I just had to fall in love.
“But what were you thinking, Elena?”, my friends were teasing me before leaving for Italy, teasing me about my “pure desire to learn Italian” (no guys, no eventual distractions this time ..!). But then .. Oh Salerno. Pompei. The Amalfi Coast, righteously known to be World Heritage of Humankind. All of these places are no longer just some pretty dots on a map, but evoke a kind of music, and smile in me, a connection to all the beautiful people I met in the south of Italy. A land full of amore, beauty, and contradictions.
Going to Italy for cooking lessons and to learn Italian? I can’t think of a better suggestion for your (and my) next Easter holiday.
More than a year ago, the team of the international language travel agency ESL has contacted me with the idea to pick and choose one of their many language schools all over Europe, and blog about my experience there. As “Creativelena”, I did not think twice: Italian was my choice, my now seventh language after already speaking German, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese and Catalan! And so the story goes: “Elena, Salerno seems to be the perfect place for you. As it offers you not only a language school, but also many cultural activities, and cooking lessons for you as a creative traveller ..”
Languages are best learned in the country where they are spoken. At least that’s how the theory goes. What my practice has proven, again, is that besides being in the country, what you should really do is fall in love.
And I don’t (always ;)) mean the love for a particular man, or woman (però è certissimo che anch’aiuterà, sempre!), but more so, the love for the sweetness of the local people, the way they laugh, sing, and gesticulate, their very own sense of humour, their heartfelt expressions, stories, idiosyncrasies and crazy little ideas. Whatever it may be, it is literally a guarantee to get you emotionally connected, to befriend and fall in love with new people, and to carry sweet memories way beyond the trip. And this, my dear readers, is a guarantee for two things: You will want to learn the language quickly (and easily). You will also end up with a desire to return, to keep contact, to practice the new language in your own country (look up language cafés, Italian restaurants, adult education centres etc. as some of the options available to you).
So how do you start? I have easily landed myself in a B1 conversational level of Italian, without having ever studied before. Yes, it’s possible.
Of course, I would have had “help” from having studied several other Roman languages (and six years of Latin!) before. The basic vocabulary, and some of the grammar in Italian, came to me easily when looking at some initial textbooks. However, as you step up your game in a language, there is always a whole host of new details, particularities, and little differences to be learned. I really had to “let go of my Spanish”, not “think in Portuguese”, and “not even start with Catalan”, the language I presume to be closest to Italian together with Spanish. Phew. A beautiful challenge for a language lover like myself!
Italian now is a tender little language plant inside my head & heart. After more trips to Spain, Catalonia and Portugal this year, I will definitely mark at least one more trip to Italy, too, in order to keep furthering my Italian.
Just think about it: As soon as your trip comes to an end, start planning on how you can continue your language training at home, or even mark a trip back to the same country. I really look forward to following up with my new Italian friends on Social Media, reading and commenting Italian blogs and websites, keeping up the exchange with my dear host family and teachers at the local language school “L’Accademia Italiana di Salerno”. Modern ways of communication do make it easy in this time and age after all.
Pina, professoressa carissima nostra! Già mi manchi troppo … Ho veramente adorato questo corso di italiano con te, e trovo che sei proprio una insegnante buonissima. Il tuo senso d’umorismo non solo ti ha salvato a te, ma egualmente ci ha permesso di sentire tutta l’emozione che portavamo sempre tra noi. Giuro tornare presto, anche si fosse solo per partecipare una volta di più alle tue lezioni. Ti voglio anche un sacco di bene! Grazie per tutto che hai fatto per noi, anche elevarmi in questo livello di italiano! Baci e a la prossima, bellissima!
So what about love, then?
Well. As you know, love and food are very much connected, so let me share a few “aromatic” photographs of our cooking lessons & school excursions with you …! Ciao, bella Italia, ci vediamo in questa bellissima città di Salerno!
And you, when will you come to realise your dream of learning Italian in Italy?
Disclaimer: I have been invited by ESL Education to travel and learn Italian in Italy. All opinions are my own.