Didactic background

Theoretical premises: In general, we can assume that it is easier to memorize and remember collocations if we have some form of visualization in addition to the purely “abstract” wording.  That is why we plan to include depictions of selected collocations in the learner's dictionary.

What kinds of collocations are suitable for graphic visualization? Not all collocations can be drawn, but it is sometimes possible with those whose collocator is polysemous (i.e. has several meanings) and is used in a metaphorical sense rather than in the literal, basic sense of the word. Moreover, the collocation has to create a clear mental image that can be depicted as a drawing, such as il dente balla (‘the tooth is loose / wobbly / wiggly’, literally “the tooth is dancing”).

Where do we get these images? The artwork depicting selected Italian collocations is created by students (primary school through high school). The drawings are/were made at various events (see below) and in cooperation with schools in Tyrol.

Number of drawings so far: To date, children and young adults from Tyrol have made more than 1000 drawings:

  • Aktionstag Junge Uni (= Youth University Day), November 2009: 157 drawings
  • Lange Nacht der Forschung (= Long Night of Research), November 2009: 71 drawings
  • Aktionstag Junge Uni (= Youth University Day)  November 2010: 209 drawings (incl. drawings of expressions / phraseologisms in other languages)
  • Primary school “Volkschule Innere Stadt Innsbruck”, October 2011: 12 drawings
  • Aktionstage Junge Uni (= Youth University Day), November 2011, pupils’ day: 199 drawings
  • Aktionstage Junge Uni (= Youth University Day), November 2011, family day: 59 drawings
  • Middle school “Neue Mittelschule Königsweg Reutte”, December 2011 (Italian group, art group): 48 drawings
  • Primary school “Volkschule Innere Stadt Innsbruck”, February 2012: 15 drawings
  • Middle school “Neue Mittelschule Dr. Fritz Prior (Innsbruck)”, March 2012: 7 drawings
  • Tiroler Nacht der Forschung, Bildung und Innovation (= Tyrolean Night of Research, Education and Innovation), April 2012: 45 drawings
  • Vocational high school “HLW Reutte”, June 2012: 24 drawings
  • Middle school “Neue Mittelschule Königsweg Reutte”, June 2012 (Italian group, art group): 33 drawings
  • High school "Bundesrealgymnasium Adolf-Pichler-Platz", January 2013: 26 drawings
  • Middle school "Neue Mittelschule Stams-Rietz", April 2013: 47 drawings
  • Aktionstage Junge Uni (= Youth University Day), November 2013, pupils’ day: 109 drawings
  • Aktionstage Junge Uni (= Youth University Day), November 2013, family day: 29 drawings

Method: The pictures are always based on the literal meaning of the collocator (e.g. il dente balla means ‘the tooth is loose / wobbly / wiggly’, but is literally “the tooth is dancing”). So far, the dancing (loose) tooth has been one of the most popular motives. Others include a nail being “planted” in the wall (i.e. being pounded or hammered in), or the radio that Italian speakers “set on fire” (i.e. switch it on).

Productive creation of illustrations in the learning process: In our cooperation with various schools, and during events such as the ones listed above, students create drawings in the process of learning the various collocations. We have found that this increases success in learning, and also generates motivation and interest.

Receptive use of illustrations in the learner’s dictionary: By integrating these illustrations in the learner’s dictionary, learners are provided with material they will use “receptively” in order to better memorize the expressions (though of course they may also create their own images, possibly under guidance of their teacher). No matter whether learners produce images ‘actively’ or use them ‘receptively’, the final result is the same: learners should “see” the image behind a collocation. First the concrete image is seen or visualized, then remembered, meaning that learners will later “recall” this mental image associated with the expression.

Comparing word combinations in Italian and German. A research project.