Italian language textbooks, publications regarding the Italian culture
articles on magazines and appeared in different occasions on nationally broadcasted TV
and radio programs in Italy and Japan.
In 2007, he was appointed as Board Member of the PLIDA in Rome (Dante Alighieri
Italian Language Project).
The PLIDA is a project promoted and supported by the Dante Alighieri Society in
collaboration with the Italian Ministry of Welfare, the Ministry of Foreign Affair, the
Ministry of Education and the Rome University La Sapienza.
Since 2008 he is President of the Tokyo Societ Dante Alighieri Committee.
Multilingualism, although far for being acquired within the EU, it is a cultural and
political accepted policy and target, if not simply a necessity in borderless Europe.
Within the context of the new geopolitical Europe, the Common European
Framework is providing a fundamental tool in helping to overcome the
communication barriers between different countries and cultural identities.
It also represents a big step forward in the difficult task of harmonizing syllabi
and qualifications, promoting international cooperation in the field of modern
languages and enhancing social mobility, economic cooperation, cultural exchange
Considering that, socioeconomically, East-Asia is the most dynamic region in the
world and also that multilingualism is a serious issue concerning the development of
political and economic relations in the region, the European experience and
achievements on the subject could be an important example.
Furthermore we believe that learning European languages, apart from English, will
consistently improve the economic, political and cultural relations between the two
regions: the EU and the Far East.
2. THE DANTE ALIGHIERI SOCIETY
Its primary purpose is to preserve and spread the Italian language and culture in the
To achieve its aims, the "Dante Alighieri" relies on about 500 committees, of which
more than 400 active abroad, in Africa, America, Europe, Asia and Oceania. The
"Dante Alighieri" not only offers courses in Italian language, but also a variety of
cultural events for thousands of students and members.
Through committees abroad, the Society establishes and subsidizes schools,
libraries, clubs, encourages the reading of Italian books and publications, promotes
conferences, among other activities.
Dante Alighieri Society in Asia and Oceania has 31,800 members-students,
distributed among Viet Nam, Japan, Thailand, India, China, Hong Kong, Philippines
In 150 different countries around the world, the "Dante Alighieri" is committed to
apply the CERF to the teaching and learning of the Italian Language trough the
PLIDA achieving an extensive worldwide experience.
3. PLIDA (Dante Alighieri Italian Language Project)
The Progetto Lingua Italiana Dante Alighieri (PLIDA) was founded to provide
scientific and study aid to the Societ Dante Alighieri Committees working in Italy
and abroad in response to the increasing demand for learning Italian by foreigners.
Within the Head Offices guidelines, PLIDA aims to merge its tradition of over a
hundred years with the new methodological techniques and with the needing of a
high quality teaching offer.
PLIDA fosters, develops and promotes all the useful tools to support and improve
Italian Language teaching: teaching materials, evaluation, education and retraining,
The Certification of Proficiency of Italian as a Foreign Language according to the
Council of Europe directions (Quadro comune europeo di riferimento per le
lingue: apprendimento, insegnamento, valutazione, Milano, La Nuova Italia
Oxford, 2002) forms part one of PLIDAs main activities, based on the agreement
between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (Convention no. 1903 of 4 November 1993)
and the scientific approval of La Sapienza University in Rome (Convention of 29
PLIDA is recognized by the Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs (Decree 18
October, 2002) and by the Ministry of University and of Scientific and
Technological Research as the title for special matriculation of foreign students
(Protocol no. 1906 of 9 October, 2006). In addition to the regular certification, two
more certifications are provided: PLIDA Juniors specifically for adolescents and
PLIDA Business for the evaluation of specific technical linguistic competence.
The Decree issued on June 4th 2010 by the Italian Ministry of Internal Affairs states
that extra-EU citizens who apply for permanent residence permit must take an
Italian language test. Societ Dante Alighieri has been charged to chief the
Association of Language Testers in Italy (Other members are: Universit per
Stranieri di Perugia, Universit per Stranieri di Siena, Universit degli Studi di
Roma Tre), which purpose is to foster general guidelines for language test design.
Another important activity of PLIDA features the organization of Update Courses
for teachers. The courses take place twice a year and supply teachers with useful
tools to improve and update their teaching skills and their competence in teaching
Italian as a foreign language. The courses aim is to combine a thorough and update
approach to language teaching along with an extended examination of the most
relevant aspects of Italys artistic and cultural heritage.
