What you will learn
You will learn some useful language and tips to write your written assignment. Please refer to the language ab initio syllabus for specific details and requirements. Also become VERY FAMILIAR with the marking criteria for the written assignment, found from pp. 33-39 in the ab initio 2015 syllabus, and use it as a checklist. It is also a good idea to read the 2014 subject Report and Subject Report 2015 relating to the WA’s submitted in previous years.
Remember, the use of linking words is essential in your essay to gain full marks in each section.
What you need to know
There is a very strict 200-350 word limit. However, direct quotes are not part of the word count, consequently take advantage of quotes to get some of your ideas across so as to avoid going over the word limit. But do not force quotes – make sure they are justified and that they flow with the rest of the paragraph.
You need 2-4 sources in the target language – additional sources in any language are optional. You must submit the sources in the target language with your assignment and all sources in all languages but be included in the bibliography.
Choosing your topic.
A good starting point is a source that explains some features of Italian culture. Of course, culture by definition is a big generalisation, and not everything you discover will apply to all Italians, particularly when the topic is about habits (eg. coffee drinking), behaviours (eg. “fare bella figura”) and attitudes (eg. views on immigrants), as opposed to more defined topics, such as school systems, governments. etc.
Some resources to get you started:
Here are some examples suggested by the IBO for all languages. The advice is to narrow down your topic and choose something specific, rather than a broad topic, for your comparison.
Personal details, appearance and character
Japanese ab initio: Why do Japanese students wear a school uniform whereas Italian students do not?
Italian ab initio: Why is la passeggiata an important part of daily life in Italy?
Mandarin ab initio: Why are early morning exercises considered essential in China?
French ab initio: The role of women—a French family and an American family
Food and drink
German ab initio: Food and drink festivals in Germany and New Zealand
Malay ab initio: Shopping at the market in Malaysia and Canada
Indonesian ab initio: Young people and part-time employment in Indonesia and Scotland
Russian ab initio: Young people’s attitudes towards alcohol and smoking in Russia and Egypt
Spanish ab initio: How is Easter celebrated in Barcelona compared to my community in Melbourne?
Swahili ab initio: The ideal school day—the secondary school education systems of Kenya and Switzerland
Arabic ab initio: Finding sustainable methods of transport in Jordan and Greece
Town and services
English ab initio:The greenest way of getting around a capital city—London versus Paris
Some good ones from previous MLC Italian students compare the following cultural aspects in Italy and Australia: coffee – soccer – bread – weddings – exercise – opera – alcohol -tourism
Section A: A description of the chosen topic
In this section you simply describe your chosen topic with factual information. Imagine you are explaining this concept to someone who knows nothing about the Italian culture.
To introduce your topic, you may use the following sentences:
- L’argomento che trattero` in questa tesina e` la moda.
- L’argomento di questa tesina e` la moda.
Depending on the topic, you may wish to use some “authoritative phrases” such as “secondo gli esperti”, “da una recente indagine risulta che” etc, which can be found in the topic of healthy habits. You may also choose to use some quotes from one of your Italian sources in this section (but remember that direct quotes are NOT counted in the word limit). Ensure that the use of your quotes are justified – for example, that you are quoting to add authority to your statement – and that your quotes are introduced by sentences such as “Come spiega il professor Rissi, “.
- In this section, students tend to throw in quotes unnecessarily and without a proper introductory phrase.
- Students tend to go into “sub-topics” and expand on these, rather than simply stating 3 or 4 FACTS about the topic
- Students tend to start comparing or mentioning Australia – section A is only about your topic in relation to ITALY.
- Students already begin to explain why this tradition exists instead of explaining it in section C
To get 2/2 for this section ensure that “more than two pieces of relevant factual information about the target culture is used in the description“. To be safe, mention at least 3 or 4!!
Section B: Comparing the topic in the two cultures
In this section you have to compare the differences and/or similarities between the chosen topic in Italian culture and Australian culture. Again, imagine you are explaining this to someone who is not familiar with either culture – indeed, it is highly unlikely for the marker to know anything about Australian culture. For example, if your topic was the school day, you would mention what the Australian school day has in common with the Italian school day (eg. early start, recess break, rotating lessons) and what instead is quite different (eg. students stay in the same classroom all day, with teachers moving from one room to another; school finished at lunchtime in Italy but at 3 ish here, Italian students go home for lunch, etc).
Basically, tell me about your topic in Australia VIA the four points you expressed in section A.
A common mistake for section B is a lack of cohesion – the marker comments that it sounds like “lista della spesa”. Ensure all the ideas in this paragraph flow well via use of linking words and by finding a logic thread to connect your points.
