The Twitter assignments, which are part of a broader effort to incorporate new technology into Dartmouth’s foreign language programs, start with a workshop on how to perform Twitter searches and filter results.
In addition to reading and writing Italian tweets, students give one-minute presentations in class on what they have learned. In many cases, they pick up vocabulary particular to certain subjects or industries.
For example, students who follow Italian soccer teams pick up sports lingo, while those following actors or actresses learn film industry terms.
“The moment you start following someone—an organization, a singer, a political group—you receive an incredible quantity of tweets,” Convertini said. “This is really authentic language and culture that it would be hard to expose them to otherwise.”
Fakoneiry Perez, a sophomore who took one of Convertini’s classes last year, said she was particularly interested in Italian fashion, so she followed companies like Armani.
“Initially, it was challenging because of the type of tweets a company would send, as opposed to a person,” she said. “A person would give day-to-day details … but for Armani, it would be about a new product coming out, sales or fashion shows that were coming up. So I had to learn a new vocabulary. But it became a lot easier the more I got used to it.”
Perez, who had never used Twitter before the class, also had to get used to the format. She read her classmates’ tweets to get a sense of what kinds of things people tweet about—the weather, food, routine daily details—before jumping in with her own observations.