Aprendizajes y celebraciones en una cuarentena

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Entrevista a Claudia

España ha sido uno de los países más afectados por el Coronavirus a nivel mundial. De marzo a junio, la totalidad del país se vio sumido en una estricta cuarentena de 3 meses y 15 días, lo que constituyó un hito sin precedentes para toda la población.

Se han visto múltiples noticias a nivel internacional, sin embargo, ¿cómo fue vivir la experiencia realmente? Claudia, una adolescente de 17 años, nos responde a cómo fue vivida la cuarentena desde su pueblo en el Alto Palancia, Altura.

Altura es un pueblo del interior de España de aproximadamente 3500 habitantes, con costumbres y festividades muy arraigadas en las que participa activamente toda la población autóctona y la de los municipios vecinos. Esto ha creado, a lo largo de los años, un fuerte sentimiento de comunidad que también comparte Claudia, ya que es alturana y ha vivido toda su vida en este entorno: “Nos apoyamos mucho los unos a los otros y la pandemia me ayudó a saber cuáles eran las personas que verdaderamente me importaban”, afirma la entrevistada.

No obstante, en un inicio, se le vino el mundo encima al enterarse de que tendrían que estar confinados: “Soy consciente de que no volveré a tener esta edad y pensé que este sería un año perdido. Sin embargo, conforme fueron pasando los meses, a pesar de que tuve muchos momentos de crisis, aprendí muchas cosas. La primera fue una nueva forma de vivir la música”.

  1. Una nueva forma de vivir la música

“Tan siquiera sabía que había altavoces distribuidos por todo el pueblo, pero no hubo un día en el que no se escuchara música. Durante 30 o 40 minutos, a las 6 de la tarde, se escuchaba tanto Flying Free, Un beso y una flor o canciones de La Bella y la Bestia.

Claudia nos cuenta la importancia de la música durante la cuarentena, ya que sirvió para unir y animar a la gente a pesar de la distancia. Asimismo, nuestra entrevistada forma parte de la banda musical de Altura, a través de la cual los miembros se animaron los unos a los otros enviándose vídeos para seguir compartiendo su pasión por la música ante la imposibilidad de reunión.

“Tampoco se pudieron celebrar las fiestas como siempre, así que inventamos nuevas formas de vivirlas a través de la música. Con motivo de San José, todos los músicos de la Comunidad Valenciana salimos a los balcones a tocar “Amparito Roca” y “Paquito el Chocolatero”. Había un directo en Internet para poder seguirlo. Fue muy emocionante sentir cómo nuestra esencia de celebración, fiesta y tradición no podía perderse”.

  1. Carnavales improvisados

La entrevistada afirma que uno de los mejores recuerdos del confinamiento fueron los carnavales online que acabaron surgiendo de forma espontánea entre los jóvenes del Alto Palancia: “Inicialmente, usábamos Houseparty para estar en contacto con nuestros amigos, y como las llamadas eran abiertas, acababan entrando otras personas del Alto Palancia para animarnos y darnos fuerzas los unos a los otros. No sabemos cómo ocurrió, pero esto llevó a una especie de carnaval online diario, donde la gente entraba disfrazada a las conversaciones y el resto tenía que adivinar quiénes eran. Es una de esas cosas especiales que jamás me habría esperado que ocurriese. Acabamos todos disfrazados, disfraces en ocasiones verdaderamente originales y divertidos, riéndonos y fortaleciendo vínculos con personas con las que tal vez no teníamos tanta relación”.

  1. Tradiciones que se suman

La tradición más importante en Altura es la del Berro, celebrado el 25 de marzo. Esta debía de haberse celebrado unos días después de que empezase la cuarentena en España, pero los alturanos, decidieron que no se quedarían sin celebrar una de sus fiestas más importantes: “Ya que no teníamos muchas formas de poder expresar que estábamos celebrando el nacimiento del Berro, decidimos salir con cacerolas a nuestras ventanas para crear una mascletá antes de que Zarzoso tirara la oficial. Las camareras de la fiesta tiraron fuegos artificiales y la banda salía a sus balcones a tocar los pasodobles tradicionales. ¡Teníamos que celebrar nuestra fiesta, hombre!”.

