Case Study: Language Travel in Sicily
My Language Travel Adventure in Sicily
by Sally from Dorset
I immediately fell in love with Italy on a weekend trip to Rome. The narrow streets and hidden churches, the people, the culture, everything you see is intertwined with history and religion. It sparked a wish to return in me.
A short while later I was lucky enough to gain an Erasmus grant to visit Bologna to work at a partner university, which was to be my second trip to Italy! While in Bologna I decided I should at least try and learn a few greetings in Italian and ensure I could order the right food in a restaurant. So, I started a learn at home CD which was so much fun. The first phrase I actually learnt was ‘my mother has baked the cake’, a phrase you clearly can’t manage without on a trip to Italy. I really enjoyed learning Italian, and knew I would keep learning and go back at the next opportunity.
Around 6 months later I had a 6-week gap between one work project finishing and taking up a new position so this was my chance! I would go to Italy and learn Italian! I wanted to go somewhere new and found a beautiful school in Sicily – decision made, trip booked. What an opportunity this was. I chose a school in Taormina.
Taormina is absolutely beautiful, perched on a clifftop overlooking the Ionian sea with wonderful views of Mount Etna. It is a small town so you can walk from one end to the other in around 30 minutes, that is if you do not stop in any of the many cafes and restaurants, boutique shops, to visit the ancient Greek theatre or to stop and enjoy the views with a gelato.
The school was just as beautiful, tucked away down a stepped street. You walk through the gate to a large open space with small classrooms overlooking a luscious garden. The staff immediately made me feel welcome and I was able to practice my Italian straight away in the café. All newcomers were met and we were given our induction, followed by a test so we could be put in the correct group for our ability. All the teachers were energetic and tried to make learning fun, they could speak perfect English and many could also speak German and Russian, but kept the common language to Italian so we stayed focused and kept immersed in the Sicilian way.
Lessons started at 9am every weekday morning. The lessons were 45 minutes long and we had four lessons in the morning. The classes were small, and in my group there were either 8 or 10 of us at a time. This was a great number of people as you could get to know everyone and remember their names, team up with different partners to practice. But small enough so if you made a mistake it was amongst friends. Teaching was a total mix. Sometimes we were learning new vocabulary, or practicing our speech, or listening, or role playing with classmates. Sometimes we ventured out of the classroom for some real life role playing with the locals.
We were given around an hour of homework each night. The school offered drinks and snacks in the cafe and when the day finished at lunchtime they offered a range of lunch options including a daily lunch special. I opted to take one-to-one lessons in the afternoons which were brilliant and often we took the session in the garden. Many of the students remained in the school during the afternoon to socialise and practice, a chance to sit in the sun in the lovely surroundings. In the evenings I attended lectures offered at the school for free, there were evening social dinners, cooking lessons, wine tasting and brilliant live music nights. There was a total mixture of people, some school students, some people learning as part of their jobs, older people there on a learning holiday, some stayed for a week and others were there for much longer. I stayed for 5 weeks and wish it could have been for longer.