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Strenghtening students’ interactional competence in Italian L2 exploiting a corpus of video-recorded spontaneous interactions.

Teaching materials for Italian as a Second/Foreign language are rather sparse, especially if we consider materials based on authentic spoken language, not to mention naturally occurring spontaneous interactions. Language students are generally almost exclusively exposed to the language used in classroom interactions (thus focused on classroom activities directed by the teacher or on language as a metalinguistic competence).
Even the Italian L2 materials used to train listening comprehensions and conversation skills are artificial recordings and hence far from being authentic.
Moreover, students often lack the opportunities to engage in social interaction in the L2 and are therefore unable to interact efficiently in the L2 when confronted with real communication settings.
The aim of the present paper is to present the ALIAS project, funded by KU Leuven, which aims to strenghten students’ listening comprehension and conversational skills through the exploitment of excerpts from real life every day and professional interactions videorecorded in Italy and Belgium.
Videorecordings include private interactions (dinner tables among friends), work place interactions, service encounters (at the restaurant, in a supermarket, in a bar) and didactic, both academic and school, interactions.
Students are asked to pay attention to interactional devices that help the interaction proceed smoothly and to which participants orient during conversations :

- Turn taking: how participants select the next speaker, how to hold the floor, when to end and to begin the next turn (including overlaps and listener responses);
- Boundaries: openings and closings of activity types;
- Organization, initiation and change of topic;
- Adjacency pairs (e.g. greetings, leave-taking, invitations, requests, compliments, and so forth) and their preference organization;
- Repair, the ways in which participants respond to interactional trouble in a given activity/practice.

Moreover, tasks deal with everyday activities and practices such as telephone calls; service encounters; giving, understanding instructions, directions and the likes; introducing oneself and others, etc. All the tasks are compliant with the Common European Framework of Reference for Language Learning, considering that KU Leuven Italian language courses range from absolute beginner to B2.

The exercises are implemented on KU Leuven elearning platform, and on CALL softwares Edumatic and Videolab Annotation Tool, so that they can be used by students and teachers both in the language class and as a self-study tool, available on and possibly accessible in any moment of the day and in any location through mobile devices as well.
The frameworks within which the project is situated are Task-based Language Learning and Conversation Analysis. The two perspectives go hand in hand, the second informing the kind of activities, and social organization of natural language in use, that students will be more likely to encounter when speaking the L2 in a variety of settings, and which may guide their language choices according to the situation. The use of spontaneous interactions is useful so far as it allows students to access how language is actually used in the course of every day, mundane and professional activities.


Maria Eleonora Sciubba    

M.E. Sciubba is Research Associate at the Department of Linguistics, KU Leuven, for the project ALIAS - Archivio di LInguA Spontanea. She defended her Ph.D. in Applied Linguistics in 2009 and holds a Post-doc in Italian Linguistics from the University of Roma Tre. She has taught Applied Linguistics and English Linguistics in Italian Universities. During her research career she has collected two corpora of spoken interactions one of Italian legal interactions, for her Ph.D., and one of everyday and professional interactions (ALIAS project).


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