  1. Un verano diferente

Con la llegada del verano llegó también una “nueva normalidad” al territorio español, y ante la imposibilidad de hacer las mismas cosas que otros años, Claudia aprendió a vivir el verano de una forma distinta: “Estuvimos mucho más en contacto con la naturaleza. No podíamos salir de fiesta, pero descubrimos que había tantos sitios a los que ir: miradores, montañas, playas, calas… En definitiva, ha sido un verano increíble”.

  1. Selectividad y el futuro

Claudia actualmente estudia el último año de bachiller, por lo que confiesa estar inquieta ante la posibilidad de que esta situación pueda afectar a su futuro en la universidad: “Estamos todos un poco perdidos y tampoco los profesores saben qué decirnos”.

Por otro lado, la entrevistada espera no tener que volver a una situación de confinamiento, aunque sí considera que la pandemia ha tenido su parte positiva: “Tanto para lo bueno como para lo malo, voy recordar por siempre este año y todas las cosas que he aprendido. Es extraño, pero cuanto más inestable es tu entorno, más fuertes se hacen los vínculos con las personas que te quieren y a las que quieres. Ahora ya sé que aunque cosas negativas e incontrolables ocurran, tengo no solo a mi familia y amigos, sino a toda una comunidad que se hace fuerte ante las adversidades”.

 

In tutto il mondo si avviano le celebrazioni per i 700 anni dalla morte di Dante Alighieri

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Tra pochi mesi entreremo nell’anno in cui ricorrono i settecento anni dalla morte di Dante Alighieri, avvenuta nel 1321. Agli inizi di settembre si sono aperte le celebrazioni nazionali di questo importante Settecentesimo anniversario, alla presenza del presidente della Repubblica, Sergio Mattarella, a Ravenna, luogo in cui morì il Sommo Poeta (il servizio del Tgr Toscana). Per l’occasione è stata restaurata la tomba e  la serata si è conclusa con il canto XXXIII del Paradiso, l’ultimo della Divina Commedia, recitato dall’attore Elio Germano. Il ricco calendario di iniziative dedicate al padre della lingua italiana riguarderà non solo Ravenna e la regione Emilia Romagna, ma l’intero Paese. Fino a settembre 2021, infatti, saranno coinvolti circa 70 comuni e molti luoghi legati a Dante, come il castello di Gradara, la rocca che secondo la leggenda ha fatto da sfondo al tragico amore di Paolo e Francesca di cui e` raccontato nella Divina Commedia.

“Commemorare Dante”, ha detto Alessandro Masi, segretario generale della Società Dante Alighieri, ”significa rendere omaggio al padre della nostra lingua e ad un caposaldo della letteratura europea e mondiale. Significa anche celebrare il simbolo che racconta al mondo l’Italia, il suo umanesimo e la sua identità fatta di bellezza e accoglienza”.

Chi era Dante Alighieri sommo poeta

Nato a Firenze nel 1265, Dante (battezzato Durante di Alighiero degli Alighieri)  è considerato il padre della lingua italiana e uno dei simboli più rappresentativi della nostra cultura in tutto il mondo. La sua “Comedìa”, divenuta famosa come Divina Commedia, da secoli è considerata la più grande opera scritta in lingua italiana e uno dei capolavori della letteratura mondiale. Descrive un viaggio nell’aldilà, toccando con mano i drammi e le sofferenze dei dannati, le pene a cui sono sottoposti (a seconda dei peccati di cui si sono macchiati) e le glorie cui hanno diritto. Un viaggio nella storia e nell’uomo, tra emozioni, speranze e sentimenti eterni.

A ravvivare ogni anno la memoria del poeta, c’è, dallo scorso,  anno una giornata nazionale dedicata a lui, il Dantedì, nato su proposta del Ministero per i Beni e le attività culturali e per il Turismo, che si celebrera`ogni 25 marzo.

Anche lo scorso anno quindi, ci sono state celebrazioni in tutta Italia, quando tutti furono simbolicamente chiamati a leggere alcuni versi della Commedia di Dante Alighieri.

