‘Italian Study Vacations’ 5: What will the class be like?

How will the school know what class you need to be in? And what will the other students in your group be like?

Today you’ll find about how we organise your course to ensure that your stay at our school will be as sucessful and effective as possible!

You can book your Italian study vacation to start almost any Monday of the year: Madrelingua is always open, except for two weeks at Christmas/New Year when we close for a well-deserved break!

We have three or four full-time teachers, plus freelance staff, and each teacher takes care of one group of students (maximum ten) who we assess to have similar needs. We expect to have around four classes on average, but there could be as many as six at peak times, with fewer in very quiet periods.

When we receive your booking form and deposit, we’ll e-mail you an Italian test. There are around 40 questions with multiple-choice responses (choose the correct answer from a, b, c, d.) The questions start easy and get harder, so by looking at the total number of correct answers, and the way that the correct and wrong answers are distributed across the test, we can get a reasonable idea of your level in Italian.

Don’t worry about the test. It shouldn’t take you long to complete, and the purpose is to help you by “placing” you in the correct group. Just do your best, and no cheating!!

Besides the test, we also use other information to get an idea of what your needs will be. When you complete the course booking form, you tell us what your mother-tongue is, and what other languages you know. Experience tells us that Spanish speakers, for example, will have a much easier time and make more rapid progress than English speakers. So we allow for this when “placing” you in your class.

So, finally the day comes! When you arrive to begin your course on the Monday morning, you’ll need to complete your payment with our course registrar, after which you’ll be introduced to your teacher and/or to the Assistant Director of Studies. These three people are there to help you and to spot potential problems. If you’ve been “placed” in the wrong class, they’ll probably know it before you do.

Your class starts at 09.30 and for the first two hours you’ll study grammar and vocabulary. Then there’s a break, which is really part of the class. You, your teacher, and your classmates will all go to the coffee bar together (just like Italians do at that time of day) and chat together in Italian. You can get something to eat and drink, but above all it’s a time for making friends and practising what you’ve learnt.

Our students come from all walks of life. Many are young, in their twenties, but we also attract pensioners and professionals (business people, diplomats). Most students are from Europe, Eastern-Europe, North or South America, or Australasia, some from Asia, and a few from Africa and the Middle-East. So you’re sure to meet someone you can get on with!

After the break, which can last for some time, you’ll go back to the classroom, where a different teacher will continue the “practice” part of your class. That might mean more speaking, or listening, or reading, or more rarely, writing in Italian.

What if you’re not happy after the first day? First, talk to your teacher, or to Francesca, the Assistant Director of Studies. They’ll know how to help you. You might just need a little reassurance (after all, it’s the first day..), or they might agree that perhaps moving up or down a level would be better for you.

And if there’s anything other than the class itself which is not working for you, such as a problem with your accommodation, Stefania (registrar and accommodation officer) is there to sort it out. We want you to be happy, so you learn as much as you can without distractions!

What about in the afternoons? That’s up to you. You can stay and study in the school if you wish (there’s normally a “tutor” available in the library to help you with your homework or to run through anything you’re having problems with), go sight-seeing, or simply go home and rest.

Several times a week we organise social activities for you to meet other students, practise your Italian and, of course, enjoy yourself. You might go for a pizza, an ice-cream, or a drink, for example.

The next article in this series will explain how we teach, using only Italian!

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  1. […] In the next article in this series, find out how we verify your level in Italian before you arrive, and what happens on the first day of your course! […]

  2. […] What class will I be in and what will the other students be like? […]