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Languages for the Tourist - Going to Language School in Europe

Part 2: Language Schools in Europe - What's it like to Study Italian in Italy?

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Universita per Stranieri picture

Language School - Universita per Stranieri, Perugia picture.

James Martin

On the right is the Università per Stranieri building--the Palazzo Gallenga, situated just outside the Etruscan walls of Perugia--a great place to study the Italian Language.

I could never learn a Foreign Language--never!

Ok, that's what everyone thinks. I am horrible with languages, having studied Spanish for a year in high school and coming away just barely able to say "si" to a question I didn't understand. But I went to language school in Italy for a month and now I can ask waiters silly question about the soup.

Language School is Different

Immersion in a foreign language school is a whole lot different than spending two hours a week in a classroom outside of Europe. First of all, there's likely to be plenty of people from all over the world in your class. The common language is the language you're all studying. You'll haveto use it to talk to people who don't speak English. Plus, you'll discover new things about your destination based on your increasing comprehension of the local lingo, things you couldn't discover without staying for a prolonged period of time in a city and interacting with people in their language. The rewards are so great that sooner or later you'll probably get it--even if you've never done very well in school.

What do I have to look forward to in Language School?

Ok, here's the condensed version of what I went through to take a one month study course at Università per Stranieri in Perugia. Your mileage may vary.

First I signed up on the net way in advance. I told them to find me housing. Then I waited to hear back.

Luckily I had signed up early. It seems, at this school at least, that the early bird gets the best housing. And if you're looking for cheap housing in the city, you probably can't do better (in terms of price) than signing up with a language school that offers self-catering apartments or home stays for the duration of your studies.

In any case, I got to Perugia, checked out the apartment (which had a dishwasher anda clothes washing machine) and went to the school for my first day. I was shepherded into a huge room crowded with people from all over the world, where I took a test that determined my level of incomprehension. I made it to the second level, one up from the beginners. It was time to uncork the bubbly.

Then the work began. The school had pretty much three different approaches to learning: a daily grammar class to get you into the structure of the language, a lab class to get you talking faster, and the fun class where you really learned how to converse and interact with others, working out scenarios like speaking to someone over the phone, ordering in a restaurant, or arguing with someone over a car accident. Classes could take 4-6 hours out of your tourist day on the average. Those proficient enough to get into the third level got lectures on all aspects of Italian life, just as if they were in a "real" school.

On Weekends, the school sponsored excursions out of Perugia which were optional but reasonably priced. You could eat at the school cafeteria any time, where cheap food could be had.

The cool part was coming together with people from all over the world and having a language to talk to them with. One guy had come all the way from China, mostly on the train. There were many young students from Serbia and Croatia--then simply Yugoslavia. We met in cafes, restaurants, and I even cooked a meal for the "cinque felice," a group of five of us that our grammar teacher called "the five happy ones" because we sat up front and had a fun time learning.

The point I'm trying to get across is that language school is more than boning up on language. It offers you a deeper look at country and the world. You really should go.

Foreign Language Schools

Università per Stranieri in Perugia, Italy
Language Schools: Spain and Europe
Italian Language Schools in Italy
German Language Schools around the world.
French Language Schools around the world.
Foreign Language Help

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