How things stand

In this moment of confinement, the result of restrictive measures taken against the spreading of Covid-19, many of us have a lot of time on our hands. Many others are divided between smart working commitments and the needs of their children who have to follow school classes in remote learning. Others again are working as ever, but the environment around them has undoubtedly changed.

Maybe, I would risk saying, trips abroad will be less frequent after this pandemic, but foreign languages will certainly not become less useful in the hyper-connected world in which we have come to live.

Speaking in a foreign language: fears and concerns

Some, too, are deciding to spend time on activities so far set aside. Taking conversation lessons in English, Spanish or Italian is one of these, with the aim of refreshing their knowledge of a language learnt many years before, or which they have mastered in the written form but have few opportunities to speak.

But why, as of now, haven’t they gone ahead with a course, or are not completely satisfied with the one they have done? Here are a few opinions…


Livia: What do you do in your life?

Daniela Z.: I work in a chemist’s

Do you have any children? Yes

Do you think it would be worth improving the foreign language they are already studying at school? I’m sure it would, even though I’m lucky to have an excellent English teacher in the elementary school … but I realize this is not enough.

Why not? It would be useful to have lessons and conversation in the language from the earliest age. At school, they have to study grammar, but they need to learn the language first of all. I have some good bilingual friends who taught both Italian and English, for example, immediately, using bedtime stories or comics in the language. Children have receptive brains that can take in any information very rapidly!

What would you like them to learn? Do you already have experience of language courses and, if so, would you care to describe the content? My daughter goes to a private school to learn English, but I’m not satisfied. The method is repetitive and out-of-date. Children should be stimulated, not bored. A new, less “Italian”, approach is needed, I’d say. I learnt English on a study-holiday with a family, conversation is the most important thing.  


Livia: What do you do in your life?

Gianluca: I deal with IT technology, I’m employed in a software house as a programmer and systems manager.

Have you ever attended an English course? If so, what proportion of the lessons was dedicated to speaking? I attended an English course at a private school in Ravenna. The study programme was based on a series of written and audio comprehension exercises to be completed before the periodical reassessment meeting with a native speaker teacher. There were also weekly “social” meetings between students and one or more teachers, in order to chat in English.

If you could create your ideal course, what elements would you choose? I feel that listening, comprehension and conversation are the most important things for a real understanding of the language, much more than notions about grammar. The acquisition of terms and verbs is fundamental, though, in order to understand the concepts you hear and to be able, consequently, to express and convey your own thought. I think the most important, and the most difficult, thing, though, is understanding dialogue spoken by native speakers.

* * *

Livia: What do you do in your life?

G: I’m a dentist.

Do you ever use foreign languages in your work? I often attend training courses given in English and I always have to rely on the interpreter. I also take part in working dinners in the company of foreign teachers with whom I would like to speak. I am also enrolled in groups and blogs of foreign dentists. And lastly, all scientific information is principally written in English.

What do you think you need to improve your level? Given my poor listening capacities, I would need first of all to review the basic grammar and then practice listening and dialogue with a dedicated teacher.

Do you feel some sort of limit prevents you improving? Yes, definitely, I’m embarrassed to hear my voice pronouncing a language other than my own and I am not able to converse with foreigners.

 * * *

Livia: What do you do in your life?

N: I’m a Project Coordinator in a company of Oil&Gas services.

Do you need a foreign language in your job? Yes, and in particular, English, since I speak daily – including phone conversations – with customers and staff dealing with foreign jobs.

Do you feel fairly confident when you use it? No, I don’t feel confident enough, either speaking or communicating by e-mail.

What paths might open up if you had a good knowledge of the language? I could communicate with staff more precisely and reliably. I could improve my listening skills so as to understand requests more quickly and precisely. I could increase my vocabulary. I could communicate with customers and staff more fluently, outside work, too. I could attend courses in a foreign language and increase the skills in my curriculum. Lastly, I could expand my social life away from work and travel with more confidence.

What holds you back from taking a conversation course? I feel shy about facing a skilled professional figure in a non-working situation. And I’m terrified of having to communicate for an extended period with a stranger because I don’t love talking much and I’m very reserved.

* * *

What do we lose if we’re afraid to speak in public in a language that is not our own?

Stop to reflect: what opportunities are you losing when you throw up the possibility of a few hours of conversation in a foreign language? Maybe you are missing work opportunities, maybe you are losing a new market. Or maybe you’re denying yourself the pleasure of making new social contacts.

An elastic, customizable method: adults and young people, private individuals and companies

Conversation lessons can now be held in many different ways. From remote teaching on any software platform to personal presence, whether one-to-one or in groups (small or large), in-company or at home. There’s total flexibility, so you can’t make excuses any more!

Conversations can be simple, on subjects from daily life, or more complex and specialized, maybe using the terminology you use every day at work. My experience as an interpreter has enabled me to master many specialized language areas, and I would enjoy mutually enriching our linguistic assets.

Or supposing we invented a “travel abroad” experience together with your children, while remaining in Italy? Speaking exclusively in a foreign language, I could accompany them in various real contexts. This way, we could experience what it means to immerse yourself in a new world. And then – why not? – between adults, too, we could hold in-language conversations, maybe during a lunch or a themed aperitif!

There are no pre-packaged modules in my method. There is total liberty, just as an actor can interpret the same script in scores of different ways! During the first lesson, we will understand the level on which to build the next appointments and we’ll assess whether to create a group with other people at the same level or whether to go ahead one-to-one. We will work out how often to hold conversations and we’ll fix a final target, so as to create a proper itinerary, with points of departure and arrival.

Do you want to know more? Do you want to create a tailor-made path? Contact me!