Language proficiency certificates are required for a multitude of circumstances. In particular being able to demonstrate knowledge of the Italian language along with a proficiency certificate is usually required for applying for long term residency, gaining access to higher education and employment in most workplaces (especially within a corporate setting).There are several variations of proficiency certificates for those looking to learn Italian as a foreign language.
The courses are known widely by their abbreviations as follows:
CILS – “Certificazione di Italiano come Linguage Seconda/Staniera”.
Recognised by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
CELI – “Certificato di conoscenza della Italiano Lingua Italiano”.
Recognised by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research.
PLIDA – “Progetto Lingua Italiana Alighieri”.
Recognised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Ministry of labour and welfare and the Ministry of education, university and research of Italy.
CIC – “Certificazione dell’italiano commercial“.
Recognised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Education.
What’s the difference?
CILS and CELI tend to be predominately focused around proficiency in order to gain entrance to Italian higher education courses and universities.
PLIDA is a diploma based around a more communicative approach and real life tasks that offers a more practical solution for day to day life and integration than the academic centric CILS and CELI certificates for purposes of study.
CIC is designed for those who already have a basic knowledge of Italian, who are currently already working in or are looking to work in a corporate environment.
Awarding bodies and exam locations
The issuing academic bodies for each certification are:
• CILS – Awarded by the University of Siena for Foreigners.
• CELI – Awarded by the University of Perugia for Foreigners.
• PLIDA – Organised by The Dante Alighieri Society with approval from the Sapienza University of Rome.
• CIC – Awarded by the University of Perugia for Foreigners.
These certificates can be taken at the above Universities, or alternatively, there are approved language schools/establishments in various regions where the exams can also be taken:
• La Giara (Via Cesare Beccaria, 196 – Mola di Bari) for CILS.
• Centro Italiano Napoli (Vico Santa Maria dell’Aiuto, 17 – Naples) for CILS.
• Studio Italiano Tropea (Via Vittorio Veneto, 43 Campania, Tropea) for CILS and PLIDA.
• Accademia Italiana Salerno (Via Roma 39 – Salerno) for CELI and CIC.
• Sant’Anna Institute-Sorrento Lingue (Via Marina Grande, 16 – Sorrento) for CELI.
• Cultura Italiana (Via Castiglione, 4 – Bologna) for CILS.
• Reggio Lingua (Viale dei Mille, 2 – Reggio Emilia) for CELI.
• Arca (Vicolo Posterla,15 – Bologna) for CELI.
• Scuola Leonardo da Vinci (Piazza dell’Orologio 7, Rome) for CILS.
• L’Italiano – Language in Italy (Via Aurelia, 137 – Rome) for CILS.
• Torre di Babele (Via Cosenza, 7 – Rome) for CILS.
• Italiaidea (Corso Vittorio Emanuele II 184 – Rome) for CILS.
• Club Italiano Dante Alighieri Roma (Piazza Bologna, 1 – Rome) for CILS.
• Ciao Italia (Via delle Frasche, 5 – Rome) for CILS.
• Koiné – Italian Language Centre (Piazza San Giovanni in Laterano, 48 Rome) for CELI.
• Kappa Language School (Via del Boschetto, 32 – Rome) for CELI and PLIDA.
• Ciao Italia (Via delle Frasche, 5 – Rome) for CELI.
• Scuola Tricolore (Via Edilio Raggio, 1/3 – Genoa) for CILS.
• A door to Italy – Scuola di Italiano (Via Caffaro, 4/7 – Genoa) fro CELI.
• Ellci (Via Paganini, 18 – Milan) for CILS, CELI and CIC.
• Scuola Dante Alighieri Camerino (Piazza G. Garibaldi, 7 – Camerino) for CELI.
• One World Language School (Viale Regina Margherita, Cagliari) for CILS.
• Centro Mediterraneo Pintadera (Vicolo Adami, 41 – Alghero) for CILS.
• I like it (Via Garibaldi, 4 – Olbia) for CELI and CIC.
• Laboling – La scuola di italiano in Sicilia (Via Nino Ryolo, 20 – Milazzo) for CILS.
• The Italian Academy (Via San Giovanni alle Catacombe, 7 – Syracuse) for CILS.
• Babilonia (Via Timoleone, 10 – Taormina) for CELI.
• Scuola Virgilio (Via Bernardo Bonaiuto, 20 – Trapani) for CELI and CIC.
• Solemar Academy (Via M.C. Tomasini, 5 – Cefalù) for CELI.
• ABC – Centro di lingua e cultura italiana (Via dei Rustici, 7 – Florence) for CILS.
• Cultura Italiana Arezzo (Corso Italia, 258 , Arezzo) for CILS.
• Scuola Leonardo da Vinci (Firenze Via Bufalini, 3 – Florence) for CILS
• Lingua Più Centro Montessori per le Lingue (Viale Moncenisio, 28 – Città di Castello) for CELI.
