ARE YOU UP TO A GREAT ONLINE EXPERIENCE OR DID YOU THROW THE TOWEL IN TO LEARN A NEW LANGUAGE ONLINE?

How we enjoy and develop our language learning experience online

Here at La Dante in Cambridge, we are riding the big wave, having moved all of our language courses online for Italian, Spanish, and English.  Many of us are at home during the lockdown and really wish our time was well spent: consolidating or just learning something new. Our desire to travel will always be there, whether we do it this summer or in the autumn, wishing to visit friends in Italy and Spain, sipping that prosecco by the lakes or in the main square in Sevilla chatting to friends.

We have a great language learning experience at La Dante in Cambridge and our objective is to help people understand other cultures, help them succeed in their exams, help families whose children wish to talk to their grandparents in Italian or Spanish.

Many of our students have already asked when we will be back for our face to face lessons at la Dante, and the answer is, of course, people will always want to learn face to face to have a laugh and to have the eye contact with other students, share a cake during a class to celebrate someone’s birthday………it’s all about the culture and La Dante will open on September 1st. In the meantime, there are so many ways to enjoy and take advantage of this special time during lockdown: we can all learn how to use Skype or Zoom or Google Meet, our team has been helping some of our students who were not familiar with the platforms. There is also so much help on google search and our team of teachers has been great at facilitating the online classes.

We took the opportunity to ask our teachers 5 questions about the online learning experience at La Dante in Cambridge:

1)Why do you think people should take this opportunity to learn a new language during  lockdown?

Ludovica – Italian teacher at La Dante in Cambridge

Ludovica Frezza, Italian teacher from Napoli: “Definitelyin this situation, it seems that time never passes, but by learning a new language you can spend one or two pleasant hours with your teacher and/or classmates. In this way, you change your routine by having fun, learning something new and meeting new people even if you are locked in the house.

Emilia Marra, Italian teacher from Catania:  Learning a new language is an excellent antidote against the sense of loneliness that we all have been experiencing in these strange months. Being part of a class that shares the same passion for languages not only allows you to interact with new people, external to your family group and circle of friends but also to learn a new tool through which to communicate.

Silvia De Paola, Italian teacher from Rome:  Sure, I agree with that. Learning online is great. It is an excellent resource for people who can comfortably connect from home and definitely take advantage of this situation. Furthermore, it is also an occasion for socialization which is crucial for everyone at this moment in which we are all asked to keep the safe distance from others to protect against the coronavirus disease.

Luisa Tammaro, Italian teacher from Naples: Life in lockdown is challenging, and people can get bored easily. Learning a new language in this difficult period means spending the huge free time to gain new skills and feel more productive. Students can easily join online classes from home and socialise with their classmates.

Tamara Benassi, Italian teacher from Bologna: Learning a language is ALWAYS a great way to keep your mind active, and add new skills while having some fun!

2) If someone finds that online is not ‘a real context’ to learn languages, what is your advice for these people?

Luisa – Italian teacher at La Dante in Cambridge

Ludovica: The context is virtual and not real, it’s true. But what makes it real is the relationship that is created with the other participants in the class. We can’t touch each other, but there is interaction. So if you feel like you are attending a non-real lesson, I would recommend focusing on what really happens during the lesson and not on the fact that you are online. There is no robot or pre-recorded video on the other side. The smiles, expressions, and voices…are real!    

Luisa: For students, online lessons can be much closer to the ‘real context’ than it seems. Teachers work hard to make this happen. They use the same materials that they would use in a face-to-face class (i.e. books and exercises) and adapt them to the online class. Moreover, the advantage to learn a language online is the massive use of digital tools and sharing materials in real-time. Some interactive tools make the online lesson more usable and much closer to the real one. I strongly believe that people should not be so worried about the ‘context’ but should take into account this opportunity as a good chance to discover a new way to learn a language and make friends.

Daniel Miguel Pastor, Spanish teacher from Burgos: Thanks to new technologies and the work that teachers do to adapt, we make the experience of learning online very enriching. Online classes are a great and effective way to learn.     