5 Reasons for Studying Languages Online (vs. Face-to-Face Classroom)

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“Shall I take my next course online or shall I stick with my face-to-face classes?”

If you are reading this post, it is possible that you are toying with the idea of signing up for an online course, but perhaps you don’t have a lot of experience studying online, if at all.

If you have taken face-to-face classes all your life, being a little apprehensive at the beginning is normal, even if you are tech-savvy. However, taking an online course, as opposed to a face-to-face class, definitely has its perks. Here are five advantages to studying languages online.

    1. Enhance your career or study to improve your communication when you are abroad

During lockdown, you may have more time to focus on learning a language and dream of your next trip when all the restrictions with international travel are lifted.

An online live session gives you great interaction with your teacher and your fellow classmates at your own pace through break out rooms in Zoom.

In a survey at Learning House: 44% of online students reported improvements in their employment standing and 45% reported a salary increase. By the time you finish your online course, you will have gained more work experience and learned new skills that will help you advance in your career, or if you study for fun, a great result for your future trips or family and friends reunions in the chosen country where the language is spoken!

2. Maximise your study time at home

By studying online with live native teachers, you choose your own learning environment that works best for your needs: be it your bedroom, your study or when this lockdown ends, the café across the street, or your local gym. Or if you just missed your class, you can listen to your teacher’s class recording as you run on the treadmill. Isn’t that awesome?

Taking an online course also means that you don’t have to commute to class, which means less time spent on the bus or car and more study time learning.

  1. Extra time to read or listen to podcasts
    As we are all in lockdown right now, it’s great to develop our skills and improve our knowledge, be more exposed to the language of our choice by reading more newspapers, apps for languages like com or SlownewsinSpanish.com and if you prefer listening to podcasts, listen to Radio Dante podcasts with programmes in Italian/English and Spanish/English on a variety of cultural topics.
  2. Self-discipline and responsibility

Who says that having to be more self-disciplined is a disadvantage? It is true that studying online requires more self-motivation and time-management skills, because you will spend a lot of time on your own without someone physically close to keep you focused on deadlines. Look at it this way: your online course will not only teach you languages and cultural topics, it will also help you become more self-motivated, a trait that will make you stand out in the workplace and beyond.

  1. More choice of language course topics
    Let’s face it, when thinking about what to study, besides for interest and career opportunities, whereto study is also a deciding factor. By taking an online course, you can really focus on the subject you are interested in and choose from the variety of online courses and programs.

I only listed five benefits to learning online but, having been an online student myself, I know there are many more. Can you think of other advantages or reasons why you prefer to take your next course online? Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments section!

And don’t forget to follow us on FB, Istagram or Twitter and let us know what you think.

The benefits of learning a new language and playing tennis

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In Cambridge the special partnership between the sport organisation Cambridge Tennis Academy and the European language school La Dante in Cambridge

Whatever your age, the health benefits of playing sports and learning a foreign language dramatically improves your quality of life and slows any age-related cognitive decline.

This is an established fact and is what inspired the special partnership between the Cambridge Tennis Academy and the European Cultural Centre La Dante in Cambridge.

The CTA run by Rob Ellis since 2015 delivers tennis for everyone: quality groups and individual coaching, tennis camps and fun competitions all year round.  The organisation is mainly based at Chesterton Sports Centre and delivers coaching at many more venues across Cambridge, working in partnership with Cambridge City Council, Head UK and park-tennis too. Its main aim is to help children and adults play and enjoy their tennis through a fun and inclusive programme for all ages and abilities which also includes free Fridays and Saturdays Social tennis for children (for more info visit the website https://clubspark.lta.org.uk/cambridgetennisacademy). The very special benefit of playing tennis is that this sport challenges your mind and your body at the same time: the game keeps the players’ mind occupied while the entire body gets an excellent workout. As a matter of fact, tennis can be as effective as jogging or an aerobic class (just consider that playing tennis for one hour burns about 600 calories.) Here are some of the benefits you might not know. It lowers blood pressure and body fat, improves metabolic functions, and increases bone density. It also improves muscle tone, strength and flexibility. It helps reduce stress and keeps your mind attentive. Other than its great physical advantages, tennis is also a good way to meet people and to spend time together, and being a non-impact sport makes it suitable for every age.  Do you know that physical activities improve learning a second language tooRecent studies* have shown that working-out enhances learning a completely unfamiliar L2 vocabulary. It is well known that according to the research learning a new language is very beneficial for brain health regardless of when you start. This might be one of the reasons why the partnership between the Cambridge Tennis Academy and the European Cultural Centre La Dante in Cambridge works so successfully.

