Paul De Palma, Washington State, USA, April, 2015
I’d like to thank Stefania and all of my teachers for the wonderful and stimulating three weeks I spent as a student at Madrelingua. I regret only that I couldn’t have stayed longer. It is hard to say enough good things about the school. Everyone was kind, accepting, and helpful. There was a camaraderie among the students that made it a pleasure to come to class. The teachers’ enthusiasm and humor – they made me laugh every day – took away all of the self-consciousness I’ve often felt when trying to speak foreign languages. In fact, they were so full of energy and fun that I wondered how they could keep it up day after day. Yet they did.
The mode of instruction was a perfect balance between formal language study and practice. Each morning we studied a grammatical structure but – this is key – always in the context of conversation. The afternoons were pure conversation. In essence, we practiced listening and speaking to native speakers, while we learned the formal aspects of the language.
Every interaction – instruction, discussion, business matters, questions about Bologna, plans for the weekend, breaks at the bar, chatting with other students – was entirely in Italian. We wrote extensively, in Italian, of course, and gave oral presentations in Italian as well. All of this truly inspired teaching happened in an atmosphere of acceptance, complete toleration for the skill (or, in my case, lack of it) that we brought to Madrelingua, and fun. Yes, fun. Finally, the classes were small, giving everyone a chance to participate. My three weeks at Madrelingua was absolutely the best language learning experience that I’ve ever had.
I’m already trying to figure out how I can come back.
Nigel and Sue FitzHugh, May 2014
We just wanted to say thank you for 4 excellent weeks in Bologna at your school. We really enjoyed ourselves once our brains had adjusted to such intense learning, and were amazed that we can now understand so much more, even our daughter-in-law’s mother who was completely incomprehensible before our course!
Dominic Considine, May 2014
I really enjoyed the time at your school. It’s lovely to experience a good school, one that centres on experiential learning and student care. I found everyone helpful and friendly. Almost like a family approach rather than a big business. The study room in the afternoon is a great idea especially to have help available doing homework. Lastly all the teachers very good. Also when booking you were very helpful. So thanks again. Best wishes to all and I hope to return so that some day I will eventually be able to comfortably read, write, understand and speak Italian!
Peter Clough, February 2014
I really enjoyed my course and my stay in Bologna. I found Madrelingua via Internet from my home in France. I was pleased. I had good contact with the other students and teachers and the outside activities were always lively and interesting. Madrelingua has a great central location and spacious classrooms and useful library, too. Those telephone conversations early on with Stefania convinced me to choose Madrelingua. I shall return to Bologna to get to know the region better and perhaps add more depth to my knowledge of Italian with another course. Many thanks to all of you!
Joanna Matthews, December 2013
Thank you so much for the Italian lessons – the teaching was amazing and I have learnt so much. I’m pretty sure my Italian has improved by a mile and I’m now so much more confident. The way the school is run is excellent – you should be so proud of it. It is a fantastic place to study, and to socialise.
Ange Lina, December 2013 (via Facebook)
Thank you and good bye to all of you. I LOVE your school and highly recomend it to anyone interested in learning italian. When I started at the school I could say 3 word sentences, now I am up to 8! 🙂 Your teachers are so sweet and the location is so central to life in Bologna. it was a fun learning experience and money well spent. Grazie!
Stefanie Newman, October 2013
Anyone can buy a few grammar books, rent some classroom space and say they’re a language school, but it takes insight to create a place where students can make strides in the study of language. Stefania and Daniel possess that insight, perhaps by innate talent together with their own experiences learning each others’ language.
The climate of the school, the result of teachers who love to teach and can enthuse about grammar, allows you to feel comfortable making the inevitable mistakes that arise in a language class. I have taken formal classes, one-on-one tutorials and trans-Atlantic Skype and I have always come away with the sense that I have improved in an area that was giving me problems.
The social evenings that are coordinated by the school are fun and memorable. I have made gnocchi, tasted wines of Emilio-Romagna, and dined out with other students from all over the world. Madrelingua is special and so is Bologna. Bravo !
Antonio Eurico Bernini, July 2013 (via Facebook)
Bologna è una città molto bella e le persone sono simpatici e bravi! Non’è molto grande ma c’è tutto!
