The perfect Italian language course: FAQ

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Should I try learning Italian by myself or should I join an Italian language course in Italy?

Are private classes a faster way to gain proficiency in Italian language?

Why should I pay for an Italian language course when there are so many options for free?

These questions are quite common when it comes to finding the perfect course to learn Italian fast and easy. Well, let’s start by being completely straightforward and giving you the bad news right away: there is no such thing as “fast & easy” when it comes to learning a new language. But this doesn’t mean your learning experience has to be an everlasting torture or a journey into boredom. In fact, language learning is a path towards personal growth and completeness: learning a new idiom helps you gaining confidence, improves your social skills and puts you in direct contact with a different culture and mentality. Other than, obviously, providing you with new communicative tools that you probably didn’t even know existed!

With that in mind, let’s now discover together a list of features you should watch out for when searching for the perfect Italian language course.

What is the best location for my Italian language course? 

The first step is choosing the best location for your classes. Italian small towns, whether by the sea or in the countryside, can be ideal for chilling out during a summer vacation, but they can also be a good choice for your study holiday in Italy. That said, major art cities with stunningly beautiful and lively city centers such as Rome, Florence or Naples will give you more chances to be exposed to a large amount of inputs while still being able to find time and space for international exchange. Full immersion learning is a great thing but, in order to serve the purpose of a smooth and comfortable learning experience, doesn’t have to be stressful or imposed.

How do I recognize the ideal Italian language school? 

Big schools have the name, a reputation and probably a wider selection of Italian courses, while small schools can offer a deeper student care and a more friendly and cozy environment. So, which one to choose? This really depends on you, but you should consider that the main obstacle in language acquisition is something called affective filter: just imagine it as an invisible barrier made of negative feelings such as fear, anxiety and stress, that separates the learner from his or her goal. The only way to lower this filter is by acting on the environment in which language acquisition happens, in other words by putting the student into a cozy, warm and comfortable situation, by reassuring and encouraging him or her while taking risks in language production and reducing the “culture shock” to a sustainable minimum.

Any suggestions about the perfect class size? 

In this particular regard, there is no doubt: small sized classes definitely win over crowded ones. The reason is simple: proficiency levels are an ideal standard, while in fact each student makes improvements in his or her language proficiency with a very personal pace and by following a custom path. Being part of a small group class provides the opportunity to be followed carefully by an Italian language teacher, which will eventually be able to tailor the lessons on each student’s needs and abilities. 

How should my Italian language course schedule and structure be? 

Fixed or Flexible? Intensive or extensive? The answer to the first question could be: flexible but not too much. A flexible schedule is indeed a great value, especially when it comes to trying to fit your Italian language classes into an already busy calendar. But just keep in mind that even the most motivated or dedicated student might tend to lose the grip with an excessively loose schedule, as making a solid commitment is a fundamental part of a learning process. As for the course structure, our experience suggests that a 2 hours per day schedule is a balanced solution that will give you enough free time to process the notions you have been exposed to during your class.

How much should I pay for my Italian classes?

You might think the answer to this one is easy: cheap is better, free is best! But let me tell you that, although there’s nothing wrong with looking for the best deal on the market, paying for your course is another part of the above mentioned “commitment to the learning process”. Giving value to the lesson you’re taking will also give value to what you will learn!

How do I recognize a good Italian language teacher?

Although it might seem obvious, it is worthy to be repeated: a native Italian language teacher is always a good choice. If you are not in Italy and you are unable to find a qualified native, your teacher should at least possess a C1\C2 proficiency level diploma and a certificate such as DITALS or DILS (or, even better, a master in language teaching). And even when it comes to native teachers, qualifications are a sine qua non: being a native Italian language speaker is not enough to be able to teach, as this, just like any other job in the world, requires year of training and experience. Beware of offhand tutors, as their lack of competence in language teaching can be harmful to your studies! Once you have found an Italian language school that will consign your learning experience to a qualified native Italian tutor, you will be able to get the best of it by trusting him even when you don’t fully understand what’s going on. Being aware of the techniques used during a lesson can be a good thing and a good teacher will very likely try to explain to you what he or she is doing and why, but going too technical might confuse you rather than help if you are not a professional yourself.

What is the best method to teach Italian?

Although, as said, you shouldn’t get too technical, being aware of the approach and the method your Italian language teachers will adopt during your classes will definitely help you when it comes to choose between one school or another. The grammar-translation method is currently considered quite old-school, and is applied only in very specific situations and with particular students, so try to avoid schools\teachers that rely exclusively on it. Without going into details, let’s just say that right now the most common and effective teaching methods are based on the communicative approach, centered on the idea that learning language comes through having to communicate real meaning. Regardless of the specific techniques adopted during your Italian language classes, your lessons should be held entirely in Italian language, focused on improving communication in Italian rather than offering a cold review on Italian grammar and finally be based, when possible, on authentic texts

So you’re telling me there’s good and bad Italian learning material?

Of course there is. First of all, there is a structure to be followed while creating an Italian language lesson. A structure which, in simple words, moves from the global meaning of a text towards the analysis of its peculiarities. The reason for this is that language acquisition most of the times happens through an inductive process, and the only purpose of a language teacher is facilitating it to specifically devised learning materials.

And what about extracurricular activities?

Extracurricular activities such as walks, social events, aperitifs and dinners are simply crucial! You might very well stay in Italy for a long time with a study visa, but you may as well need a push to socialize and take risks in practicing what you have learned in class: a supervised social activity, during which an Italian Tutor can help you coping with any impasse you can encounter, is the best scenario an Italian language school can offer! Furthermore, learning Italian language without coming to terms with Italian culture is simply impossible and, once again, having an experienced professional which can guide you through its discovery is simply what you are looking for in order to avoid culture shocks and unpleasant situations.

Did this article answer to all your questions? Do you have any other doubt or feel we missed something? Leave a comment and let us know about your experience with Italian language learning!

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