L. Cignoni, R. Marinelli

Institute for Computational Linguistics (ILC), National Research Council (CNR) (ITALY)
This paper outlines a proposal for maritime language teaching in public and private Nautical Schools and other maritime educational institutions and establishments in Italy, using a content and language integrated learning (CLIL) approach. The courses are addressed in particular to those students who would like to take up a marine career as officers, engineers or other crew members of the Merchant Navy, and thus require an adequate knowledge of seafaring terminology, but can also be interesting for those wishing to explore the origin and development of maritime language. In order to provide a more challenging environment and better opportunity for the learning of seafaring terms and expressions in English, students are supported by the software tool Mariterm, a lexical database organized in semantic relations, available at the Institute for Computational Linguistics (ILC) of the National Research Council (CNR) in Pisa. A total of 3500 headwords pertinent to the nautical subject, with particular regard to the two sub-fields of maritime navigation and transport, have been included in the database and grouped into approximately 2,500 synsets, which are sets of one or more synonyms, for example “marinaio”, “marittimo” (sailor). Alongside the translation of each Italian word into English, and the definition of each word in both languages, the database is constantly enriched with idiomatic expressions belonging to the maritime field in the two languages, and with explanations of the origins of the most common phrases, for example “tempesta in un bicchier d’acqua” (storm in a teacup, lit. storm in a glass of water), “prendere un granchio” (make a mistake, lit. to take a crab), “ultima spiaggia” (last resort, lit. last beach) in Italian, and swing the lead, between the devil and the deep blue sea, learn the ropes in English. While it is easy to detect the meaning of many nautical expressions, for instance “andare col vento in poppa” (fair winds, lit. go with the wind astern) in Italian, too close to the wind in English, non-specialist users would find it extremely difficult to retrace the origins of other expressions, as for example “d’alto bordo” (of high rank, of high social class) in Italian, or at loggerheads in English. The tool can bring a number of advantages to the students, helping them improve the language, providing a motivating context on which to build their knowledge, and introducing real-life situations into the classroom. The vocabulary learnt by the trainee students using the software tool can be integrated and consolidated by a number of exercises ranging from cloze tests, defining words in a text, matching words with their definitions, true/false answers, completion of mind maps, as well as pair-work, group work and classroom work carried out under the guidance of the teacher. Trainees focus on key vocabulary, explore and experiment the language, deal with topics related to their future work, so as to feel that what they are learning is relevant to their future professional sphere.