• Idea Verona (Stradone Antonio Provolo, 16 – Verona) for PLIDA.
The Piedmont Region holds further education courses during the day and in the evening for people who need Italian for any reason and for those who need to pass both the middle school certificate and the high school leaving certificate, which gives access to and higher education courses across the country.
These adult courses are open to everybody on payment of a small fee and cover numerous types of courses, including Italian for foreigners at various levels. Due to government cuts the number of these courses has been reduced, at the moment it is unclear exactly when and where new enrolments for these courses will take place.
Normally enrolments for these courses take place between June & July and then again in September, while the courses themselves start in October / November and end in June of the following year.
They used to be called CTP, or Centri Territoriali per la formazione permanente. The title may have changed now but the courses are offered under the ongoing adult education programmes of the Ministry of Education.
The courses are held in public / state school buildings and the teacher who is responsible for the courses held in the school is also in charge of all official exam enrolments. This includes where non-native students would have to go to take the CILS exams, which may not be in the area where the state school exams are held.
The CILS and CELI both cover six similar levels, however the CELI exams have an additional two levels specifically designed for and exclusively aimed at immigrants and adolescents.
The CILS exam is comprised of five sections (listening, reading, writing, speaking and communication structure analysis) whilst the CELI exam is comprised of the first four of the aforementioned sections.
PLIDA covers six levels but also has a specific “junior” certification for ages 13 – 18, as well as covering a commercial business certification with three levels.
PLIDA is comprised of the same four sections as the CELI exams.
The CIC exams for business language offer only two levels (intermediate and advanced).
The CIC exams are comprised of five sections – reading, writing, listening, speaking and grammar.
Levels in compliance with the Common European Framework of Reference
The levels of proficiency are often conversely referred to as “Basic, Independent and Proficient” or on occasion “Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced”.
Basic/Elementary level demonstrates basic comprehension and conversational skills with prompting and communicating effectively areas of immediate needs/relevance (such as surroundings and personal information). Able to produce and understand simplistic text.
Independent/Intermediate level demonstrates the above and in addition the ability to communicate abstract topics and interact with some level of fluency with spontaneity, and the ability to converse with native speakers without prompting. The ability to produce and understand more complex and specific text is also required.
Proficient/Advanced level demonstrates fluent and spontaneous conversation in social, academic and professional settings. This includes being able to express yourself fluently and precisely, differentiating finer shades of meaning and understanding conversations with ease. Learners who achieve this level are able to understand and produce long complex text and recognise implicit meaning.
On paper they are broken down into levels which are compared below to the CEFR guideline levels.
CEFR is the “Common European Framework of Reference”, which is a guideline used across Europe for the study of languages:
Equivalent to CELI Impatto, CILS A1 and PLIDA A1.
Equivalent to CELI 1, CILS A2, PLIDA A2.
Equivalent to CELI 2, CILS Uno, PLIDA B1.
Equivalent to CELI 3, CILS Due, PLIDA B2.
Equivalent to CELI 4, CILS Tre, PLIDA C1.
Equivalent to CELI 5, CILS Quattro, PLIDA C2.
The level of proficiency accepted for residency purposes (such as an EC permit) is A2 CEFR and for entering higher education is B2 CEFR.
Corporate proficiency will largely depend on company standards and is usually down to the employer’s discretion.
CILS is open to all Italian residents abroad and non-Italian speakers upon paying the registration fee. Applicants can be of any age.
CELI is available to all foreign applicants who wish to take the exam upon paying the registration fee. CELI have specific exams for under 18s.
PLIDA exams can only be taken by non-native Italian speakers upon paying the registration fee.
CIC exams can be taken by any adult upon paying the registration fee, though a prior understanding of the Italian language is highly recommended.
Registration fees vary depending on the level of the examination you will be sitting.
Generally the enrolment and registration for the examinations needs to be completed 40 – 90 days beforehand. The specific exam dates are released every year.
The CILS exams are held twice a year in June and December.
There are three CELI exams a year in March, June and November.
PLIDA exams are held twice a year in May and November, although the separate “Commerciale” certification is held in June.
CIC exams are held only once a year in June.
Aside from learning text and reading comprehension via preparatory courses for the exams, one can continue to broaden knowledge and understanding of Italian through the world of literature.
This can be through the classical literature route such as the likes of Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio or more contemporary authors such as Mario Fortunato, Paolo Giordana and Dacia Maraini.
This is particularly helpful with idioms; for example, whilst the literal translation of the phrase “Good Luck” would be “Buona fortuna”, the more common phrase in Italy is “In bocca al luppo” – “Into the mouth of the wolf”.
So, Good luck, buona fortuna or in bocca al luppo in your endeavours of studying the Italian language!
Have you learned Italian for an accredited certification? Share your experience in the comments!