To get 3/3 in this section, ensure “cultural differences and/or similarities are consistently presented in a clear and coherent manner“. This means that your ideas have to flow well and follow an obvious strong logical thread.
|La differenza fondamentale tra + topic+ in Italia e in Australia e’ + noun||La differenza fondamentale tra il cibo in Italia e in Australia e` la qualita`||The main difference between food in Italy and in Australia is quality|
|Un’altra differenzae` chein Australia …. + verb clause||Un’altra differenza e` che in Australia il lavoro si trova facilmente||another difference is that in Australia work can be found easily|
|Un’altra differenzae` che gli Australiani …. + loro verb ||Un’altra differenza e` che gli Australiani bevono il cappuccino anche dopo pranzo e cena||Another difference is that Australians drink cappuccino even after lunch and dinner|
|A differenza dell’Italia, in Australia + si impersonale verb OR A differenza degli Italiani, gli Australiani + loro verb||A differenza dell’Italia, in Australia non si mangia molto a cena OR A differenza degli Italiani, gli Australiani non mangiano molto a cena||Unlike Italy, in Australia one doesn’t eat much at dinner|
Unlike Italians, Australians don’t eat much at dinner
|topic + come quello/a/i/e australiano/a/i/e, e`/sono+ adjective||Le strade australiane, come quelle italiane, sono molto trafficate||Australian roads, like Italian ones, are full of traffic|
|Rispetto + a||Il rugby in Australia e` molto più popolare rispetto all’Italia||Rugby in Australia is more popular compared to Italy|
|State fact from Italy. In Australia, invece, + difference||Le chiese in Italia sono quasi esclusivamente cattoliche. In Australia, invece, abbiamo chiese di denominazioni cristiane diverse.||Churches in Italy are almost all Catholic, In Australia, instead, we have churches from different Christian denominations.|
|noun + è più + adjective||La giornata scolastica in Australia è più lunga di quella italiana||The school day in Australia is longer than that in Italy|
|noun + è meno+ adjective||Il traffico in Australia è meno intenso nei centri||Traffic in Australia is less heavy in the city centres|
|Sia in Italia che in Australia ….||Sia in Italia che in Australia ci sono animali in pericolo di estinzione||Both in Italy and in Australia there are animals in danger of extinction|
|Anche in Australia (come in Italia )….||Anche in Australia la giornata scolastica inizia verso le otto||Even Australia the school day begins at around 8 o’clock|
|Neanche in Australia …||Neanche in Australia è proibita la caccia||Hunting isn’t prohibited in Australia either.|
Use of verbs in your sentence
Typically, your sentence structure will be as follows:
- Introductory phrase + gli Italiani/gli Australiani+ loro form of the present tense
Eg. Una differenza fondamentale e` che gli Australiani mangiano la pizza alta
- Introductory phrase + in Italia/Australia+ si impersonale verb
For the si impersonale verb, all you need to do is put a SI before the lui/lei form of the verb in the present tense.
Eg. MANGIARE= si mangia; LAVORARE=si lavora
However, if the verb is followed by a PLURAL noun, then place use the loro form of the present tense instead.
1. Un’altra differenza è che in Australia si mangia la pizza
2. Un’altra differenza è che in Australia si mangiano le pizze
3. Un’altra differenza è che in Australia si mangiano la pizza e la pasta (note: two single nouns “add up” to a plural, so if you are using more than one noun immediately after the si impersonale verb, you must use the LORO form of the verb in the present tense).
Section C: A reflection related to the chosen topic
In this section you must answer these 3 guiding questions, which are each marked separately: Which aspect of your chosen topic surprised you? Why do you think these cultural similarities/ differences exist? What might a person from the target culture find different about your chosen topic in your culture?
You need to write your questions as subtitles. I suggest writing the first two questions together, and answering both in one cohesive and coherent response (see examples below).
Pay careful attention to the marking criteria for each question. Criterion C is where most students lose a mark or two.
Criterion C: Which aspect of your chosen topic surprised you?
To gain 3/3, ensure “a relevant aspect of the chosen topic has been identified and fully developed* in answer to the question“. I suggest mentioning TWO aspects that surprised you.
* The most common criticism by markers for Criterion C is that the student has simply stated a “mere fact” without expanding and developing the fact. For example, this was awarded 1/3:
Here is an example of an answer that got 2/3, with the answer considered “incompleto”:
Here are two examples that got full marks as, according to the marker, the points were “ben sviluppati” – well developed:
The marking, unfortunately, is inconsistent. Looking at these marked assignments, It’s hard to understand what the markers expect and how to get 3/3. The only thing that appears different is that candidates who got full marks mentioned Australia again in this section (“in Australia”, “quello australiano”). The only advice I can give is to mention TWO things that surprised you, AND to find a way to expand on it (by referring back to Australia or perhaps explaining why it surprised you) before you start to answer the second question below.
Criterion D: Why do you think these cultural similarities/ differences exist?
To gain 3/3, ensure “at least one reason whey these cultural differences and similarities exist has been identified and fully explained“.
Criterion E: What might a person from the target culture find different about your chosen topic in your culture?
To gain 3/3, ensure “at least one difference has been identified and fully developed in answer to the question“.
