Location is generally the deciding factor when selecting an Italian language school
Most people, although not all, select a language school in Italy based on location. Often, the idea is to learn or improve one’s Italian while discovering a new area or learning more about an area you already know. Or maybe it is because you know someone who lives locally or you just want to lie on a beach in the afternoon. Whatever the reason, location appears to be the main reason for deciding on a particular Italian language school.
I wanted a language school within easy travelling distance by train from my home in Lunigiana in Northern Tuscany. I’m not a fan of big cities, so Florence was not on my list and a couple of smaller places were ruled out because they were either too small or didn’t appeal to me.
Lucca was always my favourite. It is an absolutely charming town, full of beautiful medieval and Renaissance architecture, interesting streets, a Roman amphitheatre and a tree-topped tower. Although it has now found a place on the tourist map, it is not overwhelmed by foreign visitors. Lucca is small enough to feel at home in, but big enough to offer a variety of cultural activities including concerts and exhibitions. It has great markets, bars, restaurants and shops. Everything is within walking distance, yet it is easy to find a bit of tranquillity by venturing out onto the city’s 16th century walls.It can be difficult to differentiate between language schools
But what if there is more than one school in the location you want to go to? The big cities in particular offer many choices. Lucca offers two language schools.
The main problem is that most schools sound much the same. Lessons are structured in a similar fashion. There is not much in it when it comes to price. The types of courses and activities are similar. You can take group classes or private lessons or a combination of both at all levels. You can find classes that focus on business language or school examinations. You can combine your classes with cookery lessons and a variety of other activities. The schools are happy to help you sort out a variety of accommodation. Basically, they are all happy to provide you with whatever you ask for.
So how do you decide which one is right for you?Consider the following factors when selecting an Italian language school
A recommendation for a particular schools is obviously important, but back it up with facts. Even if your chosen location only has one language school, you should still check its credentials.
I know it is obvious, but do a comprehensive search on the internet, including all the relevant terms, to identify language schools in your preferred location, and then research each school individually.What do past students think of a school?
Check independent sites such as Trip Advisor, Slow Travel and the various forums on Italy to see what past students have to say. While interesting, comments from a couple of years back don’t necessarily apply to what is happening today. Look out for comments indicating that students recently booked a second course with a school. Repeat business is always a good sign. The positive and negative comments I discovered were incredibly useful in deciding which of the two language schools in Lucca to attend.What is the maximum number of people in each class?
The fewer people in a class, the more personal attention you’re likely to get. Again, smaller classes were a factor in my decision to attend Lucca Italian School.Who owns the school?
This is important. Comments on the internet indicate that there is a certain amount of indifference on the part of some teachers at some schools that belong to a larger group or at schools that are part of a larger organisation, such as a university. While teachers are generally good at their jobs, their interest in students ends at the end of the lesson. On the other hand, teachers who own their own school have a vested interest in making sure students have a good overall experience. They know that happy students equal a successful school.
Lucca Italian School is owned by three fantastic teachers, who are constantly concerned about your progress. Indifference is not a word you could possibly apply to them. Because it is their school, they have the flexibility to change things to improve your learning experience. They don’t have to stick to a rule book. Students can change their programmes and their hours as they go along to suit their progress or personal circumstances. The school is constantly looking for opportunities to improve your overall experience. For example, because I had expressed a desire to visit the botanical gardens, I was asked if I’d like to do one of my private conversation lessons there on the topic of gardens. I was delighted. It is not rocket science, just excellent ‘customer care’.
Another issue with some of the schools that are part of a larger organisation is that the administrators are often located in a central location and not where the language school is. As a result, they may not have much local knowledge and are often unable to help you during that critical stage when you need information to make a decision. I also heard from other students that some of these schools were slow to respond, although that was not my experience.Are the cultural activities integrated into the overall programme?
To be honest, initially I wasn’t much interested in the cultural activities as I was very much focused on improving my Italian, but with hindsight I should probably have paid more attention. Fortunately, as I had already selected the perfect language school this wasn’t an issue. But it is worth checking to see if activities are integrated into your learning programme or are just ‘nice to have’ extras.
At Lucca Italian School the cultural activities are designed to teach you more about the area and to develop your language skills. And because they help you develop your language skills, they are an important part of your learning programme. The cultural activities ranged from cooking lessons, trips to places of interest outside of Lucca, film and music evenings, and unusual tours of Lucca. The activities provided a lot of insight into the local culture with loads of interesting stories and information you’ll not find in a guidebook. And because the activities are run by the owners of the school, who closely monitor your progress, they are run as an extension to your learning programme.The personal touch is a huge differentiator when looking for the perfect Italian language school
For me, the personal touch definitely helped me choose Lucca Italian School. I knew from my internet research that it was one of the owners who so helpfully responded to my initial enquiry and suggested a programme to suit my particular needs, and who happily answered all subsequent questions. And the school’s website,blog, Facebook, twitter and Flickr sites certainly gave me a good idea of what I could expect. Not many language schools provide such a mix of information, tending to rely only on their formal website.
And I wasn’t disappointed with my choice. In fact none of the students at the school, two of whom were there for the second time, had any criticism of the school. Only praise. For my part, I have no hesitation in recommending Lucca Italian School. You’re guaranteed a warm welcome from fantastic teachers. Thank you Daniela, Eva and Angelo."