 Learning a foreign language, in fact, boots brainpower because it makes your brain absorb new complex patterns, it improves your thinking and decision-making skills, and it also increases networking skills. One of the most positive aspects is that it keeps the mind sharp for longer preventing dementia and Alzheimer (according to many studies for monolingual adults, the mean age for the first signs of dementia is 71.4, for adults who speak two or more languages, the mean age for those first signs is 75.5). Your memory and your first language improve as well.

As well as the CTA, La Dante in Cambridge offers services for the good of the community and its members (more info at ladante-in-cambridge.org). The European centre, a cultural association not-for-profit, runs languages courses with native teachers (English, Italian, and Spanish) for every level and for every age (the youngest student is 4 years old and the oldest one, Margaret, at the age of 90 has never missed a lesson at school). Founded by Giulia Portuese-Williams 12 years ago, La Dante shares with Rob Ellis’s organisation the same philosophy offering to its members free side business activities, such as seminars, bilingual lunch, and language contests. From the partnership, an interesting project focused on this winning combination has arisen. The English language courses at La Dante in Cambridge will be accompanied by tennis courses at the Cambridge Tennis Academy to permit the students to immerse themselves in the true British culture and socialise with native speakers while playing.  Learning a new language in Cambridge and playing tennis have never been more enjoyable and effective. So why do not invest in yourself and get started with sport and a new language?

For more info  01223315191 – ladanteincambridge@gmail.com – ladante-in-cambridge.org

Advantages of learning English via Skype – Great for professionals

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by Alexis Loizou for La Dante in Cambridge

Most business English students want to learn English because it is the most common language spoken in business. It is the main language of the Internet, Conference call meetings and Skype calls … and many technical manuals are written in English too. Other students want to learn the vocabulary that is specific to their industry (Ai, future technology) or their department (accounting, finance or marketing).

Whatever your reason, learning English via Skype is a great way to increase your vocabulary, improve your fluency and listening ability and create better conversation.

Skype lessons have a number of advantages:

  • They are highly convenient, just one hour during the day (no travel time involved)
  • They are one-to-one, not big classes: just you and a teacher!
  • You focus on the subjects that improve your English most
  • You spend the whole lesson engaged in conversation
  • The topics of conversation can be about work/projects, news or world events

Lessons tend to be based on a mixture of topics that include: work related vocabulary, speaking skills, grammar focus, subjects of personal interest and discussion. Students learn as much from lessons about sports and cooking as they do about writing business emails. The emphasis is on keeping the lessons interesting and engaging while working on speaking issues like syntax and pronunciation.

What previous students have said about Skype learning with La Dante:  

“This particular approach has noticeably improved my comprehension of spoken English as well as my fluency in speaking. Particularly I’d like to mention the stress put on the coverage of phrasal verbs: for a foreign learner to be able to use a high amount of phrases that vary their meaning according to context, it is perhaps the greatest challenge and most successful achievement.”

CLIL: Interviewing La Dante’s teacher trainers

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Mary Spratt and Helen Baker have run our two weeks’ CLIL course for a group of secondary teachers from Zaragoza, who taught a variety of disciplines from PE to Music and Art. We’ve interviewed them after the end of the course.

