Learning a foreign language like Italian can be a life-transforming experience: your self-confidence will improve, and your view of the world, and your place in it, may change radically.
But there’s also no doubt that getting to the point where you’ll be able to speak and understand Italian can be a slow and frustrating process.
Which is why, sooner or later, you may find yourself considering whether you should take a more intensive course at an Italian language school in Italy.
Perhaps you would learn a lot, quickly.
But maybe you’d be better attending Italian classes in your home town?
Before you make up your mind, here’s what you need to know to decide if studying in Italy is the right option for you.
Why study in Italy?
You’ll be surrounded by Italian all day, you’ll be forced to use the language for every interaction, such as buying a coffee or ordering lunch.
No doubt you already know the obvious reasons, so I won’t dwell on them.
But what about these advantages?
- Italian schools in Italy teach Italian all day, every day. Their teachers and staff are pros. Helping you learn is their full-time job, and they do it well.
- You’ll likely be studying in a group with people from many countries: Brazil, Japan, Germany, France, Australia. The ‘lingua franca’ you use to comunicate with your new friends will be Italian. And the people you get to know during your Italian course will become friends with whom you will speak Italian (or exchange Facebook messages), perhaps for many years into the future!
- An Italian course in Italy means getting to know an Italian city and the people who live in it – how they speak, how they think, what they eat, how they dress, their social and cultural activities, and so on. Which, in turn, may support your interest in learning the language and give you new enthusiasm, and motivation. Which is the key to success in learning any language.
- A couple of weeks, or a couple of months, away from home is quite a challenge for many of us. It can be scary, but the feeling of accomplishment and the personal growth that come from a period studying abroad can really make it worthwhile!
How do Italian language schools work?
It’s not rocket science. Schools employ qualified, trained Italian teachers who take around 4-5 hours of classes a day.
Students are organised by level. Lessons follow a syllabus which covers the grammar and the new words you need, in a logical order, and allows for plenty of time for speaking and listening practice.
In the afternoons, you may choose to do homework and/or to participate in social events with other students. Sometimes teachers also take part in social events. Some schools will provide a tutor to help you with your homework.
But you’ll still have plenty of free time to see the sights, eat out, or just to relax: learning Italian can be exhausting!
Most schools allow you to choose the length of your course, and all of them will arrange accommodation for you.
You could stay with an Italian host (family or individual), or if you prefer you could rent an appartment or stay in a hotel.
It all depends on your budget and preferences.
How long does it take to learn Italian in Italy?
For a detailed answer, see this article. But the quick answer is, around a month per level (there are six levels.)
A week would be enough to make a start with survival Italian. Two weeks would mean more progress. In a month you’d probably complete the first level and really notice how much you had improved.
If you were able to study for a longer period, you could achieve real expertise in the language – you would eventually reach the point at which you were able to participate fully in conversations in Italian, read the newspaper, and understand TV programs and songs.
Really, it’s just a question of time: if you choose to study at a professional language school in Italy, you’ll be speaking Italian confidently in months, rather than the years it would take you home.
“What will an Italian course cost me?”
For short periods, about as much as a cheap vacation for the same number of weeks.
But if you’re serious about learning Italian, and are able to take more time to make real progress with the language, let me surprise you…
A year at college or university in the UK (for you or your children) is now 6000 British pounds (call it 7500 euros, or 8500 US dollars). Plus accommodation, plus living expenses, plus books…
Total? At least nine thousand pounds a year (€12,000).
And most college/university courses last for three years!
Now compare that with the cost of learning Italian to a good level:
Madrelingua currently offers a 24-week price of €3773.
Look carefully on the website and you’ll find a way of knocking 15% off that figure.
So, say €3300 for almost six months of lessons.
At 20 hours a week, that’s 480 hours of classroom time. Plus the practice outside of class, of course.
We reckon you could go from zero to ‘pretty damn good’ in that time!
Don’t forget to add in a similar amount for accommodation and living expenses (a room with a family costs €120 per week, for example.)
But whatever way you do the maths, it comes out the same:
for substantially less than the cost of a year at an average college/university, you could be speaking, understanding, reading and writing Italian at an advanced level.
Choose the best Italian language school for you
Any decent language school will be able to help you achieve excellent results.
But not all Italian schools are the same.
For a start, there’s the location. For longer courses, you’ll probably be better off avoiding destinations which are too small. A place can get pretty stale after a few weeks, let alone months.
But the really big cities can be impersonal, and suffer from all the disadvantages of big-city life, such as pollution, travel costs and noise.
(If you’re stuck for ideas on where in Italy to choose, take a look at this article…)
Another factor is the size of the school itself.
Too big, and you’ll be just one face in the crowd.
But too small, and you may find yourself being one of only a handful of students, which can be limiting socially.
Guess it’s a sort of Goldilocks problem – not too hot, not too cold.
You might find that ‘just right’ would be a medium-sized language school in a city which has plenty to do, but is not a sprawling metropolis (like Rome or Milan) or over-run with tourists (Florence, Siena..)
If in doubt…
We’d love you to come to Bologna, take a course for several months, and learn Italian really, really well!
But we don’t want anyone to commit to something that won’t work out for them.
So, if you’re unsure, why not take a shorter course first?
A week or two, to see if you like the school, the teachers, and the city?
(Most people do: Student testimonials)
The ‘Girl with a pearl earring’ offer ends tomorrow. Just 36 hours left to get your free ticket. Full details here.