You are in love with la lingua d'Italia. From buongiorno to buona notte, everything is molto bello, che meraviglia, come perfettamiente Italiano!

Are you taking Italian language lessons for the pleasure of it, or did you have some greater purpose in mind?

Anyone with a vocational need for speaking Italian must prove language qualification, at whatever level s/he is required to or capable of.

The certifications we introduce in this article are all targeted to non native Italian speakers who, for academic or other official reasons, seek immersion into the language of Dante.

CILS levels get progressively higher
CILS has the same number of steps, or levels, as CEFRL Source: Pixabay Credit: Coolfinger

What is a CILS?

This exam is an entry-level test of the Italian language offered by the Foreigner's University of Siena, to anyone taking Italian lessonsin Italy or abroad. The test recognises various levels of language proficiency.

The acronym is derived from its formal name: Certificazione di Italiano come Lingua Straniera.

In English: Certification of Italian as a Foreign Language.

The CILS is designed to test students' ability to listen to, and express themselves in Italian.

Professionals in enterprises with interest in the Italian economy are also encouraged to sit for it.

The exam comprises of six levels – A1 to C2, that mirror the Common European Framework of Reference for languages, otherwise known as CEFRL.

  • Level A1 would be considered Basic Italian. Knowledge of words and phrases needed for everyday life in Italy would be tested, along basic grammar, verb conjugation and proper use of verb tenses.
  • Level A2 indicates low-intermediate language level, and it builds on language concepts mastered at A1 level. Here, the student should demonstrate expanded vocabulary and a firm grasp of fundamental Italian grammar rules.
  • Level B1 – mid-intermediate level reflects the ability to express oneself in a limited fashion over a variety of subjects. Oral Italian expectations are more stringent; the test taker may find himself confronted with dialects (versus the expected Standard Italian, for example). Pronunciation is likely to be only minimally fluid.
  • Level B2 represents high-intermediate ability to speak and understand Italian. At this point, the non native speaker should demonstrate a wide range of vocabulary and be able to converse in Italian with little to no difficulty.
  • Levels C1 (fluent in the language) and C2 (mastery of the language) designate students of Italian who have deep comprehension of language mechanics as well as a near-native speaker vocabulary.

The Italian speaker at C levels will have absorbed the art of communicating non-verbally in Italian – body language, and uses proper tone and inflection.

Testing at these levels would include aspects of Italian culture and history, as well as global concerns that impact Italy.

No matter what level of Italian speaking you qualify for, your exam will test two major aspects of your language ability:

1. Reading comprehension, measured through an array of more or less advanced or technical passages.

2. Oral skills, including speaking and listening. Here, a proctor will engage you in conversation, or a discussion over more formal matters. You may also have to give a short discourse over a prompted subject.

In all, this exam covers the four fundamental areas of language learning, during which your fluency and use of Italian will be constantly assessed.

For more information on when, where and how to take this exam, you should direct yourself to the Italian Cultural Institute nearest you.

Passing the CILS is a tangible validation of your Italian mastery, recognised by the Italian Minister for Foreign Affairs and by universities from Genoa to Sardinia.

Since the inception of this exam in 1993, more than one hundred thousand candidates have earned their credentials.

Counting yourself among that number would indeed be a heady accomplishment.

Why Sit for PLIDA?

That acronym stands for Progetto Lingua Italiana Dante Alighieri, which translates in English to: Projects for Italian Language Dante Alighieri.

The result of this exam's successful completion is a diploma issued by the Dante Alighieri Society, an institute designed to promote Italian culture around the world.

It is recognised by the highest authorities in Italy, such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Education; by universities and research institutes throughout the country.

It is also accepted by the Italian Ministry of Labour, meaning that this credential on your CV will most certainly enhance your job prospects, were you to want to relocate to Genoa or Venice, to enjoy that fabled Italian lifestyle!

This exam is also formatted and graduated to conform to CEFRL, reflecting 6 progressive levels.

In keeping with the CILS, the PLIDA addresses all four areas of language learning: listening and speaking skills, and the ability to read and write proficiently.

To make the Italian language more relevant at more accessible to a greater segment of language learners, this certification process has diversified into:

Junior PLIDA, designed for the learner aged 13 to 18. The exam format is perhaps gentler than the standard test, using methods that younger learners would recognise and feel comfortable with.

Successful completion of this exam ranges from A1 to C1 levels

Business PLIDA addresses the Italian language needs of anyone in commerce or industry: banks and international trade, among others.

This exam will certify successful candidates at B1, B2, and C1 levels.

You can prepare for PLIDA in several different ways:

  • by taking courses that address this exam specifically
  • by engaging a private tutor to work with you at home
  • by participating in Italian language courses elsewhere
  • by joining Italian expats in your city

That last one may well be the best way to learn Italian and steep yourself in the culture!

