Plaza Italia

Italian for Spanish Speakers: A Trans-Language and Inter-Cultural Learning Approach



Do you speak Spanish? You already know a fair amount of Italian!
Fluent in English and Spanish? Use your bi-lingualism to start becoming tri-lingual!

An “Italian for Spanish Speakers” course leverages the similarities between Italian and Spanish in vocabulary and grammar in order to accelerate the Italian language acquisition of speakers of Spanish. It utilizes the vast and growing body of literature on multi-lingualism, inter-comprehension and trans-languaging, which shows how the knowledge of two or more languages, and hence cultures, allows to fast-track learning in the classroom (see Resources below). The courses is taught in Italian like any other communicative-method course and expects students to produce orally and in writing in Italian, but includes regular comparisons with Spanish (and English when relevant) in the acquisition of vocabulary, grammar, and phonetics.


Explore the fascinating commonalities between Italian and Spanish/Latin American cultures (food, music, art, fashion, architecture)

ITAL 111 “Comprehensive Beginning Italian for Spanish Speakers” at Montclair State U also strives to regularly embrace humanities content which has thus far not been systematically integrated into courses of this nature. Specifically, the approach to teaching Italian to Spanish speakers at MSU consistently emphasizes the cultural commonalities between Italy and Latin America as the result of a shared colonial and migratory experience which has affected numerous aspects of life on different continents from architectural styles to religious practices. The intriguing cross-pollination that these historical circuits have produced has resulted in multiple cultural expressions (food, art, music, fashion) that constitute a rich base for the acquisition of Italian language and culture by Hispanic students, as well as students of Spanish. See the course webpage for details.


Earn 3 credits towards the language graduation requirement
ITAL 111 fast-tracks your path across ITAL101-102: it takes you directly to ITAL 140 (Intermediate) – Note: ITAL111 can be taken as either 101 or 102

ITAL 111 covers the program of 101 and 102 and fast-tracks students into ITAL140 (intermediate). This approach allows them to minor and major in Italian, or LBC (Language Business Culture) along an accelerated route. The class is open to all speakers of Spanish at an intermediate level, whether they know the language as part of their family’s heritage or they have learned it in school/college. The class is designed for students who have not taken any Italian prior to this class, as well as students who place at the 102 level, since this class covers the entire program of the first two semesters. Students who take it as 101 move to 140, while students who may decide to take it as 102 after 101, at the end of 111 will have completed the 6-credit sequence towards the language graduation requirement.


“ITAL 111 with its approach makes you aware that as a Latino you are really valuable in this community” – Paula Godoy Barbosa, Political Science and Law major, and Italian minor

“Comprehensive Italian for Spanish Speakers at Montclair State University has made me feel so welcome here. The course allowed me to bring my full linguistic self into the academic setting. [After] this course, we students walk away with much more than just learning the Italian language and culture. By highlighting the connections that do exist between these two languages, we walk away with a greater understanding of ourselves and what we have to offer.” -Kelvin Jimenez Michaca, Public and Professional Writing major, and Journalism minor

“The best way to fast-track learning Italian if you already know Spanish!” – Alyna Smith, Medical Humanities major

See also article about the SP20 edition of the class in The Montclarion


ITAL 111 embraces the diversity of MSU’s pluri-lingual and pluri-cultural campus

ITAL 111 was designed in connection to Montclair State University’s designation as Hispanic Serving Institution. Around 30% of the undergraduate population on campus is made up of Hispanic/Latin@ students: the course serves this community while also appealing to all Spanish language learners on campus with an intermediate knowledge of the language. In embracing MSU’s historical diversity in terms of pluri-lingualism and pluri-culturalism, whose strength the university intends to grow “as the State of NJ expands its diversity” (MSU Strategic Plan, Objective 2.1), ITAL 111 addresses a bi-lingual population and effectively fosters tri-lingualism.


