Italian students earn Honorable Mention on national exam

Aidan Backus, Editor-in-Chief

When faced with competition from around the nation, one might think that Bear Creek students, who’ve struggled frequently because of changing Italian teachers over the last few years, wouldn’t be up to the challenge. But l’hanno fatto — they did it!

For the first time, Bear Creek Italian students took part in a competition known as the National Italian Exam. Eight students, including one in Italian 2 and one in Italian 3, passed with sufficiently high scores to earn National Honorable Mentions.

The test, designed by the American Association of Teachers of Italian and taken online, is broken into divisions for different levels of Italian, as well as divisions for students who speak Romance languages, such as Spanish, at home. The exam features multiple-choice questions comprised of grammar, vocabulary, comprehension, listening, and cultural questions with cash prizes for the winners, as well as for randomly selected Honorable Mentions.

The six Honorable Mentions include, from Italian 1, freshmen Liliana Chavez, Alejandra Iniguez Razon, Jailene Martinez Ramirez, and Even Sollie, as well as sophomores Sarai Hernandez and Katelyn Park; from Italian 2, junior Melissa Mendoza; and from Italian 3, senior Robbie Sollie.

“I’ve taught Italian year after year in other states, but this is the first time I’ve gotten so many Honorable Mentions,” Italian teacher Justin Ehrenberg said. “My group of students wanted to excel and achieve.”
Mendoza attributes her success in part to her fluency in Spanish.

“Everything was easy to me except the cultural stuff,” Mendoza said. “Some words are very similar between Spanish and Italian.”

To prepare for the exam, students took practice tests and reviewed their grammar skills. However, Robbie Sollie suggested that the value of the test was that it allowed him to see what he’d accomplished during the school year, but wouldn’t recommend actively studying unless one thought he had a chance at winning a prize.

“You’re not really getting anything by getting a better score, so it’s better to use the time to study for classes that it actually matters in,” he said.

Even so, Robbie seemed satisfied with his results, saying, “Relatively to everyone else, I did well, since I got the 91st percentile. But if I would look at the score on its own I’d be disappointed, since I got a D.”

Others attribute their success to Ehrenberg’s teaching and their drive to become fluent in Italian for its own sake.

For instance, Robbie’s brother, Even Sollie, who considered the test “not really that hard,” and credited his success to “Mr. Ehrenberg’s teaching and my general enthusiasm to study a lot during the year. Mr. Ehrenberg was a good teacher for me and I like to learn.”

Though nobody won a cash prize this year, Ehrenberg hopes to improve the class for next year.

“One area we need to improve is cultural knowledge,” Ehrenberg said. “There’s a bank of questions so students can prepare in advance.”