Mary Spratt, teacher trainer and course writer 

  • How was your experience teaching CLIL at La Dante? I think it was very positive. La Dante is a small school and because of it everybody is able to meet, everybody supports and gives ideas to everybody else and you just get this great feeling of collaboration. I think this kind of setup is quite special.
  • What were the highlights of these two weeks? We’ve been working for two weeks with three Spanish teachers who teach Art, Sport and Music in a school in Zaragoza. I think that the highlights of these two weeks were hearing them talking about their own lessons and their own students. Some of them had great ideas about how they could create programmes for their classes and how to turn their classes into CLIL classes. These teachers were just so very motivated and it has been a pleasure teaching to them.
  • What is the most important message you would give to teachers who would like to apply for a CLIL Course at La Dante in Cambridge? I think that a lot of subject teachers are quite frightened or worried about teaching CLIL and similarly a lot of English teacher trainers are worried about teaching CLIL. CLIL is a challenge, I agree, but I also think that CLIL is a great deal of fun and experiments: one of the Spanish teachers this morning said: “teaching CLIL is an adventure”. Some people probably think “I do not want an adventure, I want a recipe”: it’s difficult to find a recipe for CLIL, but there are guidelines and within those guidelines, you can do lovely adventurous things. It’s true that when students learn both content and language together it helps them to get motivated for both and to make very good progress in both.

Helen Baker, teacher trainer and Cambridge examiner

  • How was your experience teaching CLIL at La Dante? I’ve really enjoyed the experience of teaching CLIL here at La Dante, I had some very motivated students who were really keen to apply their teaching knowledge to the CLIL situation. The best thing for me has been seeing them develop their ideas and putting the theory into practice over the time. We also had a relaxed working atmosphere with treats and celebrations along the way.
  • What is the most important message you would give to teachers who would like to apply for a CLIL Course at La Dante in Cambridge? I’d recommend that they come with an open mind and be prepared to learn a lot, perhaps in a short time, and to adapt their knowledge of teaching – which should already be extensive – to the CLIL situation. I hope that more students will want to join during the next years and have this experience seeing how CLIL can really enrich their teaching.

For more information on our CLIL courses, please enquire: english@ladante-in-cambridge.org

CLIL: practical tips for teachers

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Is there a recipe for CLIL?

Much has been written on what CLIL is and why to do it but there is very little practical guidance on how to plan and teach CLIL lessons. If you are a subject teacher who has been asked to teach in English or a language teacher who has been asked to help teach content, you are probably looking for the best way to do it. In our opinion, CLIL is not only about finding the perfect recipe but rather an adventurous journey that you can embark on – but not without some essential guidelines.

CLIL: where to start?

There are some things you should definitely keep in mind when you start planning a CLIL lesson. First of all, think about who your students are – their level of English (or whatever the second language is), their previous knowledge of the content you are going to teach them, and what they expect from the class. Once you know that, you can start to outline the programme you want to follow, matching your students’ language level to the content and selecting the materials to use.

Here are two examples to underline the impact the language level of your students could have on your course. During a CLIL course, we ran in Italy in a secondary school, we were teaching students that had quite a high level of English. This allowed us to focus more on the content side (in that case Arts and Science) and the English language was just the means we used to deliver the classes. With these students, we were able to adapt material designed for native English pupils. Then we had another experience in a school where the students’ English level was quite weak. This forced us to choose a more language-oriented approach, focusing on the particular vocabulary related to the content areas (in this case PE and Music). With these pupils, native English textbooks were linguistically too hard, so we adapted and created our own materials a) to teach key concepts and vocabulary regarding PE and Music and b) to develop their language skills, with the goal of allowing them to be able to use real English content textbooks by their last year of school. lesson. First of all, think about who your students are – their level of English (or whatever the second language is), their previous knowledge of the content you are going to teach them, and what they expect from the class. Once you know that, you can start to outline the programme you want to follow, matching your students’ language level to the content and selecting the materials to use.

Here are two examples to underline the impact the language level of your students could have on your course. During a CLIL course, we ran in Italy in a secondary school, we were teaching students that had quite a high level of English. This allowed us to focus more on the content side (in that case Arts and Science) and the English language was just the means we used to deliver the classes. With these students, we were able to adapt material designed for native English pupils. Then we had another experience in a school where the students’ English level was quite weak. This forced us to choose a more language-oriented approach, focusing on the particular vocabulary related to the content areas (in this case PE and Music). With these pupils, native English textbooks were linguistically too hard, so we adapted and created our own materials a) to teach key concepts and vocabulary regarding PE and Music and b) to develop their language skills, with the goal of allowing them to be able to use real English content textbooks by their last year of school.

