EILC Courses at University for Foreigners of Siena

Author(s): Carla Bagna, Francesca Gallina
Institution/Organisation: University for Foreigners of Siena (IT)


1.1 Scope of the initiative

The Language Centre of the University for foreigners of Siena (UNISTRASI) is the central service institution responsible for UNISTRASI students’ language learning. Students who use iit may be: non-native learners of Italian, Italian students and Erasmus students.

The initiative of this case is addressed to a specific category of students, targeting the Erasmus students, who choose to learn Italian language before going to study in an Italian university for a longer period.

The case study presented here will focus on the Erasmus Language Intensive Courses (EILC), whose aim is to provide Erasmus students with at least a basic communicative competence of Italian language and to develop their linguistic competences in order to follow and comprehend Italian academic lessons, understand Italian scientific texts, write short papers and essays, etc.


1.2 Range of languages studied

The EILC courses are focused on the learning of Italian as a Foreign Language. Erasmus students usually choose to study Italian as a Foreign Language at UNISTRASI to prepare themselves before attending other universities’ courses in Italy.

1.3 Learning outcomes

EILC courses aim to provide students with an intensive programme developing their communicative skills of Italian as a Foreign Language.

EILC courses are organized in 6 levels according to the CEFR levels, depending on the start level of learners. A placement test is used to assign students to courses at different levels.

In the beginning levels the aim of the courses is to develop both the basic communicative
competence and the specific communicative skills relating to academic life (listening to
university lectures, reading scientific texts, taking notes, summarizing a text, writing short
reports). Beginner students can also take courses of Italian for specific purposes.

In the intermediate levels the aim of the courses is to develop the specific communicative skills related to academic life (listening to university lectures, reading academic texts, taking notes, summarizing a text, writing essays and reports, make oral presentations, discuss on topics related to their study programme). These courses are intended to promote the development of language skills for specific studies and activities on the following areas: language for sciences, language for humanities, language for law, language for business and economics.

1.4 Practical realisation

EILC courses are awarded credits, with students obtaining 6 ECTS credits for a course. At the end of every course students take an exam and receive a certificate of participation. After the end of the courses students can receive 5 hours of on-line tutorial lessons in order to help them when attending Italian universities.

The courses are held in language laboratories, audiovisual laboratories and multimedia classrooms to offer a motivated learning environment to language learners, providing also many facilities to students. Also cultural courses and activities are available.


2.1 Context

The University for Foreigners of Siena continues the tradition started by the Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinand I, who established in 1558 the first school for teaching Italian language to German students. Today The University is one of the only two public institutions in Italy specialised in teaching Italian as a Foreign Language, promoting the diffusion of Italian language and culture in Italy and abroad.

Teaching and research activities are carried out by the following structures of the University: Faculty of Italian Language and Culture, Departments of Humanities, Department of Languages and Cultures, Language Centres, Centro for Certification of Italian as a Foreign Language, Centre for Certification for Teaching of Italian as a Foreign Language, Centre of Excellence (Permanent Linguistic Observatory on the diffusion of Italian Language), Centre for Training and Updating with information and communication technologies.

The UNISTRASI offers courses for both university students and language teachers. In addition to traditional courses on Italian language and culture, it awards university degrees, postgraduate courses, masters, PhDs. It has about 507 university students, of whom 17% come from abroad. In the language courses of Italian as Foreign Language there were 3.754 students last year. The UNISTRASI participates in European programmes such as Erasmus, Socrates, an other staff and students exchange programmes with more than 34 partners in different countries.

At the Language Centre of the UNISTRASI several languages are taught: English, French, Spanish, German, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Japanese and Italian as a Foreign Language.

The UNISTRASI provides a multilingual and innovative learning environment with independent learning facilities, teaching rooms fully equipped with television, DVD players, CD players, computers with internet access and projectors. Students are also free to use the language laboratory and have free access to the library of the university.


2.2 Strategic goals of the initiative

The initiative pursues the following goals:



In our case, success factors are numerous and combine in synergy to support language learning and motivate students to learn Italian as a Foreign Language:


5.1 Lessons to be learned at institutional level

From our initiative several relevant lessons can be derived in order to motivate students to learn Italian as a Foreign Language in our institution:

In order to improve implementation of EILC courses the following could be of relevance:

5.2 Broader implications

The lessons we derived from our experience could also be relevant to other institutions
aiming at motivating language learners, especially for what concerns the following aspects: