Switzerland again

This time I was doing exams in Brig, Switzerland – few kilometers from the Italian border. It was a perfect 4-hrs train ride from Florence, with two nice colleagues Lorenza and Sara.

Exams in Brig is a “classic” – since 10 years I’ve been doing exams here at the Kollegium Spiritus Sanctus – every teacher’s dream school, a spacious, luminous, eco-building settled among the Swiss mountains.

Kollegium Spiritus Sanctus, Switzerland

Here we do mostly DELI exam, for more than hundred students.

Every year I have the occasion to work together with Swiss instructors of Italian, who are perfectly bilingual (this is an area where three languages, Swiss-german, Italian and French meet and mix).

the "AIL posse" in Brig

The students are always well prepared, the director, Giuliano Andri, is always a perfect host, and to be here is almost a vacation !


DALI Italian language exam evaluation, part two

We all agree that it is difficult to define the knowledge of a foreign language, very difficult to evaluate the oral knowledge of a speaker, and almost outrageous to claim to give a score for that.
The fact is, that there is a difference among someone who is barely able to present himself, someone who can have an everyday conversation in a restaurant and someone who can deliver a speech to an university audience.
And if you want to offer exams, you must have a transparent way to say it, to measure it, and given that the measurers are human beings, the way has to be the most independent and less biased possible.
The actual system of scoring in the DALI examination is already a good basis (see previous post), one way to make it better is to increase the grades of evaluation; where you have now four levels, can split them to arrive at six, like this:

statement formally correct or with some small grammatical mistakes (2 points)
statement mainly correct, with grammar mistakes which do not compromise the understanding (1.5 points)
statement mainly incorrect, and partially not understandable (1 point)
statement not understandable, or no statement. (0 point)

statement formally correct (2.5 points)
statement with some small grammatical mistakes (2 points)
statement mainly correct, with grammar mistakes which do not compromise the understanding (1.5 points)
statement mainly incorrect but generally understandable (1 point)
statement partially not understandable (0.5points)
statement not understandable, or no statement. (0 point)

This way, even if the experts continue to disagree as before, the wider score should “buffer” the differences and the final evaluation should result more homogeneous.
(end of part two of three)

Diploma Avanzato di Lingua Italiana, oral part

Being a director does not mean that you just watch the others working; sometimes it is necessary to produce some theorethical work too. Not necessary complex works, you just try to find practical solutions to real problems encountered in your experience, or of your colleagues.
The subject of the annual Workshop of the Accademia Italiana di Lingua (AIL), next March, will be the evaluation of the oral part of the DALI (Diploma of Italian Language, Advanced Level, C1 according to the European Language Portfolio), and I am working on my communication at the Workshop.
The exams of Accademia Italiana di Lingua are employed basicly in Italy and Switzerland, and the (rather) low number of candidates (about one thousand per year) allows AIL to delivery an high quality exam – for example, with an oral part administered and evalued by human examiners.
There is a scorecard like that

Meaning that the two candidates (they work in pair) have to perform three oral works: a synthesis, a discussion and a role playing; and they can receive a score from 0 to 2 points on their comunicativeness(efficacia comunicativa), expressiveness (ricchezza espressiva), correctness (correttezza formale); furthermore, they receive a score from 0 to 2 based on their pronunciation.

How to give the points from 0 to 2 is explained in a chart like that,

which for every activity tells the examiner how to value the performance of the candidate.

It looks quite granular, therefore quite precise. Still, as a matter of fact, in many cases the couple of examiners gives very different scores to the same candidate, especially if the examiners are not used to work together. (In these cases, there is a short discussion and they find a compromise, or make the mathematical average between the two scores)
This phenomenon became evident when, at one Workshop, we run some exam simulations, with real candidates, and the evaluations differed dramatically, with the nationalities of the examiners (yes, it is true that the Italian tend to give higher scores), with the age of the examiners, with the experience of examiners (expert examiners tend to give higher scores) but also according to other variables, for examples, Japanese students tended to be judged with higher scores by theachers who are used to work with Japanese students, etc.

