Planning a study holiday? Navigating the sea of Italian language schools in Italy may prove difficult, but it won’t be if you know exactly what to look for.
Choosing a language school abroad is a big thing. Maybe a lifetime dream coming true. You’ve been wanting this for so long, and finally, you’ve made up your mind.
When you decide to invest time, money and efforts into going abroad to study a language, you can’t take any risks. You need to know that your investment is going to pay back and live up to the expectations you have set for it.
While a study holiday doesn’t really qualify for any «money-back-guarantee», there are some key points you should address before making your booking. In this way, you will probably save some precious time (and money!)
Without further ado, let’s have a look at 6 tips that will help you choose the best Italian language school in Italy.
Location, Location, Location
It’s not just a marketing mantra for real estate brokers. The location of the school is indeed important, especially if you are visiting Italy for the first time. Furthermore, the word location itself can mean many different things.
First of all, you want to be in a city that makes you feel at ease, where you can quickly learn your way around. Is the school you are looking at located in a central, lively area? Are there bars and restaurants in the neighbourhood, or any sites of interest? For example, The Italian Academy in Syracuse, Sicily, is located right next to the Catacombs of St. John and the Archaeological Museum, at a 5-minute walk from the Archaeological Park. The area around the school is surrounded by cafès and local restaurants (perfect spots for a lunch break!). Moreover, being Syracuse a relatively small city, there’s an informal, happy and easygoing feeling everywhere. While almost everyone can speak English, here locals are happy to speak with foreigners in Italian and teach them a few words in the process.
Lastly, the location can also refer to the premises of the school, their spaces, furnishings, equipment and so on. An Italian language school in Italy should be cosy, welcoming, yet spacious and equipped. Wouldn’t it be great if all schools looked just like this one?
Teaching staff & method
We all have that Italian friend (who is actually an accountant, a cook, a doctor, an artist…) whom we have begged a hundred times to teach us Italian.
Along with passion, commitment and a natural inclination, teaching a foreign language requires specific, accurate training. The fact of simply being Italian doesn’t automatically make anyone an Italian teacher. Study, dedication, training, creativity and a lot of experience are essential components of a good resumé.
In Italy, there is an ad hoc certification called DITALS II, issued by the University for Foreigners of Siena, to vouch for the professional ability of Italian language teachers. For instance, the entire teaching staff of The Italian Academy is thoroughly vetted and DITALS II certified.
Language classes, at all levels, should be taught entirely in Italian. The communicative method is universally recognized as the most effective teaching resource when it comes to foreign languages. Through the exclusive use of the target language (which must also be the instructor’s native language), the instructor and students constantly interact and create real-life scenarios which increase the students’ learning opportunities.
Classes should be small in students number, and large in educational resources. The lower the student-teacher ratio, the higher the learning benefits. The ideal class size should be between 5 and 10 students per class.
Beware of schools where the professionalism of the teaching staff is unclear — if, at all, existent. You need someone who knows what they’re doing, how to teach, and especially how to make you a better student.
Course advisors and on-site staff
Your ability to choose a course depends hugely on the clarity of information the course advisors are able to provide.
What will this course include? How much am I going to pay, and for how many classes?
A good course advisor should be able to provide you with precise, detailed information, answer your questions and anticipate your needs. Same applies to the on-site staff that will be at the school. At The Italian Academy, we pride ourselves on our outstanding customer service, which is made a lot easier by the kindness of our students.
A study holiday isn’t just about studying. It is a holiday too, after all! That’s why it is important to pick a school that has some extra-curricular activities to fill your days up with. From excursions to guided tours, cooking classes or ceramic workshops, you will need opportunities to practice your Italian out in the real world, and engage with the local community.
Look for a school that is able to offer activities and excursions. Many schools offer packages that include language classes and afternoon activities, like the Italian+ courses. If, however, you prefer to spend time on your own, an Italian movie or a conversation club could also be great tools to keep your Italian up-to-speed outside of classroom hours.
Community and friendship
While some argue that many adults have a hard time making new friends, we are convinced that people who share the same passion and hobby are bound to create meaningful relationships.
Even though not many of your friends back home are interested in learning Italian, all of your classmates at your Italian language school will be.
Over the years at The Italian Academy we have witnessed many students becoming friends, planning new trips together, coming back to the school year after year. Here in Sicily, the warm-welcoming local community is always enthusiastic about meeting new people.
When choosing a language school, enquire about the size of classes, the age range and nationality of students. It is important that you make sure that that school is the right one for you.
All in all, Italian language schools in Italy are indeed a great place to make new friends!
For some people, a study holiday is the very beginning. Their very first time studying the language, or their first time in the new country.
For others, it is the first time studying the language on-site, after years of evening classes.
For a few lucky ones, it is yet another language course on a long list of exciting travels.
For everyone, a study holiday should be an opportunity to set a personal or professional goal, to get out of their comfort zone and to do something great for themselves.
The perfect Italian language school is the one that embraces you as a member of its community so that your study holiday becomes a milestone on your lifelong-language-learning path. Look for schools that go beyond their walls and classrooms, schools that are able to offer follow-up online classes, returnee incentives and so on. Make your study holiday a lifelong investment.
Italian language schools in Italy are all different in location, size, premises, teaching method and activities.
With these tips, you should now be able to better evaluate the options out there, and make an educated decision.
When in doubt, don’t be afraid to reach out to the prospective school, ask questions, inquire, explore further options.
Choosing the right Italian language school is the first step for an unforgettable study holiday!
For more information on The Italian Academy, visit our website www.theitalianacademy.com