Italian language school

Translated by Marilena Vimercati

In addition to research on international issues, , since the 2000s, CESPI has carried out initiatives aimed at facilitating migrants’ integration. The main action is the free Italian L2 courses for foreign adults.

Since 2009, about one hundred migrants of different provenance (Africa, Asia, South America, Eastern European countries) have been enrolling every year to learn Italian language, as the mastery of Italian language is the first step for the inclusion of people from non-EU countries living in our area.

Knowledge of Italian at A2 level is required by the recent law concerning the Integration Agreement that all foreign citizens must sign when they enter Italy for the first time and the EC Long-Term Residence Permit.

The main pedagogical idea

Cespi’s Italian language school shares the idea promoted by the Council of Europe that it is essential to ground teaching in the experiences of adult learners, linking it to prior knowledges and informal learning processes that take place throughout life.

This approach is reinforced today by the CEFR – the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages – which invites us to consider linguistic-communicative competence as part of the broader action competence of a social performer.


In the Italian language school the teachers, about thirty, are all volunteers with different professional backgrounds, although most of them have a teaching background in schools of all levels (pre-school, primary, junior and senior secondary). Some of them have DITALS certification (Teaching Italian as a foreign language) issued by the University of Siena.

Courses target groups

Adult migrants, both men and women, who need to learn/enhance their level of linguistic competence can enrol in the Italian language school. They are mostly from elementary language levels.

Courses are designed taking into account the language proficiency level, as assessed by a test that is given in the initial phase, and also on the basis of the migrants’ preferences in terms of favourable timetables that can be combined with their work/family commitments.

At Cespi centre, courses are held both in the morning and in the evening.

At Mothers’ school the courses take place in the morning with the assistence of nurses who look after the children while the mothers attend the lessons.

Courses locations

The courses for adult migrants, both men and women, take place at Cespi’s main office three days a week in the morning and in the evening.

Since 2018/19 a specific course for adult men and women has been held after dinner at the Parish of St. John.

The courses for women with children are held at the Parish of St John in the morning with the assistance of nursery teachers who look after the children while their mothers attend the class.

Language competence levels

The CEFR Common European Framework of Reference for Languages – identifies six general levels covering the language learning spectrum:

For each level, competence descriptors have been defined with reference to comprehension and to oral and written production.

However, there is a Pre A1 level in the CEFR.

With reference to the context of many European countries, the Council of Europe recognised to introduce language proficiency descriptors for the levels prior to A1.

In the new Common European Framework of Reference, better known as the Companion Volume descriptors have been included for the pre-A1 level.

Language competence certification

Every year many students attend the A2 level certification exam at the CPIA2 in Cinisello, with which  Cespi has a specific agreement in act.

In 2019, 9 students from Cespi and 16 women from the Mothers’ school obtained A2 level certification by having passed the test at the CPIA.

CESPI Italian language school is now open to the web

On the CESPI website there is a specific freely accessible area with digital resources for learning Italian L2: these digital resources can be used to integrate classroom training and in self-learning.

The availability of the interactive whiteboard, purchased thanks to funds from the Cerchiamoci Project, facilitates the use of online resources both for learners with low language skills and for those who have a better language level.

The opportunity to learn the Italian language outside the classroom reduces the time it takes to acquire the linguistic skills needed to live as citizens aware of their rights and duties; learning the main elements of t living in the Italian society allows to understand the specific issues related to the practical aspects of daily life (institutions, home, school, health, work), to know the most important social and cultural factors and to become aware of diversity.

The resources on the website are related to the level

Pre A1


Social and cultural activities

As a complement to the teaching of Italian as a second language, every year we propose opportunities to get together and share aspects of the different cultures, such as ethnic dinners, visits to the Campari Foundation and to the Sconfinando Fairtrade Shop, meetings with health professionals and trips to Milan.

School in the time of Covid-19

In 2020, due to the health emergency, no classroom courses were held. Taking into account the availability of teachers, trainees and the technological skills of both, 5 online courses were started in November at Cespi and 3 courses at the Mothers’ school. Several technological resources were used so that no one was left behind: Whatsapp, Skype, Google Meet and Zoom. The trainees were grouped according to their level of linguistic competence: 1 course at A1 level, 5 courses at A2 level and 2 courses at B1/B2 level.