How to select the right material?

An important factor to consider when selecting materials is to avoid overloading students with too much information that they will not be able to process. This can be done by choosing a relatively simple content area or by using an area that you have already covered in L1 and doing the CLIL course as revision and extension.

Teachers could find useful to work on English textbooks designed for native English primary schools. This has advantages for both teacher and students: these books’ content level is not too hard but provides an authentic context for the vocabulary that the students will need later on. As for the teachers, they can use the ready-made exercises to test content knowledge, while focusing on the development of further activities to consolidate the second language skills of their students.

Online resources for CLIL

The internet has a lot of resources for teachers: for example, the British Council and publishers like Pearson offer free content online. You can also have a look at a sample of a CLIL lesson about Induism here. You will also find further ideas on this page.

It’s very important for language teachers and content teachers to be working together as a team. Sharing ideas and observing each other’s lessons would really boost your CLIL skills.

For example, content teachers have a huge amount of materials which you may be able to find equivalents of in English, and language teachers probably have ideas as to how to exploit those materials for language purposes.

Material analysis and how to use it at its best

Vocabulary is definitely one of the first aspects to consider – is there any technical or specialised vocabulary that your students need to know for the course, or to understand the text? If that is the case, make sure to explain it beforehand by getting students to match words to definitions or pictures, through gap-fill exercises or helping them to guess the meaning from context.

Practical ideas: your lesson will probably focus on the general comprehension of one main text – make it more interesting by using comprehension activities such as information gapsjigsaw reading tasks and jumble tasks. Follow-up activities can work on reinforcing the vocabulary taught earlier and developing both language skills and comprehension of the topic. These activities can include group discussions, individual presentations, making posters and writing about the topic.

For more information on our CLIL courses, please enquire: english@ladante-in-cambridge.org

 

Spanish for children: Learning through games and songs

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Interviewing our Spanish teachers Cristina and Manuel

It’s interesting to see how many children have been interested in learning Spanish since La Dante started introducing it in January 2017 as part of the European languages offered.

There has been a noticeable increase in schools offering Spanish in the past 10 years overtaking from French and German. It’s not surprising as Spanish is spoken in 20 countries and there are 400 million Spanish speakers in the world. There are different strands of Spanish and it’s interesting to know that at La Dante you are offering Spanish with teachers from Spain as well as South American. I understand that there are a number of students who wish to go and travel or work in South America who need to get accustomed to this particular accent. There are some differences in pronouncing Spanish words or addressing people with ‘vos’ or ustedes’ or even ‘s’ that is not pronounced in some parts of South America. We wish to offer all this at La Dante and in fact our children are exposed to different accents as our teachers come from Spain as well as South America.

Do you teach Spanish to children as well as adults?

Cristina Navarrete Soria, Spanish teacher at La Dante:

Of course we do. Here at La Dante, we teach Spanish using a communicative method, combining realia (objects from real life) and lots of songs and games to make learning much more fun. Our ten-week programme for children is designed to cover main topics such as animals, food, colours, numbers, members of family, clothes, etc. where children learn vocabulary and small sentences in context. I encourage and give confidence, they earn special points when they do well and the topics are always relevant to their lives and their world.

So how would you structure a typical class?
Cristina: Say, for example, that we are learning about animals: first, we listen to a couple of Spanish songs about animals to help children learn and remember the main vocabulary of the lesson. For every song, we learn the lyrics and some moves so we can sing and dance all together, because linking words with movements makes learning much easier and way more exciting. They have to dance and follow the teacher’s instructions, like clapping, move their feet, or shout Spanish words. Then, once the children are acquainted with the new words, we start to use them and consolidate them by playing games with farm-related toys and farm bingo.

Our children are fully immersed in the Spanish language for the whole duration of the class, having a fun with other children of their age. The target language is spoken at all times.

What do the children love the most?

Cristina: We usually play the same song both at the beginning of the class and before saying goodbye, so that the children are able to remember the lyrics by the end of the lesson as well as the majority of the vocabulary learned that day.