Manchester would be the place to go for full membership and participation in the Dante Alighieri Society. It is the only campus in the UK where you can sit for the exam.

After paying a nominal fee of £19 for annual membership, you could take Italian courses for as low as £89, plus the cost of the textbook.

The campus also offers tutoring expressly for the PLIDA.

For more information – including the fee schedule and the official registration form, please refer to Manchester's dedicated site.

Teach Italian anywhere with your DITALS certification
Teach Italian anywhere in the world with your DITALS certification Source: Pixabay Credit: Mary1826

What Do You Need DITALS for?

The two previously detailed exams would appear to certify every aspect of Italian language learning for speakers of other languages.

If so, what is the purpose of this exam?

This test is also sponsored by the University of Siena, but it addresses a very specific slice of the population who speak Italian as a second language, namely: those who wish to teach Italian.

For this certification, your Italian language skills are only half of the evaluation.

DITALS will test your ability to impart Italian language instruction to diverse populations.

You can qualify as one of two stages:

Level 1 certifies you to teach Italian to a specific group: adolescents, college-level learners, adults, Italian for business, etc.

Level 2 is a much higher qualifications process, generally for people who have substantial experience in teaching.

Besides a profound knowledge of Italian language and culture, a qualifying DITALS score involves teaching methodology, demonstrated in a real classroom setting.

Hence, it is essential to be well prepared.

This exam is only administered in Milan.

As you would have to travel to Italy for this exam, why not matriculate at the venerable Leonardo da Vinci school, for a preparatory course?

There, you can mingle with other student teachers, observe their teaching and communication styles, and benefit from course instructors, who are the most qualified mentors of test candidates.

Drawing from their experience is the best way to prepare for this exam.

Be sure to tell them grazie mille for all of their help!

Discover the CIC!

The University of Perugia sponsors this professional degree course. Of the four certifications discussed in this article, the CIC is the most highly valued by the commerce and industry sector.

As with the previously-discussed exam, the CIC offers two levels of certification:

CIC Intermediate corresponds to level BI on the CEFRL. Mid-level managers, and others who deal with operational issues in business would seek this qualification

CIC Advanced is designed for business leaders; those who plan and discuss strategy with their Italian counterparts. Any executive working with an Italian firm would need this degree of certification.

For both qualifications levels, the exam comes in five parts:

Oral comprehension (listening skills) is deduced by a proctor, speaking in technical terms. Among the discourse the candidate may encounter vocabulary from regional dialects, and other advanced Italian words and phrases.

Oral expression involves the test taker expounding on a topic relevant to business, using the most advanced, professional vocabulary at his disposal. Italian pronunciation is also assessed.

Writing skills: the candidate is tasked with composing a passage relating to business. Word choice – nouns and adjectives, verb usage, grammar and sentence structure are all evaluated.

Reading comprehension is determined by discussing a few passages relating to business.

Grammar and Vocabulary, as it relates to business: technical terms and knowledge of current industry trends score highly in this portion of the exam

You can parlare with the University of Perugia staff who direct this programme for more information, including testing dates.

That worthy may put you in contact with the Italian Institute for Culture in the UK, for extra help and tutelage.

A fine suit won't bring you business success in Italy, but a CIC certification will!
For an expat in Italy, success comes through a CIC! Source: Pixabay Credit: Open Clipart

The Acronym Roundup

If you intend to use your Italian language courses for more than a holiday trip to Italy, it would be advisable to obtain a certification that would endorse your Italian language ability.

For the professional, the Business PLIDA or CIC would be advised.

Conversely, exchange students wishing to do at semester at the prestigious Sapienza University of Rome would be better represented with a DITALS or CILS certificate.

Concerning CILS or PLIDA, it is important to test at, or close to your level.

As time and money are always vital considerations, it would be best to not under- or overestimate your skill.

To properly assess you level of Italian learning, you could test your Italian language ability online.

These certifications are not easy to come by.

With due appreciation of your love for this romance language, we recommend that you help yourself to an additional Italian language course or two.

You might cast about for free lessons online, download an app that will permit to you chat with native speakers of Italian, or even participate in cultural events such as film festivals or cooking classes.

What if you just started to learn how to speak Italian?

The bottom line is:

As you learn to speak Italian – or even if you have an entire lexicon of Italian phrases memorised, you should cast an eye toward these certifications.

Your learning experience should logically result in practical usage of your second language.

Whether your Italian studies lead to a CILS or PLIDA; or if your phrasebook contains the vernacular suitable for a DITALS or CIC, your resume will be all the better for you speaking Italian fluently.

Bene, caro: andiamo!

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As an Englishman in Paris, I enjoy growing my knowledge of other languages and cultures. I'm interested in History, Economics, and Sociology and believe in the importance of continuous learning.