This approach aims to be an answer to the ever increasing demand of Italian
learners to enter in contact not only with the language but with the cultural
background of the country. The seminars and meetings are held by the greatest
specialists in different sectors and, beyond the theory related to every subject, they
include a workshop on the use of the various topics. Furthermore, the courses offer
the opportunity to enter directly into contact with the most representative Italian
Along with the courses, PLIDA offers also short refresher courses for Italian and
foreign Committee teachers focused on the special needs of the course members.
PLIDA has furthermore taken part in education projects for foreigners in their
country. According to the current immigration laws, the Ministry of Labour and
Social Affairs and then the Ministry of Social Solidarity have commissioned Societ
Dante Alighieri to take care of the language education of immigrant workers coming
from different countries. Before arriving in Italy, the selected workers attend Italian
language courses in their countries of origin. PLIDA organizes the courses, trains the
teachers, edits and distributes the required teaching materials. At the end of the
course, workers take the test for PLIDA Certification.
A. PLIDAs structure
PLIDA is presided over by the pro tempore President of the Societ Dante Alighieri
and has as secretary the General Secretary of the Societ. It has a Scientific
Committee and an Operations Committee and is coordinated by a Scientific
B. Scientific Committee
The Scientific Committee, chaired by the pro tempore President of Societ Dante
Alighieri, is composed by professors of world renown and guarantees the correct
drafting of scientific material for teaching and educational activities for PLIDA and
advises the Operations Committee.
It is currently composed of Mario Cardona (University of Bari), Valeria Della Valle
(University of Rome La Sapienza), Paola Giunchi (University of Rome La
Sapienza), Carla Marcato (University of Udine), Antonietta Marra (University of
Cagliari), Renato Martinoni (University of St. Gallen, Switzerland), Silvia Morgana
(University of Milan), Gabriele Pallotti (University of Modena/Reggio Emilia),
Luca Serianni (University of Rome La Sapienza), Harro Stammerjohann
(University of Frankfurt, Germany), Alfredo Stussi (Scuola Normale Superiore in
Pisa), John Trumper (University of Calabria).
C. Scientific Advisor
The scientific advisor coordinates the activities carried out by PLIDAs team and
supervises the activities in concert with the General Secretariat of the Societ. He
avails himself directly of the collaboration of a foreign language teaching expert
(Costanza Menzinger), a certification advisor (Daniele DAguanno) and an officer
in charge of educational materials (Silvia Giugni).
The current scientific advisor is Massimo Arcangeli, professor of Italian Linguistics
at University of Cagliari and of Principles and practice of journalistic parlance at
D. PLIDA Certification
PLIDA Certification is a qualification issued by the Societ Dante Alighieri based
on an agreement signed with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (no. 1903 of 4
It certifies competence in Italian as a Foreign Language on a scale of six levels, also
representing six stages of language learning process. The six PLIDA levels go from
A1 to C2 in difficulty corresponding to the Common European Framework of
reference for Languages of the Council of Europe (Quadro comune europeo di
riferimento per le lingue: apprendimento, insegnamento, valutazione, quote, page
It is held twice a year in May and November, through the following structure:
Basic PLIDA A1 = A1 CEF (Breakthrough)
PLIDA A2 = A2 CEF (Way stage)
PLIDA B1 = B1 CEF (Threshold)
PLIDA B2 = B2 CEF (Vantage)
Proficiency PLIDA C1 = C1 CEF (Effective Operational
PLIDA C2 = C2 CEF (Mastery)
E. Potential recipients of PLIDA
PLIDA is an internationally recognized and accredited certificate for foreigners attesting
to their skills in Italian as a foreign language. There is no age limit for the exam. The
candidate can start at any level; the completion of previous levels is not required. The
student can choose the most appropriate level and can enroll for more than one level in
the same session.
F. PLIDA Juniors
This exam is specifically developed for adolescents, taking into account their different
personal backgrounds from adults and ways of communication (work context, formal
relationships in institutional and public offices).
PLIDA JUNIORES is open to adolescents between 13 and 18 years old. They are
assessed as they progress, and the teaching materials are appropriate to the specific
teenagers age and experience.
The PLIDA JUNIORES levels go from A1 to C1, according to a difficulty scale and
are based on the first five levels settled by the Common European Framework of
reference for Languages of Council of Europe (Quadro comune europeo di riferimento
per le lingue: apprendimento, insegnamento, valutazione, quote, page 29-31).
