Learning a language successfully: you only need one rule

After many years of teaching Italian to adults I have come to the conclusion that for learning successfully there is only one rule: don’t give up!

Recently, a person that I don’t know sent me a message telling me that she had been studying Italian for some times, but she had now given it up. She was contacting me for other reasons than studying Italian but my first emotion upon receiving such email was one of sadness. The way she phrased her message made me think that she had been learning for a while and that she had lost hope.

In my years of teaching I have come across many different students, some natural linguists, some average learners and some very slow learners. No matter the student talent we worked together to achieve language learning and mostly succeeded. Whenever it happened that a person did not succeed it was because they had given up.

Of course, I do understand, that sometime students only want to try something new. After a term of classes, some decide that this is enough and that they wish to try something else. Trying something new is a healthy and it is not giving up. Giving up is due to the belief that we are not achieving, we are not good enough and we might as well stop trying.

I still remember a student I taught about twelve years ago, he was clearly a very intelligent man, with a great career, economic success and very satisfied with his life. He had a reason for learning, however teaching him was difficult, extracting one word from him excruciating. He was not a natural language learner to say the least. However, he had something even more powerful, he had grit, he would not give up, year after year he stuck with it and he achieved his goal. He started to be more and more fluent and became satisfied with his language skills.

What is the secret of his success? His determination of course. But also, even if he had accepted that learning was difficult, he never compared himself to others. He acknowledged and celebrated every little success. And such a great teacher he was to me!

Parla Italiano new Italian classes for adults open every term, please get in touch if you are interested by email: laura@parlaitaliano.co.uk or phone laura on 07941 092593

Our new complete beginner’s class in Clerkenwell EC1

We are proud to announce our new Complete Beginner’s course in Central London EC1. Our new class will be located in the old Italian quarter in Clerkenwell.

Clerkenwell has been home to the first Italians who came to London. They settled in the Clerkenwell area of London from 1800 onwards. When St Peter’s Italian church was established in 1863 Clerkenwell became the focus of the Italian community in London. Next to it ‘La casa Vincenzo Pallotti’ provided the Italians with a club to socialise in, a school of Italian for the children and so on. Today ‘La casa Vincenzo Pallotti’ is still very popular with the Italian community in London, so we thought what better place to establish our new complete beginners class for adults than in this historic place. The club is strategically located near Farringdon and Chancery Lane tube stations.

What can you expect from our classes?

At Parla Italiano we believe that learning a language is all about motivation and fun. The role of our teachers is to guide you and make it possible for you to learn. Our teacher are qualified and prepared, they are able to make the learning process simple and achievable.

Our classes are small, you can expect interaction and speaking from lesson one. Speaking and all the other skills (listening, writing and reading) are developed in each lesson and grammar is introduced gradually. After one term of classes you should be able to talk about yourself, ask basic questions, order at the bar and at the restaurant, express preferences and so on. The atmosphere in class is positive and encouraging. Mistakes are considered part of the journey. And most importantly, you should have fun while learning.

Our complete beginner’s classes starts in April in Central and North London. Our locations include Clerkenwell, Finsbury Park, Palmers Green and Barnet.

For more information please visit our website: www.parlaitaliano.co.uk
Or please email: laura@parlaitaliano.co.uk or phone 07941 092593

Seven habits of highly effective language learners

In language learning, no matter where you start from, you can achieve your goal if you believe you can. Looking at what the most successful learners do can be inspirational.

Learning a language is complex and the time that it will take you to achieve a level that you are happy with varies greatly from one person to the next. It depends on a variety of elements and in order to speed up the process it is useful to look at the best language learners to understand and try to replicate what they do differently. I have observed students for more than a decade and these are seven elements that effective learners have in common:

  1. They are proactive.
    This is very much true for anything one wishes to achieve. To be proactive means to take ownership of ones’ own learning. The best language students are all independent students. They don’t expect to simply follow the teacher’s direction but have their own strategy for learning. They pick up tips for learning, look for ideas everywhere and develop their own strategy alongside the work they do in class.
  2. They seek exposure.
    Highly effective students understand that exposure to the language is one of the most important elements. So they read and listen a great deal more than the average student.
  3. They use a variety of tools.
    The very best students work online, interact in groups, on pages, use website, apps etc. to help them develop their vocabulary and language skills.
  4. They are not afraid to speak.
    Speaking a language can only be learnt by speaking it. They find opportunities and make the most of them.
  5. They are not perfectionists.
    Abandon perfectionism, the best learners are not afraid of making mistakes. They know it is part of the process of learning.
  6. They are patient.
    Highly effective learners know that learning is not a linear process. The secret is to keep going and practise, practise, practise.
  7. They don’t give up.
    Last but not least, when the game gets tough they don’t abandon it but they keep going, knowing that it will get easier. They trust themselves and the process.