Madrelingua: insegnanti meravigliosi! Grazie Paola, Paolo, Laura, Francesca, miei professori, ed anche Giulia, Stefania e Valentina, per aiutarmi imparare l’italiano all’agevole! Voi siete indimenticabili! Grazie anche a miei meravigliosi compagni di lezioni: Angelika, Hanna, Fabricio, Nina, Joy, Justine, Irina, Maria Fedorova, Maria Astrid, Fabricio, Leandro, Michal, Anastasia, Alex, Andrew, Julie, e tutti altre! Voi avete trasformato la mia permanenza in Madrelingua e Bologna nella esperienza più squisita della mia vitta! Un grande abbraccio a tutte voi! GRAZIE!!!!
Joy Resta, July 2013 (via Facebook)
This was the best language school that I have ever attended! Thank you so much to all the excellent teachers whose support was never-ending! I’m going to return in 2014.
Mary Nixon, New Zealand, 21/05/13
I spent 4 weeks studying at Madrelingua in 2012. Madrelingua is a very well run and well resourced school. Bologna is a great city, the school is very conveniently located, and the teaching is excellent. I came across several repeat attendees. Although the speaking of Italian is strongly and actively encouraged if you are an English-speaking real beginner it might be comforting to bear in mind that Stefi speaks brilliant English. There was no shortage of computers and plenty of time to use them. The two teachers who were available for two hours in the afternoons to help with homework were lovely and very encouraging. The school was open until 8 pm at night for the truly keen. I strongly recommend Madrelingua.
Róża Maria Gräfin von Thun und Hohenstein – 08/09/2012
(Wikipedia entry here)
This is just to thank the language school “Madrelingua” for a great experience of learning italian in a most enjoyable and efficient way! After 3 intensive weeks not only can I follow spoken and written texts, but I can make myself understood in italian, on a basic level, which gives me real satisfaction. I have also learned a lot about Italy, about Emilia-Romagna, and I discovered the beautiful city of Bologna surprisingly little known to foreigners. It was a perfect way of using my time forseen for summer hollidays. I saw Italian films and enjoyed italian jokes, I was introduced to the real italian cousine (far too delicious!), I had opportunities to discuss politics and society – all in italian! Well…. with some help of the most patient and ecouraging “Madrelingua” teachers, who not only are outstanding professionals but also pationate and ambitious coaches of their foreign students of all ages. Now, back to everyday life, I am looking forward to continue the course in “Madrelingua” and I hope that you will accept me again.
Meekal Hashmi – 20/03/2012
Thank you Madrelingua! I looked around the whole country for a good school to learn Italian. I spoke to so many people in so many places and read so many reviews. After speaking to Stefania at Madrelingua, who very patiently answered all my very annoying questions, I settled on the school. It was terrific. A real family run enterprise with a perfect blend of professionalism, charm and personal attention. Stefania helped me find excellent accommodation and settled me in painlessly into the school. The teaching was excellent – both Lucia and Francesca managed to bring a real sense of fun to learning Italian and I really felt I made good progress. My only regret is that I couldn’t stay on the course for a few months rather than a few weeks! I shall always remember my time at Madrelingua with immense fondness and hope I can at some point return again. Full marks to everyone there.
Coty J. Martin, Graduate Teaching Assistant, East Carolina University – 21/09/12
I then began looking strictly at language schools in Italy and came across several that I believed would meet my needs. However, most programs such as one in Siena and another in Lecce were either only offering courses at a level I had already completed or were not long enough. I also had not decided the part of Italy in which I would prefer to live. Would I prefer a bustling, tourist-laden city like Rome or Milan or would I prefer a more rural experience similar to my own home in southern Ohio in towns like Ravenna or Siena? Would I prefer to live in the industrialized and arguably more modern northern parts of Italy or would I be happier in the agriculturally based, less touristic southern end of the peninsula? Should I try and find a program on the island of Sicily and have a different experience altogether? Did I want to stick with a university-based experience or find something quite different? I spent time researching each of these options and finally settled on finding a program in the north from where I could easily travel by train and in a major city not overwhelmed with tourists so that I could be truly embedded amongst Italians.
