Learning languages is fun, we all know that, but it is also a real challenge.
You may study a certain language for ages and even feel quite confident but the real test is when you visit the country where such language is spoken.
Real-life situations, very fast-speaking locals and a bit of anxiety on your side can make speaking a foreign language abroad quite challenging and even lead you to self-doubt and discouragement. But that’s the best way you have to consolidate your knowledge and take your skills to the next level.
This is why I always tell my students about the wonders of practicing Italian in Italy. In such a way, you not only test your knowledge of the language but also see the language become alive in the very place where it is spoken every day. No matter your level of fluency, this will enrich your relationship with the language and give you a more conscious approach to it.
a photo after lunch (notebooks were always ready!)
I know that attending a language school can be quite expensive – not to mention a language retreat – but I strongly believe that having the opportunity of practicing Italian in Italy with the help of a teacher can do wonders both to your comprehension of the language and your confidence.
This is why I have created Italian On The Road, which is a way for you to put your Italian skills into practice with a teacher by your side. The service is totally customizable and this means that you can even purchase one hour only, in case you are visiting and want to have an experience with a local, making it less expensive and tiring.
Actually, as I mentioned in a post where I introduced the service, the idea for this service has been suggested to me by a group of students who contacted me via email, earlier this spring.
having Frank read a map for me (in Italian, of course)
They are a group of five people from San Francisco, who have been studying Italian together for many years. They attend weekly classes at home and they visit Italy once a year to enjoy the country and have a chance to practice their Italian.
They contacted me with a very specific request: they had booked a three-day stay in Sanremo and wanted to practice their Italian in order to get ready for a couple of weeks at a language school in Chiavari. Specifically, they wanted someone to encourage them to speak Italian with each other – being all Americans, it is easy for them to switch to English if nobody is there to keep them on track.
Therefore, they wanted a teacher to spend all those three days with them and do an intensive practice, as a sort of warm-up for their more structured experience in class. Needless to say, I loved the request and accepted enthusiastically.
I didn’t have a blackboard but I somehow found a way to share word spelling
After a couple of months of communication and a few Skype chats, we finally met on September 27th. I spent two days and a half with them, they had already made plans for what they wanted to do during those days, so I had to adjust my activities to their schedule – which was great because this made the whole situation less formal and structured and more genuine and real, if you see what I mean.
I have to admit that I arrived in Sanremo with a bag full of sheets and handouts but I ended up using only a few of them as what we did basically was chatting – and having a lot of fun. The students made my life really easy because they were constantly trying to practice their Italian and only needed very basic inputs to build a very engaging conversation.
As a matter of fact, the moments I found most powerful were our conversations at breakfast, lunch or dinner, sitting around the same table and exchanging considerations about various topics. To encourage those exchange of views, I had prepared at least 100 questions that they needed to pick from some type of ballot bag: this made the conversations even funnier and more enjoyable.
probably discussing the use of a certain grammar rule
It’s been a very rewarding experience for me and I had the feeling that they learned a lot, especially in terms of speaking skills and confidence. I think this was mostly due to their positive attitude and to the fact that all our lessons took place in a very relaxed setting, without the pressure and timing of a classroom.
As I said, it’s been a really great experience but I asked my students their opinion as well because I think it’s their opinion the most important and valuable one. You’ll find their comments here below so that you can have an idea of the impact and effectiveness of such an experience.
“Having a teacher with us 24/7 gave us a chance to not only use the Italian we’ve already learned but listen and learn the way Italians express themselves outside of a textbook! We were truly immersed in the language the whole time!”
having fun is the key to learning without hassle
“It turned out to be such a special experience! We met in the lobby of our hotel and she had us introduce each other (of course in Italian). It was a great icebreaker and a fun way for her to get to know all of us and vice versa! During our two days together she organized a couple of challenges with Italian idioms for each of us to use in context throughout the day. It was a great learning tool and a lot of fun!”
“Every moment with Cinzia was a learning experience as she gently corrected our grammar and used each one of our mistakes as a learning opportunity. Our time with Cinzia was spent only speaking Italian which was more challenging for someone like myself who is a shy speaker. Cinzia was able to adjust to all of our ability levels and immediately had a good understanding of how to reach each of us which is a skill that all great teachers possess!”
not only teaching the language but also the habits 🙂
“This experience improved my use of the language as it takes time to start speaking in another language. Cinzia’s friendliness immediately put me at ease and gave me the courage to “go for it” and speak. Only correcting glaring errors once the phrases were out. She didn’t interrupt to correct me which helped keep my thoughts together. I enjoyed learning the idioms, and everyday language that isn’t taught in a language class and can only be learned as one moves through life”
“We arranged to have Cinzia with us for 2 days to help immerse ourselves in speaking Italian and be our guide when we visited several small towns. Cinzia not only was very knowledgeable about the places we visited, but she also encouraged, challenged, and helped us all with our Italian. Despite our different strengths in the language, Cinzia made us all feel comfortable and capable in our abilities.”
I haven’t added all these opinions to this post to brag about myself and my work but to give you an idea of what it is to work like this in an all-Italian environment, with a group of people sharing the same goal and interest.