Examinations are held twice a year in June and October.
PLIDA Juniors A PLIDA A1 = A1 Q.C.E. (Breakthrough)
PLIDA A2 = A2 Q.C.E. (Way stage)
PLIDA Juniors B PLIDA B1 = B1 Q.C.E. (Threshold)
PLIDA B2 = B2 Q.C.E. (Vantage)
PLIDA Juniors C PLIDA C1 = C1 Q.C.E. (Effective Operational Proficiency)
In 2010, 7.325 people around the world, registered for the PLIDA and projections based
on April 2011 first section of the exam, suggest that by the end of 2011 they could
increase by 30%.
4. THE JAPANESE STUDENTS
The type of students attending Italian language courses in Japan, is the most
diversified, but we can find mainly four main groups:
a. The first is the most numerous group and includes both young unmarried women
who left their jobs or are working part-time, or married women not performing work
outside the house, if not sporadically.
b. The second group, the retirees, is currently a very dynamic segment. More and more
elderly students, both men and women, reaching the age of retirement, begin Italian
c. Concerning the Italian courses offered by universities, it is interesting to note how a
growing number of them, offer Italian language classes for adult learners through
what are called: 'Open Colleges'.
According to data provided by the Embassy of Italy in Japan, the Universities public
and private, which offers Italian Language courses are about 80, from Hokkaido to
Only a few universities have Departments of Italian Studies, among them the:
- Tokyo University of Foreign Languages;
- Tokyo University;
- Kyoto University;
- Kyoto University of Foreign Languages;
- Osaka University
Many public universities and a certain number of private ones, particularly in Tokyo
and Kyoto, dont have Departments of Italian Studies, although they offer multilevel
courses with a relatively high number of students enrolled.
Even small universities in different Prefectures located far from large metropolitan
areas, offer courses in Italian, for example the Shizuoka University of Arts and
Unfortunately, the Japanese Government does not recognize the CEFR.
The Italian language is an important subject of studies in many Academies of fine
Arts such as the prestigious Tokyo University of Fine Arts and Music, and many
conservatoires, known in Japan as College / University of Music, for instance the
Kunitachi College of Music in Tokyo or the Osaka College of Music, among other.
The Embassy of Italy in Tokyo estimates that About 10,000 students are attending
Italian Language classes at universities, all over Japan.
Apparently, unlike other European languages, the demand for Italian language
courses continues to be high.
Even though the data seem a little optimistic, we must recognize that the presence of
the Italian language in Japanese university is quite large.
At the same time we must consider that many of the courses offered in universities,
where there are no departments of Italian are short courses for beginners, they have a
short duration and curricula rather limited.
Even if the programs of study are somewhat short and insufficient, it remains
important that there are beginners' courses in universities around the county, because
some of these students, after graduation, try to continue studying the Italian language,
independently, in private schools or public institutions.
The above is particularly important when one considers that on a national scale, in
2011, 70% of adult learners of Italian where at the level B1 and B2, indicating that
the demand for initial Italian language courses is practically stopped.
Concerning the Italian courses offered by Universities, it is interesting to note that a
growing number of them, offers Italian Language courses for adults learners,
through what are locally called 'Open Colleges'.
d. Growing is the demand for Italian language classes for children.
The Committee of the Dante Alighieri Society, trough the GGDA (Dante Alighieri's
youth group) for several years now, has been committed to the implementation of a
specific language and cultural program, in order to Italian and Japanese Italian
families, in the difficult task of maintaining and improving the Italian language
skills of their children.
The program is also designed to children of Japanese families who must relocate for
work, or are back from Italy. The program aims to support, promote and nurture the
interest of youngsters for Italian language and culture trough the organization of
after-school courses in Italian, integrating the study of the language and culture with
additional activities, such as the artistic, sporting and recreational ones.
5. THE TEACHING METHODOLOGY AND MATERIAL
Concerning language teaching and learning, we believe that CEFR is the most advanced
instrument and approach. However we also believe that its implementation in East Asia
should be related to the preparation of adequate curriculum or syllabi, textbooks,
materials, specific trainings for teachers and language instructors.
A problem that is particularly relevant to the teaching of European languages in
East -Asia, is that the textbooks are almost always made for European or
To achieve the linguistic objectives set by CEFR it is necessary to create and use
textbooks and teaching materials suited to the cultural and sociolinguistic
context of the students.