My final decision was to attend the Madrelingua Italian Language School in Bologna, Italy. Madrelingua was founded by an Italian woman and British man in 2005 as an alternative language program for students wanting to study for various intervals in Italy. The school itself, like many businesses in Italy, is only one floor of a building located just a few blocks from Piazza Maggiore, the main square of Bologna. The school is composed of several small classrooms that hold around fifteen students, a library full of Italian and English reading materials as well as films students can borrow to practice their skills, and a front office/foyer area where students congregate each day. The school not only caters to international students coming to the country to learn Italian, but also serves as an English training school for native Italians and would thus allow me, I hoped, to meet a variety of individuals, both Italian born and foreign.
Students can choose to do a basic twenty hour a week program where one has class (using NO English) from 9:30am to 1:30pm. However, Italians tend to be polychromic when it comes to start and stop times, with a half hour coffee break at a local bar which serves as free conversational practice time with other students. There is also an option to complete an additional ten hours a week of one-on-one study with an instructor. I felt twenty hours a week would suffice for my needs. Additionally, the instructors would plan social activities four days a week, varying from city tours and afternoon lunches, to cooking courses, aperitivo which is sort of a happy hour that serves food (common in Northern Italy), to pre-arranged trips to others towns in the Emilia-Romagna region. (I attended one that went to a small medieval village called Dozza known for its series of murals and another to a winery in a hilly region outside of Parma.) Upon further research I decided this school would be an excellent fit for my needs, especially because the length of stay and study was determined by me instead of being fixed. Students can study at Madrelingua for as little as a week or for several months. They are periodically tested so that when they are ready, they can move up to the higher level but are not forced into a class for which they are not ready.
The school is small and located in the historic center of Bologna, which is well known but not on the main tourist route of most travelers. As the location of Europe’s oldest university, the University of Bologna, the city had a college atmosphere but still retained a sense of being an urban center of Italian life. Known for everything from its unique Italian cuisine and as the home of ragu Bolognese to a strong political center both during WWII and later as a center of Communist philosophy, Bologna is the heart of culture in Central-Northern Italy. Just by looking at pictures via Madrelingua’s site and Google I knew this large town full of culture and history would be a perfect fit for my studies and my own personal interest in living as an Italian rather than as a tourist. Italy is a major tourist destination and its vacation reputation was a major concern. After having read both the background of Madrelingua and Bologna, however, I knew I had found the location for my study abroad. While not a major tourism center, Bologna would still give me the opportunity to see cultural events like soccer matches and outdoor film festivals. I would also be able to take advantage of Bologna’s position as a railway-hub to travel cheaply to a variety of Italian cities including Ravenna, Parma, Ferrara, Venice, and Florence, all in an hour or less when I had free time on the weekends.
The next decision, after completing a language placement assessment exam online from the school, was to decide where I was going to live. The school offered free arrangements for both home stay opportunities as well as one room apartments. All the school-arranged locations are very near the school. Since this was my first time out of the United States, I decided it would be best to let someone with experience make these arrangements for me. Stefania, the owner of the school, contacted an Italian woman named Patrizia who taught at the University of Bologna, but who also enjoyed hosting international students. Soon enough my living arrangements were taken care of, months before I arrived. Patrizia also proved to be a great asset and a wonderful person in general. She always went out of her way to help me with any issue I was having during my stay in her country. From helping me get an Italian phone so I could stay in contact with my family to letting me borrow an old laptop after mine stopped working, to helping me figure out the details for my weekend excursions to other Italian cities, Patrizia was an amazing host. She even did my laundry! I believe part of this extremely helpful behavior has to do with the fact many Italians my age still live at home with their parents. In most cases not until around age thirty would they consider moving away from home as I had at such a young age. The term mammoni directly refers to this concept and demonstrates the closeness that exists between parents and children long into what we consider adulthood in the United States.
Upon arriving in Italy I only had three basic goals in mind as a first time traveler. First, I wanted to make sure I succeeded in improving my Italian language to the level necessary to graduate. Second, I wanted to experience a variety of cultural events unique to the Italian nation and to learn as much as possible about Italian history and culture while I was in the country. Third, I just wanted to survive ten weeks on my own away from everyone and everything I have ever known and be able to return home to tell my friends and family about how amazing this journey had been and hopefully encourage them to take their own trips. Most in my family have hardly left their small part of Ohio, so for me to move to another hemisphere was a great undertaking in itself and one I hope they can look to as motivation in their own lives. Looking back, I fulfilled all three goals (though after the unusual series of earthquakes when I arrived, goal number three was almost a failure) and I would now not hesitate to return to Italy or go somewhere else on my own!