So, the question AIL Workshop will address is – is there a less subjective way, more independent by the cultural background, personality, age etc. of the examiner, to evaluate the candidates ?
For me, it is a very interesting question also because it lays at the crossing of humanities and science – maybe you really can not measure some skills, like language abilities, but you are forced to try anyway, otherwise you renounce to make exams, release certificates, diplomas etc…
(end of part I)

Diploma Intermedio di Lingua Commerciale

Everything went smooth, apart for a 5 minutes delay in the delivery of the papers for the esame auditivo and for a CD player whose tone was a bit too low. The 23 candidates were divided in three classes, to have more place, and there were three commission for the oral section.
The supervisors and the examiners were satisfied with the organisation and with the student’s performances.

The DILC Italian examination papers

The DILC Italian examination papers

Now, all the materials are back to the headquarters of Accademia Italiana di Lingua, where they will be checked and valued.
At the end of the months, the results…

Notte prima degli esami

Traditionally, the night before the exams can be a troubled night for students. It can be troubled as well for whom is in charge of the exams, too.

Being involved with the preparation of the exams of Accademia Italiana di Lingua since 1985, as examinator, expert, internal supervisor, external supervisor, and exam centre in-charge, the night before the exam I always worry. Especially if – like this time – I have a good number of students, three rooms, three supervisors, three commissions of exam, and especially given that the exams are at my school , and everything must go smoothly.
I work hard in advance, to prepare the lists, the rooms, to fix the supervisors, the experts and the examiners. Of course, I have people who helps me, but, at the end of the day, I am the only responsible.
I want to be sure that everyone knows her/his part, and we go over and over the schedule, step by step.
And then, I go over the whole schedule again, to find out what could go wrong. Double check the lists, no name misspelled, noone forgotten, double check the CD for the audio test (CD tends to give bad suprises if you trust them too much), double check the CD players if they do work. Count and recount the exam booklets, one for every student – plus two or three more, just in case – see if the questions match with the answer’s papers .
A plan B is always necessary, even if you do hope to never use it. Backup for CD players, backup for examiners, copy machine at the ready… and then, if a snowfall hits and half of the teacher cannot come… Okay, goodnight, see you early in the morning, tomorrow will be a big day.

DILC: B1 level exam of Italian for commercial purposes

Nowadays there are many different institutions offering examination in Italian language, mostly the Italian Universities which offer courses for foreigners (Siena, Perugia, Roma); in their offer we find basicly one exam each per ELP (European Language Portfolio) level, A2, B1, B2, C1, C2.
The Accademia Italiana di Lingua (AIL) a free association of private schools in Europe, has in its catalogue also two exams of Commercial Italian, the DILC (Diploma Intermedio di Lingua Italiana Commerciale) and the DALC (Diploma avanzato di lingua italiana commerciale). Next week a group of 23 students coming form a “Lycee” in Geneve will sit for the DILC at Scuola Toscana.
A B1 Exam in Commercial Italian is quite an exclusivity of AIL – usually the commercial exams are at the top of the range, you are supposed to be already very fluent in Italian – and after that can start with the business Italian.
But, as a matter of fact, reality is often different, many people do not have too much time to study, and must start using Italian in their work as soon as possible ; Europe is full of small business where the knowledge of another language – even an approximate knowledge – can be a competitive advantage. Think of all the people working in the tourism business, or in touristic places, think of members of various family businesses which export their goods, thimk of professionals who go abroad… DILC is designed for them, the syllabus was created on their needs.
In this exams there are small (but real) texts to be understood in their general meanings, short communicative sentences to be written (memos, signs, etc.) and a short letter (or email), there is a bit of technical lexicon. The comprehension texts are real exchanges where you have to gather the important information ( a telephone number, a price) and then there is the spoken part, where the students work in pairs ( so they can help each other – and the exchange “inter pares” is more realistic ) and they have to roleplay some typical work situation (negotiating, convincing, etc)
It is definitely my favourite exam – probably the most useful – as a matter of fact, more than 300 students did it since its creation in 2006 and has been recognized by the UFFT (Swiss Federal Office for professional education and technology) as final Exam of Italian as second national language for all the professional commercial schools of Helvetic Confederation.