Courses of this nature are offered at California State University Long Beach, University of California at Santa Barbara, Georgetown University, and Pepperdine University, among others. In a number of these campuses, Italian for Spanish speakers is taught as an intensive class of 6 credits or as part of a sequence. Of particular note are the courses offered at California State University Long Beach, where an NEH project has provided tools to explore inter-linguistic acquisition involving Italian in many directions (the textbook Juntos, K-16 collaborations, applied research).
Georgetown offers a 6-credit class (catalog description)
CSULB has three courses that count for four (course list)
UCSB has two terms that count for three (course description)

  • Special thanks to the team of faculty and staff at California State University Long Beach for their support and advice as trailblazers in the field of language acquisition across Romance Languages based on the Eurom 5 approach of the E.U. (Dr. Clorinda Donato, Dr. Diego Cortés Velásquez, and Manuel Romero). They were instrumental in the creation of ITAL111 at MSU.


General (documents, PPP’s, articles, grant opportunities)

Blanche-Belleviste, C. Il progetto EuRom5, comprendere le lingue oggi (1995).

A revolution in language: New French and Italian language courses at UCI are designed for Spanish (UC Irvine, May 6, 2021)

Workshop “Bridging the University and HS Systems Through World Languages: New Approaches to Italian Teaching”: PowerPoint contains a section on Italian for Spanish speakers

NEH grant for French and Italian for Spanish Speakers Initiative (Cal State U Long Beach)


International Journal of Multilingualism

Journal of Multilingual Theories and Practices

Sustainable Multilingualism

Critical Multilingual Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal


Conteh, Jean, and Meier, Gabriela, eds. The Multilingual Turn in Languages Education. Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2014.

Dolci, Roberto, and Anthony Tamburri, eds. Intercomprehension and Multilingualism: Theory and Practice for Teaching Romance Languages. New York: Queens College’s John D. Calandra American Institute, 2015.

García, Ofelia, and T. Kleyn, eds. Translanguaging with Multilingual Students: Learning from Classroom Moments. New York: Routledge, 2016.

—, N. Flores, and M. Spotti, eds. Handbook of Language and Society. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017.

May, Stephen. The Multilingual Turn Implications for SLA, TESOL and Bilingual Education. New York: Routledge, 2014.


Bürki, Yvette, and Milin Bonomi. “Percepción lingüística y prácticas translingües en la diáspora latina en Suiza e Italia: una propuesta metodológica.” Revista de Lingüística Iberoamericana (RILI), 2018.

Donato, Clorinda. “The Future is Multilingual: French, Italian, and Portuguese for Spanish Speakers,” ADFL Bulletin, Vol. 44, No. 1 (2016) pp. 112-127.

Donato, Clorinda, and Cedric Oliva. “The ties that binds: Italian for Spanish Speakers in Intercomprehension.” In Intercomprehension and Multilingualism: Theory and Practice for Teaching Romance Languages. Ed. Roberto Dolci, and Anthony Tamburri. New York: Queens College’s John D. Calandra American Institute, 2015.

Donato, Clorinda, and Violet Pasquarelli-Gascon. “The Language of the Other: Italian for Spanish Speakers through Intercomprehension,” Italica, Vol. 92, No. 3 (FALL 2015), pp. 713-735.

Spinelli, Barbara.** “The Multilingual Turn in FL Education: Investigating L3/Ln Reading-Writing.” Translation and Translanguaging in Multilingual Contexts 3:2 (2017). Amsterdam, NL: John Benjamins, 2017. 184-209.

Spinelli, Barbara.** “Localizing the Global: Exploring Responsive Forms of Inclusive Pedagogy in Order to Preserve Linguistic Biodiversity.” Plurilingual Education Research, Teaching and Language Policies. Ed. Marianne Hepp, and Martina Nied Curcio. Rome, Italy: Istituto Italiano di Studi Germanici, 2018. 105-22.

Spinelli, Barbara.** “Costruire competenze plurilinguistiche attraverso il co-apprendimento e l’approccio riflessivo: uno studio pilota negli USA.” Intercompréhension en réseau: scénarios, médiations, évaluations, Travaux du CRTT. Lyon, FR: Université Lyon 2, 2015. 113-24.

** For Barbara Spinelli’s articles, please contact the author via