Maria Desiatova, Head of STOUH Department of Romance Languages, Gives Talk at Conference on “The Italian Language on Stage”

imageFrom October 24-26, 2019, an international academic conference on “The Italian Language on Stage: Semiotic Codes in Life and Work” took place in Moscow under the aegis of the Italian Consulate General, the Italian Institute of Culture, Lomonosov State University, and Moscow State Linguistic University. Maria I. Desiatova, Head of the Department of Romance Languages at Saint Tikhon's Orthodox University of the Humanities (STOUH), took part in the event.

At the plenary session on October 25, Maria Desiatova gave a talk on “Using Theatrical Elements to Teach Italian Pronunciation”. In her talk, she concentrated on the notion that theatrical performances are a useful motivator for teachers of foreign languages: in the process of acting out, memorizing, and repeating texts, psychological impediments and the language barrier are lowered, free expression is facilitated, and students come to have a positive attitude – and if the performance is successful, this raises the motivation of both sides. A severe lack of time and the lack of availability of a stage for rehearsals stand in the way of large projects, but using theatrical devices in ordinary lessons in a classroom can yield tangible results. This is especially noticeable in the process of teaching pronunciation, when students are made to read out memorized texts without thinking about whether the grammar is correct.

Teaching standard pronunciation is a very important part of the process of mastering the standard model of a language, since elegant, correct pronunciation means well developed proficiency in the spoken language and is a guarantee of successful intercultural communication.

The main difficulty in teaching standard Italian pronunciation, in the view of Maria Desiatova, is that a standard model of pronunciation exists more in theory than in practice, and one can only hear “model” speech that could serve as a guide for those studying Italian from specially trained native speakers who have completed courses in diction – in other words, theater actors and (though less and less so) film actors and television text readers.

In this context, it becomes especially suitable for theatrical elements to feature in the study of Italian. In the process of mastering the standard model of the language with the aid of special techniques, most of the main parameters of Italian pronunciation are refined: volume, tempo, the timbre of consonants, expressiveness.

The talk also laid out the speaker's methodology and made suggestions of original phonetic exercises. The talk was accompanied by a presentation and aroused considerable interest from the audience, among whom were scholars, Italian teachers, and students.