Frequently Asked Questions


How will the school meet our family's needs?

Mother tongue education requires extra attention. We will ask about your child's background (born in the Netherlands? how many languages? speaking confidence in Italian?) to ensure we offer the right level and focus on what is needed most. Lessons will be based on the age and proficiency of the children being taught, as well as their families' goals.

Which teaching method is used?

We take a student-centered approach similar to what is offered at Dutch schools. We want children to be engaged in the lessons and take an active role in learning. The children are given a concrete task that involves them directly, in order to instigate a real and immediate use of the language.

The approach we use combines the Socratic and CLIL (Content and Language Integrated Learning) methods. The Socratic method uses examples and real-life context to allow the student to elaborate and memorize the grammatical and syntactic rules (and not vice versa). The CLIL method develops language by exploring the areas of history, geography, and science in Italian. CLIL has been shown to be an effective method with bilingual children not only because children expand their knowledge, but they also develop a positive attitude towards learning.

What happens during class?

Lesson plans will include activities that allow children to take an active role in their learning, while covering essential curriculum. For example, the youngest children might learn new words while taking turns pulling objects out of a bag. Children developing Italian literacy might write a letter about their weekend to their cousin in Italy. Older children might discuss a current event in Italy or be asked to talk about their family's region of Italy.

How big and varied are the groups?

Our aim is to minimize the variation of language level within groups, for example, by having more groups whenever possible, rather than a few, large, mixed groups. Groups will not exceed a size of 10 or 12.

If there are enough children registered, we will have a group of children aged 4 and 5, aged 6 to 8, and aged 9 to 12. The youngest children will learn in an age-appropriate play-based setting, increasing vocabulary and comprehension skills. The children aged 6 and older will learn to read and write in Italian only IF they already have a basis in reading and writing in their day school language (usually Dutch).

We speak Italian at home. Isn't that enough?

Developing formal skills in the mother tongue can have real cognitive benefits for multilingual children. Formal skills are usually not developed in the home setting.

The type of language spoken at home falls under what is called "BICS" or Basic Interpersonal Communication Skills. This is language needed in social situations.

CALP (Cognitive Academic Language Proficiency) refers to formal academic learning. This not only includes learning vocabulary, but it also includes skills such as comparing, classifying, synthesizing, evaluating, and inferring. The Italian lessons will develop these skills.

What can be achieved in only a few hours per week?

The formal lessons will help with literacy, grammar, vocabulary, etc. in the limited time that is available during the weekly lessons. The responsibility of helping the children develop Italian, however, does not lie solely with the Italian school. Ideally, the Italian-speaking parent(s) will speak Italian with the children consistently (even if the child responds in another language). Also important is reading / being read to in Italian on a regular basis at home.

Why does the school communicate in English?

We want to reach as many families as possible. Not all parents of Italian-speaking children are fluent in Italian or Dutch, so this is why we have chosen English for our website and general emails. Feel free to contact us in Italian or Dutch!

Where can I find more information about heritage language (mother tongue) education?

Check out the resources on the HLSE website.

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