Emilia: ‘The online’ is itself a new language. Remote interaction is undoubtedly different from that in presence, but it is not a matter of comparing the two experiences in terms of more or less. The online is a big change compared to traditional teaching and offers many opportunities. As always, when the news knocks on the door, we are called to make a test, in order to understand the advantages of a new situation, and, why not, be pleasantly surprised by the opportunities it opens.          

Silvia: With new digital tools, online teaching is very close to face-to-face teaching. Obviously, the mode of use changes but group interaction remains. Sharing multimedia contents can also be stimulating for the student accustomed to the ‘classic’ lesson since it represents a novelty.

3) Do you think there is an age in which people can learn a language?

Daniel Miguel – Spanish teacher at La Dante in Cambridge

Daniel: Of course not, any age is good to learn a new language. Many times some of us have that bad feeling for not having done something long ago, for lack of courage or for doubts. Likely, many people when they get older decide to sort it out and satisfy that urge. So, they successfully start a language course. Languages can be learned at any age, we just have to be motivated and eager, the teachers will also help us with that.

Luisa: I would like to use a quotation: ‘there is no age limit for learning until your passion towards curiosity ends’. I think you can learn a language at any age. Obviously, the learning mode changes from age to age.

Ludovica:  Everyone can learn a new language, but everyone has his own time. The important thing is not to be discouraged.

Tamara – Italian teacher at La Dante in Cambridge

4)Tell me 5 things that make learning online fun with you: 

Ludovica: 1. Not only theory but also practice and discovery of Italian culture. 2. There is the interaction between classmates and between student and teacher 3. We watch videos and listen to music. 4. The teacher does not speak continuously, but also and above, all the students speak 5. In each lesson there is a new challenge: I don’t like boredom!

Emilia: 1. Extra material available every week on google classroom: interviews, newspaper articles, surveys; 2. Use of audio-visual resources; 3. Games and exercises in pairs thanks to the support of Zoom’s breakout rooms; 4. Immediacy in finding visual material shared with students through the use of Zoom chat or Skype; 5. Dynamic conversation.

Luisa: 1. Many interactive games; 2. Sharing authentic material in real-time;  3. offering engaging interactive content; 4. Using songs and videos;  5. More structured lessons and more conversation.

Emilia – Italian teacher at La Dante in Cambridge

Silvia: 1)  videos or songs during the class 2, sharing material in real-time 3, offering captivating interactive contents 4, lessons built with targeted exercises created ad hoc 5 very stimulating group exercises (for example talk shows on a topic)

Daniel: 1. I am a happy person who approaches the class in an entertaining way, always smiling (no one gets bored during my classes!) 2. I adapt each class to the students’ level and objectives. 3 I don’t always use the same methodology. 4. I like that students are entertained in class and learn as much as possible so that they always want to know more. 5. The way I work gives rise to many curiosities and aspects not only related to the language, but also to the culture of the Spanish-speaking countries

5) Would you recommend online learning at La Dante? if so, why?

Ludovica:  Yes, all teachers are prepared, reliable, patient, and positive. The classes are small, so you can’t feel neglected by the teacher. There isn’t only theory and you are totally immersed in the Italian or Spanish language.

Luisa: I would recommend online learning at la Dante because our teachers invest part of their time in online education training, and also because our team is constantly looking for new teaching content and new online tools.

Tamara: Yes, because it gives you the chance to learn a language and culture in a small group class with a native Italian speaker.

Emilia: The online tuition by La Dante guarantees the quality of the teaching of the frontal lesson, while integrating the most recent resources available on the internet, in terms of both platforms used (Zoom, Blinklearning, Google Classroom) and content available for the teaching of the Italian language L2.

Silvia – Italian teacher at La Dante in Cambridge

Silvia: Definitely, because our team is constantly looking for original content and new ways of doing the teaching, with particular attention to making the students feel at ease during the lessons, always using new ways to satisfy them.

Daniel: I recommend learning with La Dante because it is a very friendly and familiar school that knows how to treat its students and that not only offers languages but also brings different cultures to everyone in an interesting and entertaining way. In addition, online classes are well organized and it is always about improving and incorporating new technologies and improvements that facilitate learning for students.

Let us know what you think of these interviews and if there is anything you would like us to do differently within the virtual classrooms or by offering new opportunities online, click here to get in touch 

Photo by John Schnobrich on Unsplash

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