Working in an international association of language centres and never having stepped in to one as a student made me curious to try out a beginner’s course at IALC-accredited language school Linguaviva, in Florence.
I had been to Venice and Bologna in the past, however the only Italian I knew was ‘Ciao’ and ‘Grazie’! So, I felt a little overwhelmed in the car on my way to my host family.
Michele opened the door with a welcoming smile and asked how my flight was in English. My anxiety of not knowing any Italian disappeared... Then Michele’s wife Luisa walked out of the kitchen and greeted me in Italian ‘Tutto Bene’? My head started to spin as I tried to remember what this meant, knowing that I had learnt it on an app on my phone a couple of months ago. Of course when Michele translated for me and I remembered it meant ‘everything ok’? I now understood that the best way to learn a language is in the country that it is widely spoken.
After meeting the two other students in my homestay family, Monica from Brazil and Veronika from a German speaking part of Italy, I sat down and ate my first meal while gormlessly watching everyone speak in Italian. Luckily for me Veronika speaks very good English and became my translator for the week.
Lunedi 19 – My first day at Linguaviva
I sat down in my class with 5 others, unsure of the languages they all spoke and whether they already knew Italian. I later found out that they were from Iceland, Turkey, the Middle East and Germany.
I found it hard to understand at first as our teacher Luigi would ask us questions in Italian, however he would encourage us to understand what he meant with gestures and the occasional phrase in English. Luigi wrote on the board a long sentence in Italian and asked us all to pronounce it before we learnt the basics. Somehow I pronounced it 90% correctly!
After class, I joined the school’s orientation around Florence for new students which was very helpful as I have the worst sense of direction and as half of it was in Italian I found myself learning a few words.
Martedi 20 – Day 2 at Linguaviva
I felt a little more confident in myself as I walked 15 minutes through Florence for my second day at school. We learnt plural, singular verbs and how to count in Italian. Somehow my French started coming back to me that I had learnt 10 years ago at secondary school, as I noticed some similarities on how the language is taught. Immediately I felt happy to be learning at school again. (And of course being in Florence!)
I made some new friends in my class and went for a cioccolata calda! I found that it was important to learn how to order in a shop as the staff in small independent coffee shops would only speak Italian, which was perfect for us to learn the language!
After class I joined one of the afternoon activities to Piazzale Michelangelo with several other students from Linguaviva who were learning different levels of Italian. The photos you see on Instagram really don’t do it justice. However, it rained so much and was absolutely freezing! Our teacher guided us in Italian on the history of Florence and Tuscany. I could surprisingly understand parts as some of the words related to the English language and had picked up some words in class.
During class we learnt how to order in a market and visited the Mercato Centrale.
Vorrei 2 Etti la pasta!
The smells and bright colours of the pasta, sweets and local produce attracted the attention of everyone in the class. As we walked around amazed by the different foods, Luigi explained the local dishes, such as Lampredotto which is made from the stomach of the cow. A few of us, including me were a bit squeamish when we saw this, but Luigi informed us that it is very tasty! However, I went for the typical tourist option and had pizza! Although Luigi said it is the best pizza in Florence.
One of my favourite things about Linguaviva is that every day I make new friends from all over the world. Mexico, Italy, Germany, Colombia, China, Switzerland, Turkey, Israel, Iceland and many more countries… It doesn’t matter if they aren’t in your class, because you will either meet them through one friend who has been studying for months or on one of the school afternoon activities. Although everyone spoke a different language there would always be the chance to practice Italian and everyone is in the same boat.
A large group of us went to lunch at Osteria dei Centopoveri after a morning of learning adjectives. I would highly recommended the restaurant as it’s only 10 euros for primo, secondo, l’aqua & vino!
After lunch, I went to the cathedral and climbed 463 steps up the Duomo to the top of the cupola. I felt so unfit and claustrophobic while climbing the steps, however it was worth the stunning views of Florence.
Sono Trieste! Today is my last day at Linguaviva. We learnt ‘a’ & ‘an’ – plural and singular. However, all I could think about was it being my last lesson. I have enjoyed going back to school so much and am sad it has ended.
Luigi and everyone in the class signed my workbook and I almost felt like crying! It was like leaving a new life and family behind, even though it was for one week!
I walked to school for the last time today with my new close friend and housemate Veronika. We went to meet other students and a teacher from Linguaviva to go and get the train to Lucca, a city nearby on the Serchio river, known for its preserved Renaissance walls that surround its centre. The more I listened to the teacher talk in Italian about Lucca’s history, the more words I started to understand. I don’t know if it is because some words are similar to English or if they were words I had learnt in class, but even another student asked how I could understand some parts.
I will definitely carry on learning Italian at home with my text book and hopefully one day I will go back to Linguaviva!