Ever thought of learning Italian? You’re in good company! Over 200,000 people around the world take it up every year making it the fourth most studied language. And not only do language skills help when travelling, they can also improve job prospects, boost mental activity and even protect against dementia. So if you want to learn more than just the phrasebook essentials of how to say hello, please and thank you in Italian what is the best way to get started? I went to talk to the team at Venice’s Easy Italian Language & Art School (EILA) to find out.
Michele and Domenico, the school’s directors, believe that the key to learning Italian quickly and easily is total immersion in the language, culture and Venetian way of life. They offer a range of courses designed to suit the needs of the individual student and to get you speaking Italian straight away. But as the name suggests, EILA is not just about learning the language. The team is passionate that in order for students to really gain an understanding of Italian, they need to also understand the art that surrounds them and communicates what it is to be Italian.
So what’s on offer?
Whether you are a complete beginner or looking to consolidate and extend existing language skills, Michele and the team have something for you. Language courses include week-long intensive programmes, weekly lessons over a couple of months or even online Skype lessons and each format has a pre-arranged programme with students’ requirements at the centre. Classes tend to be small groups of 2-6 people, but can be larger. Alternatively, individual 1-2-1 courses are also available on request and can be tailored to your own needs. So you see EILA has all the options covered!
And once you’ve chosen the right format for you the EILA teachers will have you speaking Italian right from the word go! True to their total immersion philosophy EILA lessons are not only taught in Italian (don’t worry, its not as scary as it sounds as Michele keeps the atmosphere relaxed!) but focus on putting your newly learnt skills into practical use straight away. So instead of dryly memorizing and reciting all those tedious grammar tables the emphasis is on getting you speaking Italian via real-life examples, role-playing and video dialogues. As Michele stresses, the key to their teaching method is that students learn by doing, and it brings results, fast!
Lessons aren’t always confined to the classroom either. Michele and his team encourage students to get out into the city, often with your classmates, to practice what you’ve been learning in real situations. Don’t worry though, the locals are friendly and usually happy to let you practice your pronunciation and new phrases on them in the supermarket or restaurants around town!
There is also a weekly MeetUp group on a Monday evening where you can practice your newfound skills with local Italians accompanied by the odd glass of vino (details in the Useful Information section at the bottom of the page) so there is no excuse not to practice! And you never know where those conversations might lead…..I’ve made some lifelong friends through the group in the last year!!
But that’s not all! There is more on offer from Easy Italian Learning & Art!
Directors Michele and Domenico believe passionately that to learn Italian you also need to experience and understand two other factors of Italian life – the art and every day life of Italy.
Historically art has been intrinsically linked to Venetian and Italian life in general with paintings being commissioned for homes, schools, churches and aristocratic residences alike. And Venice has the luxury of retaining a large proportion of its art in its original location, on the very walls for which it was commissioned. This offers students the exclusive opportunity to study the messages left by Tiziano, Tintoretto or Tiepolo, for example, whose paintings talk to each other across the rooms and floors of buildings such as the Scuola di San Rocco in San Polo, Venice.
Historian Domenico’s art history lessons compliment the language classes perfectly, revealing the expressive nature of Venetian art down through the ages. Lessons take place both in class and around the city taking in the jewels that decorate Venice. And Domenico also makes good use of the city’s sizeable cultural legacy to illustrate how body language and gestures have been used through the centuries, just as today, to communicate a large part of what an Italian has to say. So just as the spoken word conveys a message, so too do Venice’s priceless artworks and EILA’s art history courses are an ideal way to tease out the hidden messages.
Note : As with the language courses, art history lessons are conducted in Italian. Due to the complex nature of some of the art history subjects, however, a minimum of A2 level Italian is required. For more information, contact EILA.
As you can see, there’s much more to learning Italian than simply studying the grammar and vocabulary. And as Domenico explains, EILA offers more than just a check-list trot through the stereotypical view of Italian life, language and artistic landscapes – they’re offering a chance to participate and really experience the Venetian life.
And at EILA they like to go the extra mile for their students so on top of their range of language and art classes they also help you to immerse yourself in the daily routine and environment of il belle paese (the beautiful country) offering a range of different experiences.
So whether you fancy sampling the best wine and cicchetti that Venice has to offer, or want to explore the islands and art of Murano and Burano further or are keen to discover the secret gardens of Venice, EILA has a cultural tour just for you!
But, ultimately, the pinnacle of the total immersive experience is to stay with an Italian family and so EILA also offer homestay accommodation. The homestay families live in flat the less touristy areas of Venice so you really live like a local away from the tourist traps, with the lagoon literally lapping beneath the window! It may sound daunting to stay with Italian families but they are about as friendly as could be and the benefits of immersion vastly outweigh any concerns. Plus breakfast is included as is a traditional Sunday lunch at the home of one of the teachers. Who could ask for more eh?!
So if you’ve not yet kickstarted that dusty New Year’s resolution to learn a second language, now is the time to do it! Michele, Domenico and the team are ready to put some Italian language and art lessons together for you and will give you the full Italian welcome when you arrive in Venice! What better place to dive into the Italian experience than surrounded by a 1500-year old city bursting with history, art and tradition – EILA really does make learning Italian easy! Don’t forget to leave me a message with your new year’s resolutions or send me a postcard to let me know how you get on with EILA! And in the meantime, all that’s left for me to do is to say In bocca al lupo (good luck!), not that you’ll need it as you’ll be in very safe hands with Michele and Domenico! Cominciamo, lets get started!
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Nelson Mandela
Easy Italian Language and Art School website
Where to find them–
Venice Language Meet Up Group website – free for all to join!
Venue : Enoteca “Da Roberto”, Rio Tera Farsetti, Cannaregio, Venice
Date & time : Every Monday at 7pm
Our Meet Up is for anyone interested in practising their Italian. Are you a student of Italian living in Venice? Or are you a tourist here only for a few days? Practise your language skills, meet new people and make new friends! We meet weekly at a Venetian tavern, drinking a glass of good Italian wine. All are welcome to this group, of any age or nationality, as long as you have a basic knowledge of Italian Language. See you soon!
Note : This is NOT a sponsored post and I have not been paid to write it, nor am I in any way a part of the business. I have written this because I believe in the idea to make learning Italian more active and immersive and can recommend Michele and Domenico as teachers!