The non-fluent speakers of Italian at the IMS, University of Milan, had our first language courses today. Here is how the program’s system works of teaching Italian to second-language students.
The university’s goal is, by the end of our second year at IMS, to have us all up to level B2 of the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. This corresponds to upper intermediate proficiency: the ability to hold technical discussions about medicine, to communicate without strain with native speakers, and to be able to write complex texts. To this end, the IMS has Italian-language teachers come to our classroom for two hours, twice a week, to give lessons to all of us who do not have B2 proficiency.
The language-learning process began over the past two weeks, when we were required to go on our own time a private testing agency in Milan to be examined individually for Italian language ability. The test was computerized, and happened to be by the same company, Selexi, which conducted the English-language medical program entrance exam for the Cattolica, a different university, whose teaching hospital is in Rome. The language proficiency test format — that is, the layout on the screen and timing — were even the same as the Cattolica exam.
Today, during class, we were told that at our next lesson on Thursday, we would be split into a beginner and intermediate group, based on our test results, with classes in different rooms. The two teachers interviewed us individually today, and had us fill out a questionnaire about what our expectations were from the course. Then, we spent the rest of the two hours just going over basic Italian: how to say your name, where you are from, what your hobbies are, and so forth. Our teachers were cheerful and patient.
They said that we are required to attend 80% of Italian language classes through IMS, in order to sit the B2-level exam in a couple of years. I am guessing — although I am not certain — that we will only be allowed into the clinical third year when we have this proficiency. Almost all of our patients will be native Italian speakers, so it goes without saying that we must master the language pretty well, in order to be effective clinicians.
Erik Campano is a consultant to the English medical school of the University of Turin and doing a Master's degree studying artificial intelligence applications in global health at the University of Umeå, Sweden. He completed his Bachelor’s of science in Symbolic Systems at Stanford University, and then he worked for about eight years as a radio news anchor, before moving to biomedical scientific study and research at the University of Paris and Columbia University. His goal is to develop AI technologies for international emergency humanitarian aid organizations like Doctors without Borders, and to combine medicine and journalism. Erik grew up in Connecticut, and is a citizen of the United States and Germany.
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