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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




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

in Europe.

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.


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

and Australia.

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,

and research.

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

June 2004).

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

cultural institutions.

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

Luiss (Rome).

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

November 1993).

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%.


The type of students attending Italian language courses in Japan, is the most

diversified, but we can find mainly four main groups:

a. Women

b. Seniors

c. University

d. Children

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

Language courses.

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.


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. Textbooks

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

Western students.

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

mentioned issues.

B. Curriculum

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.


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

the world.

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.



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]


PLIDA (Rome-Italy)

Tel: + + 39 06 6873787



Comitato di Tokyo