The paper discusses the compilation of a corpus of contemporary written Italian, CWIC, and its integration into the Italian Studies programme at Griffith University in Australia. Our main aim in introducing work with corpora was to provide a tool to assist students in writing, and the decision to build our own stemmed from a concern to make available models of personal writing on everyday topics. This was in consideration of two inter-related factors: the proficiency level of our students, (apparently far short of those of the ESL or ESP students referred to in much of the literature in this field) and the types of writing they engage in, within or beyond their studies: personal communications, creative writing, commentaries on films and novels and summaries of current affairs items. We envisaged our corpus, consisting largely of letters and email messages composed by non-professional writers, as complementing the resources already publicly available, notably the corpora of Italian literary texts and newspaper material.
In the paper we first discuss some linguistic, pedagogic and practical issues we addressed in the selection and preparation of texts, then outline our approach to training the students in using CWIC. We conclude with some observations on the evaluation process, through which we are seeking to understand the dynamics of students corpus investigations and identify the obstacles and pitfalls they encounter, with a view to improving both our training methods and our overall approach to the use of corpora in teaching.