If you take an Italian course in London, Boston or Adelaide, chances are that your teacher will conduct the classes mostly in English, which is almost certainly the only language shared by both the teacher and all of the students.
There’s nothing wrong with that, though what you gain in terms of clear, efficient communications, you might lose when it comes to natural opportunities to improve your Italian listening and speaking.
Still, it’s swings and roundabouts, and when you’re studying a foreign language in your own country, classes conducted in the students’ own language are the norm.
But think – if you choose to study Italian actually in the country where it is spoken every day, things are likely to be organised differently!
The school where you take your course will probably be catering not just to students from Britain, the US and Australia, but also to clients from Germany, Japan, Brazil, China, France, Russia and many, many other places.
It’s possible that your classmates speak and understand English, but we certainly can’t guarantee or require it.
The only logical option, therefore, is to hold our Italian classes, social events, and so on, in Italian – right from day 1!
Yes, much of our marketing is in English, and our reception staff all speak excellent English, but the teaching is in Italian.
Not only does this place everyone in the class on an equal footing, but it also ensures that every moment of your course is an opportunity to build your capacity to understand and communicate in Italian.
Sure, if you’re not getting clear explanations of Italian grammar delivered in your own language, that could be quite a difference from the teaching style that you’re used to.
But an experienced teacher will know how to use images, diagrams, objects or mimes to get their points across.
And with the right training, they’re able to adjust the complexity of their speech so that they know that what they say will be understandable for the level of the class in front of them, whether beginners or super-advanced.
Your teacher will be interacting with you in a language that you might know little or nothing of, and of course at first that might sound intimidating.
But when it’s done well, it will have a tremendously positive effect on your confidence, and can really accelerate the pace at which your Italian develops.
Again, it’s swings and roundabouts.
Don’t expect to understand everything. In fact, expect the opposite – ambiguity and confusion are almost the default states when you’re speaking a foreign language, so you may as well get used to it…
The trick is to chill out, to ‘go with the flow’.
Sit back and relax, until your brain starts to adjust to this new way of doing things.
No one will be judging you. Everyone understands just how difficult it can be. Give it time.
You will adjust, and when that happens, you’ll look back and recognise just how much progress you’ve made with your Italian.
Any initial stress and confusion will seem more than worth while!