Foreign languages capture the imagination. They have an intriguing musical quality, they’re a window into another culture, and they’re paths to new people and new opportunities.
So when I tell people I’m studying Italian, I’m always met with interest – “I always wanted to learn another language”, they often tell me.
So why didn’t they? Why don’t they?
Well it can certainly seem intimidating. Learning a language to fluency can even feel like an unclimbable mountain. Some of us still shudder at the memory of our high school classes: pouring over grammar tables, unable to string together a sentence, losing the will to even open the textbook.
But there’s a model of education that has changed my outlook on learning. My language school, the Istituto Linguistico Mediterraneo, promotes the pure joy of learning as a priority.
That means you find teachers who chat with you, laugh with you, even sing with you – anything to bring the classroom to life and put you at ease. This gives you the confidence to try, make ridiculous errors, and try again.
We students develop a strong foundation of grammar as our teachers thoroughly cover all bases, but the grammar doesn’t stay on the page or blackboard. As soon as we learn something new, we’re pushed to use it, and use it, and use it some more. And surely enough, it starts to feel like a natural part of our spoken and written expression.
And opportunity to hone this expression is never lacking: besides classes, the school organises cultural evening activities. Immersed in la vita italiana, I’m learning better and faster than ever before, yet it’s also the most hedonistic approach to education I’ve ever had. Exchanging jokes and life stories with other students over a glass of wine, exploring nearby Tuscan towns, spending an evening watching Italian films – all of this counts as ‘studying’, and is richly encouraged!
At ILM, learning a language really isn’t an unclimbable mountain. There’s fun and support every step along the way.