Children learning: hidden benefits of a second language

Learning a second language might be good to enhance a person’s career prospect and often comes in handy when you go on holiday. However, there are deeper reasons and benefits for offering your child the chance to learn a second language.

Interestingly enough, a second language will actually boost their abilities in their native language and will generally boost their school performance. In fact, studies suggest that children with a second language are more creative, develop more critical thinking, flexibility of the mind and have better memory.

But there is more: learning a second language gives people the ability to access and understand another culture. They acquire respect for other cultures, for people and their ways of thinking. This develops their empathy for others, their curiosity and interest for the different and as a consequence they are more open to new ideas as well.

The benefits are great, however, any learning that children undertake is also an effort for the child and a commitment from the parents.

You will often hear people saying that children are like sponges. In a way this is true. It has been proven that children’s brains are designed to absorb information and particularly languages. Also, unlike teenagers and adults, they have a natural ability to recognise and reproduce new sounds, which is why small children can speak without a first language accent. However, we need to recognise that learning is an effort for the children and that they need to be well supported in their endeavour. To learn a language takes time and it is a commitment for both children and parents.

Having said that, the benefits are far reaching and will enhance a child’s ability in many different ways. A second or more languages will give children even better chances of developing into well-rounded individuals and the earlier they start the better it is.
At Parla Italiano we offer Italian courses for children, please check our children’s classes schedule.

Laura Scaramella, Tel: 07941 092593

Written for Edmonton Green Magazine, November, 2017

Italy and its food etiquette: when in Rome do as the Romans do.

In Italy, eating is not a trivial matter, Italian don’t consider food as a means for survival, but as one of the pleasures of life. Food is related to joy and it is to be enjoyed with friends and family. Eating is part of the culture as much as Michelangelo and Galileo are.

Let’s see a few things that you can expect when going to Italy.

About meals (pasti): Italians eat quite late compared to the British, so expect a restaurant to start getting busy at around 8.30. However, if you are hungry early, you can always enjoy a lovely ‘aperitivo’ before your meal. This is a drink, for example a glass of chilled prosecco, accompanied by nibbles such as bruschetta, olives, cheese, etc. Regarding the menu always ask for the specials as these will be the freshest items offered and it is what most Italian will order.

About wine (vino): Wine is drank and savoured with the meal, it complements and completes it. Beer and soft drinks are usually drunk with pizza.

About coffee (caffè): When you ask for coffee, you will be served an espresso. If you try to order an item from the Starbucks menu, for example, Frappuccino you will probably be met with a question mark on the Barista’s face. If you order a ‘macchiato’ you’ll get an espresso with a drop of milk, or milk foam. Italian terms for a coffee are espresso, cappuccino and macchiato. Italians drink cappuccino only for breakfast or in the morning and never after meals.

About parmesan (parmigiano): Usually cheese is not mixed with fish and seafood dishes. Italians don’t sprinkle parmesan on pizza, which is made with mozzarella. Just go with the flow and have it when it is offered.

About ice-cream (gelato): When looking for ice-cream in Italy, look for ‘produzione propria’ or ‘artigianale’ which means that it is made on site with natural ingredients.

When in Italy relax, take your time to enjoy, blend in and try to use the beautiful language (la bella lingua). Italians are very forgiving when people try to speak Italian to them and appreciate the effort.

Whether you’d like to learn the language to get by or are more ambitious, at Parla Italiano we have an Italian course for you. Please get in touch by calling Laura on 07941 092593 or email: laura@parlaitaliano.co.uk.

Italian is the language of music

This beautiful language is the language chosen by Mozart for some of his most famous operas. It is the language that sings and it has been associated with music for more than a thousand years.

Many people fall in love with the Italian language by going on holiday in Italy; enjoying the beautiful country, the warm weather, the sea, the city of art and perhaps by listening to Italians.  I have heard of an English speaker who believes that everything ordinary becomes rather special if said in Italian: the modest kitchen towel is asciughino, to rock or swing is dondolare, to whistle is fischiettare and garbage is spazzatura.

I suppose that when you experience mostly blue skies and warm weather you might be inclined to feel positive and happy; and most things might feel and sound better. However, the musical element of the Italian language is actually achieved by the fact that most words end with a vowel giving a singing quality to the language.

But Italian is also the language of music in the sense that Italians have greatly influenced music and its language and so many musical terms such as allegro, forte, andante, etc are in Italian.

It was an Italian, Guido D’Arezzo, who invented the modern musical notation in the medieval era. Later on, the Italians dominated the musical scene during the Renaissance and the Baroque periods. They established Italian as the language of music in the same way as, for example, English is used today in most countries for IT and new technology terms. So if you play an instrument you will be very familiar with Italian terms such as piano, presto, sonata, aria, etc. Italian has also given many instruments their names: piano, viola, cello (violoncello), etc.