It seems to us necessary, in preparing textbooks for Asian students, to approach
important issues such as the diversities in the writing, far from the Latin
alphabet, the difficulties in transliterating and recognizing the linguistic
analogies, or the need for longer training time than the average students who
speak a language of European origin, without mentioning cultural and social
aspects related to different styles of learning.
The Dante Alighieri Society is particularly attentive to these issues and is
already working for the realization of specific texts.
Specifically the Tokyo Committee of Dante Alighieri Society, in collaboration
with the leading Florentine publishing house Alma, is preparing a new A2 level
Italian as a second language textbook, aimed at Chinese Japanese and Korean
Textbooks require, as a precondition to be effective, correct and specific
curriculum indications based on CERF, considering at the same time the above
Another important aspect is the development of curricula or syllabi that referring
to the CERF could be adapted to realities very far from a European context.
Each educational reality has its own peculiarities related to the context and
nature of the students; however, it seems important to carefully consider aspects,
related to the communicative tasks and the communicative acts, such as: Basic
linguistic forms, Lexicon, Socio-pragmatic, Phonetics,
Phonology, Prosody, Semantic-syntactic categories, Elements of culture,
Morph-syntax and meta-linguistic reflection.
C. Teachers training
Training programs for language teachers is essential in order to implement the
directions of the CERF.
More emphasis should be placed, in university courses across Europe, to the
preparation of language teachers and the 'Erasmus' exchange program could
help to create a new generation of 'Multilingual operators'.
Academic preparation however is not sufficient.
European Governments and public institutions should take responsibility for
promoting cyclical updating programs, conferences and workshops in
order to provide the teachers with opportunities to discuss various
methodological approaches, in connection with a constantly changing world.
6. CERF: A CULTURAL ISSUE
Going to the conclusions of this paper, it seems appropriate to mention shortly one
aspect, also emerged during the symposium, that concerns the tests of language
proficiency of European languages prepared outside of Europe, by organizations,
associations or local universities.
In many countries outside Europe these tests meet the favor of local teachers and the
For example in Japan, where the CERF is not recognized by the Japanese government,
the proficiency exam which is more successful is prepared by a local association and
collects tens of thousands of subscribers, against a few dozen collected by the Italian
government recognized exams based on the directives of CERF.
No one doubts that we should not use different criteria for teaching the same European
languages in different countries and different ways to measure language skills.
However we must not forget that the introduction of educational parameters and
evaluations based on European standards can be perceived, in certain countries, as
insensitive towards the local cultural and educational contest, or in some extreme cases,
a kind of cultural neocolonialism.
It seems essential to make an effort on the part of all: European language teachers,
academic and EU authorities, to ensure that the CERF is understood for what it is,
namely and first of all, a major project aimed at linguistic interaction, albeit imperfect,
based on the experience of countries that after centuries of wars and hostilities joined
together peacefully within the expanding boundaries of the EU.
If we look at Europe today we can see that peaceful coexistence is not a utopia, in this
regard multilingualism promoted within the European Union is a fundamental and
important tool for the more general economic and political integration of the continent.
A reality exemplified by the CERF and a virtuous example for all the peoples of the
The richness of European languages is a unique heritage that must be preserved and
Historically, we cannot imagine that English will remains the only vehicular language
spoken in the world.
New geopolitical realities, the emergence of new economic powers and demographic
data, indicate that a new 'Lingua Franca', could compete with, if not dismiss, English,
sooner than we can imagine today.
It has happened repeatedly, throughout History.
A competition between the European languages seems really nonsense.
Language is the soul of culture and the most spectacular instrument of human evolution.
Only a joint effort within Europe will maintain the cultural dignity of the Continent in
In order to achieve this goal we need sensitive strategies, economic and human
resources, including language teachers, who are the ideal ambassadors of intercultural
The role of language teachers is fundamental to open new opportunities in cross cultural,
political and economic relations, in an increasingly interconnected world.
8. ACKNOWLEDGEMENT & INFORMATION
Many thanks to:
Prof. Massimo Arcangeli, Prof and Costanza Menzinger, in Rome, for providing data
and description on the PLIDA project.
Dante Alighieri Society, Tokyo Committee
Tel/Fax: + + 81 3 5459 3222
e-mail: [email protected]
Dante Alighieri Society General Secretariat (Rome-Italy)
Tel: + + 39 06 6874531
Fax: + + 39 06 6873685
e-mail: [email protected]
Tel: + + 39 06 6873787
Comitato di Tokyo