Common mistakes for Question 3:
- students tend to use the same point for Q.3 as they did in Q.1 or Q.2. Eg. “I was surprised to discover that Italians don’t wear a uniform. An Italian would find quite different the fact that in Australia uniforms are compulsory”
In summary, I suggest the following format:
Section C: Reflection
Which aspect of your chosen topic surprised you? Why do you think these cultural similarities/ differences exist?
1.first thing that surprised you + why + reason for this difference.
2. second thing that surprised you + why + reason for this difference.
What might a person from the target culture find different about your chosen topic in your culture?
3. what would surprise an Italian + why + reason for this difference
(and, if it fits in your word limit….) 4. another thing that would surprise and Italian + why + reason for this difference
Guiding question 1: Which aspect of the chosen topic surprised you?
|La cosa che più mi ha colpito è che||La cosa che più mi ha colpito è il fatto che in Italia si va a scuola il sabato||What surprised me the most is that fact that in Italy you you go to school on Saturdays|
|Mi ha sorpreso scoprire che||Mi ha sorpreso scoprire che in Italia il cappuccino si beve solo al mattino||It was surprising to discover that in Italy you only have a cappuccino in the morning|
|Sono stata colpita dal fatto che||Sono stata colpita dal fatto che il traffico in Italia è il peggiore d’Europa||I was surprised by the fact that traffic in Italy is the worst of all Europe|
|Trovo sorprendente che (+ subjunctive verb)||Trovo sorprendente che ci sia (subjunctive verb) razzismo tra il Nord e il Sud d’Italia||I find surprising that there is racism between the North and South of Italy|
|Mi ha stupito il fatto che (+ subjunctive verb)||Mi ha stupita il fatto che in Italia si possano (subjunctive verb) bere alcolici a 16 anni||I was surprised by that fact that in Italy you can drink alcohol at 16|
Guiding question 2: Why do you think these cultural similarities/differences exist?
|E` possibile che questa differenza sia dovuta a+ noun||è possibile che questa differenza sia dovuta all’importanza dei pasti in Italia.||It’s possible that this difference is due to the importance of meals in Italy|
|Credo che la ragione di questa differenza sia il fatto che…||Credo che la ragione di questa differenza sia il fatto che in Italia questo è un problema recente.||I believe that the reason for this difference is the fact that in Italy this is a recent problem|
|Secondo me, il motivo di questa somiglianza è il fatto che…||Secondo me, il motivo di questa somiglianza è il fatto che sia gli italiani che gli australiani sono appassionati di sport||In my opinion, the reason for this similarity is the fact that both Italians and Australians love sport|
|Probabilmente questa differenza è dovuta a + noun||Probabilmente questa differenza e` dovuta alla storia: l’Australia e` un paese molto giovane||This difference is probably due to history: Australia is a very young country…|
Guiding question 3: What might a person from Italy find different about your chosen topic in Australia?
|Un italiano troverebbe strano che in Australia + noi form of verb + info||Un italiano troverebbe strano che in Australia mangiamo uova e bacon a colazione||An Italian person would think that it is strange that Australians eat egg and bacon in the morning|
|Gli Italiani troverebbero insolita l’usanza di + infinitive||Gli Italiani troverebbero insolita l’usanza di mangiare uova e bacon a colazione||Italians would find the tradition of eating bacon and eggs for breakfast|
|Probabilmente, gli Italiani considererebbero alquanto atipico il fatto che in Australia + si impersonale verb OR noi form of verb||Probabilmente, gli Italiani considererebbero alquanto atipico che in Australia mangiamo uova e bacon a colazione||Perhaps Italians would find it quite odd that in Australia we eat bacon and egg in the morning|
Bibliography & Formal Requirements
Remember to include a bibliography following the guidelines in the syllabus:
Bibliography and register combined are worth two marks. You can check good examples of a bibliography in the student samples below. Please note that I have not included a copy of their sources, which you will have to submit with your WA.
Sample Written Assignments
Here are two WA’s from 2015 which gained full marks. Thank you to Luci and Sabrina for sharing their assignments to help us better understand the expectations of the markers.
Luci WA ; Sabrina’s WA
Here are some other Written assignment samples that I wrote with a class in 2013- they are not perfect examples (especially for word limit) and the information is NOT based on real research. But you may find some concepts, vocab, phrases and structures useful.
Each language ab initio course has its own language-specific syllabus. The three common elements in each language-specific syllabus are:
- vocabulary lists under topic headings
- a list of prescribed grammar
- a list of the instructions for the written examination papers.
The language ab initio syllabus comprises three interconnected areas: language, themes and texts. Language acquisition will be achieved through the development of receptive, productive and interactive skills and competencies. Elements of language include vocabulary, grammatical structures, register, pronunciation and intonation. The three themes (individual and society, leisure and work, urban and rural environment) are made up of a series of 20 topics. These serve as the foundation for the acquisition of the language and the study of different text types. During the course, students must be taught to understand and produce a variety of texts. In the context of the language ab initio course, a text can be spoken, written or visual.