By Arabella Ahearn and Emma Frank
From late 2020, current year 11 and 12 Italian students have embarked on a virtual exchange with a school in Bergamo, Italy. To adapt the international exchange to the COVID safe era, we used Flipgrid to exchange videos with the Italian students, speaking in each other’s native languages.
It was a great opportunity to practice our speaking skills and test them in a more authentic scenario. Learning from authentic Italian speakers improves our vocabulary, grammar and pronunciation far more effectively than from reading a textbook. This allowed us to learn new languages in a more casual and enjoyable way. We discussed school life, cultural differences, cooking, pastimes and more. Not only was it a chance to bond with these students but a way to expand our worlds and break down cultural barriers.
This experience has provided us with an incredible chance to form a ‘global community’ – meeting people on the other side of the world, learning about different cultural practices and lifestyles and forming connections despite being so far away. In these times that we have never been as much divided, with travel bans and many in isolation, it is more important than ever to stay connected.
This opportunity is so important for us as Loreto women, especially when looking at social justice this Loreto Day. Being able to forge a sense of interconnectedness between people with so many differences, especially in a time of such great uncertainty, is a great privilege. This ability to connect is something that is so often taken for granted, especially in the modern world, where the ability to speak with people on the other side of the world can happen in a second. This exchange has given the year 11 and 12 French and Italian students the opportunity to connect with culture, language and people across the world on a deeper level, forming connections with students just like ourselves and learning about their lives, and about the rich culture that exists outside of stereotypes.
The French language students underwent a similar virtual exchange program during this time and have had this to say about their experience:
“I found the exchange a really cool experience as not only am I learning about the culture but also making a new friend from a different country in the process. This experience is also helping me with my French skills, especially speaking. I’ve learnt about school life in France as well as the traditions that they have for certain holidays or even for ones that we don’t have here in Australia. I’ve also learned about what people like to do over there and common practices.” Bella, year 11 French
“It's been a great opportunity to connect with students similar to us from another country and learn more about their lives and cultures. Hearing a native speaker speak the language helps us with our pronunciation. We can relate to each other because we are learning each other’s language and face similar challenges.” Eva, year 11 French student.
The Bergamo students have created a video detailing what life is like for them in Italy as well as discussing the virtual exchange. Today, in Italy it is common practice for students to know three languages: Italian, English, and another world language: the experience of being a language learner is covered in this video as well. It will be posted independently within this edition of the Mary Word, so please check it out and appreciate their hard work.
Infine, vogliamo ringraziare gli studenti di Bergamo per questa esperienza fantastica. Ci ha aiutato di imparare italiano autenticamente ed era una opportunità di incontrare tanti personaggi belli. A prestissimo! Un bacione, Arabella e Emma.