Join one of our classes to take a dip into this beautiful language, you will have the chance to hear the real language, you will practise speaking from day one and learn or improve your Italian. And even if singing is not required we might listen to Italian music from time to time. Ciao!

Enigma and the game of learning a language

Learning a language is like a game, not necessarily because it is easy, but because that should be the spirit when you attempt it.

Have you seen the film The Imitation Game? This is about Alan Turing, an English mathematician and computer scientist who worked for the Government at Bletchley Park. With his work, he helped cracking intercepted coded messages, which helped defeating the Nazis. Interestingly, what Turing says in the film is that cracking the code is just a game, a puzzle game.

But a language is also a code and my advice to you is to treat the learning like a game that you enjoy, be it a Sudoku, crosswords, or any other puzzle.

One of the common problems of second language students is listening comprehension. The spoken language is very different from the written one. Utterance of words is affected by speed, volume, accent, and so on. However, if you are listening in my class you will be advised to play like Alan Turing. The listening is not simple, it has to have a natural flow so that students practise hearing the ‘real’ spoken language. At first nothing makes sense, same as your jigsaw puzzle when you first start. However, the idea is not to understand it all, in fact any single word that you will understand is a bonus. After the first listening students start working on breaking the code. In the film, Turing realises that all message have some words in common, so this is his starting point. So if your audio track has prosecco in it, you might start to piece together that people are at a party or at the bar. During the second listening, you might capture other individual words and when added together it starts to make more sense. The more you listen and the more pieces you can put together to get the full picture. Before you know it all of the pieces start to fall into place.

This is of course true for a single listening but also for the all process of learning a language.

Do not forget that it is just a game and enjoy it the challenge of it while doing it.

New classes starting soon, beginners class available, limited places, contact Laura if interested laura@parlaitaliano.co.uk

Enigma and the game of learning a language

Learning a language is like a game, not necessarily because it is easy, but because that should be the spirit when you attempt it.

Have you seen the film The Imitation Game? This is about Alan Turing, an English mathematician and computer scientist who worked for the Government at Bletchley Park and helped cracking intercepted coded messages, which helped defeating the Nazis. Interestingly, what Turing says in the film is that cracking the code is just a game, a puzzle game.

But a language is also a code and my advice to you is to treat the learning like a game that you enjoy, be it a Sudoku, crosswords, or any other puzzle.

One of the common problems of second language students is listening comprehension. The spoken language is very different from the written one, utterance of words is affected by speed, volume, accent, and so on. However, if you are listening in my class you will be advised to play like Alan Turing. The listening is not simple, it has to have a natural flow so that students practise hearing the ‘real’ spoken language. At first nothing makes sense, same as your jigsaw puzzle when you first start. However, the idea is not to understand it all, in fact any single word that you will understand is a bonus. After the first listening students start working on breaking the code. In the film, Turing realises that all message have some words in common, so this is his starting point, so if your audio track has prosecco in it, you might start to piece together that people are at a party or at the bar. During the second listening you might capture other individual words and when added together it starts to make more sense; the more you listen and the more pieces you can put together to get the full picture. Before you know it all of the pieces start to fall into place. This is of course true for a single listening but also for the all process of learning a language.

Do not forget that it is just a game and enjoy it the challenge of it while doing it.

The secret fountain of youth: learning in later life

It is only after having had children that I discovered the Palmers Green community. Now, when I go out each day, I always meet somebody I know either from the school, the nursery, the tennis club, the swimming pool, the park, or of course the Italian classes that I run in Palmers Green.

My Italian classes are designed for adults and take place either in the morning at 10am or in the evening at 7.30pm. Who chooses the morning class is usually somebody working from home, self-employed or, more and more frequently, retired.

People are choosing to learn a second language later in life and recent studies point to the benefits of such decision: “even brief language courses could improve mental ability and ward off decline in later life.[…] So even when you are in your 60s or 70s, your brain responds” says Prof. Sorace who carried out a study on retired people. This and other studies have discovered that learning a second language offers proven benefits for intelligence, memory, and concentration and lowered risks of dementia and Alzheimer’s.

Once it was thought that our IQ and brain’s abilities were set at birth and they would simply decline with age. It is now recognised that our brain possesses a plasticity that enables it to change throughout life and it has the ability to reorganise itself by creating new connections between brain cells. In other words the ability to learn continues in later life.

A number of my students know this and take advantage of my classes and my methodology to exercise their brain and keep it agile. I admire them and in some cases they make up some of my best and most rewarding classes.

They are a very active part of our community and just yesterday at the local supermarket I met one of my latest students, Doreen; she is 84 and doing well. If you had any doubt about joining a class because of your age, you are probably just a baby compared to her. Don’t wait any longer, discover the real fountain of youth and you will reap the benefits, even the ones that you didn’t expect.