Using realia means that we use real objects during the teaching sessions: children learn about clothes with actual clothes that the teacher shows in class.

So it’s a ludic approach?

Cristina: Yes indeed, for children who have beginners level of Spanish, the focus is on playing, especially with children as young as 5 who come to La Dante to learn Spanish. We play Spanish games like The Hopscotch to memorise colours and numbers: the teacher asks them to throw a ball into different squares drawn on the ground linked to different numbers and colours and the children have to jump onto the squares, saying colours and numbers out loud as they play.

One of the games we have noticed children enjoy the most is a role-play in which each of them plays a member of the family in a toy house.

Furthermore, among other activities we also do arts and crafts: for instance with like or dislike, I hand out a green paper (likes) and a red paper (dislikes). When I say Me gusta el tomate the children have to draw a tomato on the green paper.

Our children also enjoy our picnic time! We simulate a picnic where they have to list food they would like to eat, always in Spanish.

Do you also have a bilingual Spanish group?

Manuel Orta Simón (Spanish teacher): we certainly do and in fact, I am the main teacher. In the current bilingual class, the parents expect the children to improve their fluency level so when their cousins come and visit from Mexico, they can have a wider range of vocabulary, a better way of expressing themselves with grammatically correct sentences. In general, they wish their children to achieve confidence in speaking Spanish as here of course, going to an English school, they have fewer occasions to use their second language.

What kind of topics and activities do you do with bilinguals?

Manuel: we certainly focus more on grammar for the older ones, we watch sketches on Harry Potter the children love as well as their favourite sport. At the moment they love Nadal at Wimbledon and we introduced specific tennis vocabulary so they can talk about this with their cousins. We also go to Museums and talk about a variety of topics:  we went to the Polar Museum where they wore a special polar suit so it was great for them to develop a variety of new vocabulary. They are motivated and great to teach, they come along with pleasure.

What is the main message for parents who wish their children to be fluent in another language?

Giulia Portuese-Williams (Director and founder at La Dante): We encourage parents to speak their own language at home and inspire their sons and daughters from day one. It’s a gift for life and their children will be thankful forever. When they are young, before turning 5, if exposed to another language, children learn with no effort. Research shows that bilingual children offer a wider variety of solutions related to problem-solving, a lot more than the one solution given by a monolingual child of the same age (in set experiments).

Of course, there is no age limit to learn a language and any age is as good.  We encourage parents and children to join the Spanish community so the children are aware that it’s a language that is spoken within the family and among friends. The secret of success is to get the children involved in a school with the right language approach to teaching, join the community with other bilingual parents, read books in Spanish, watch a few videos in Spanish and of course travel to Spain to visit friends and families.

My boys certainly loved their visits to their nonna in the South of Italy by the sea and Lorenzo had a special experience in an Italian school for a week for two years as they are bilinguals in English and Italian. I certainly encourage parents to give their children an equal experience in a Spanish school for a short or long period as making friends is special and language, at last, means a lot to them.

News: In September we are introducing Singing in Spanish for children with an Argentinian teacher Lorena Garcia who has a Performing Music degree specialised in singing from the Univesity of Buenos Aires in Argentina. We certainly encourage parents to offer this special skills to their children should they show a talent for singing.

At La Dante, we thrive in creating a great experience where children get to love the Spanish language and learning becomes a real passion, a drive that comes naturally over the years.

Pinocchio Project at La Dante – Overcoming the challenges of raising bilingual children

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When it comes to learning a foreign language, every child is different and each of them needs a specifically tailored programme throughout their language learning process in order to be able to improve.
When parents speak different languages, there will always be a majority language – the one that is also spoken at school and by the community that surrounds the child. The parents who speak the minority language might have encouraged and supported the learning of their own native language from an early age. Unfortunately, they often find that at the age of 5, when children start going to school, they stop using the minority language.
Why does that happen? It’s because children are practical and they quickly understand which language is more useful in their everyday life – and that makes it easy for them to decide to neglect the minority language. To prevent this from happening, the parents have to be able to show them the importance of their second language, and they can do it by surrounding them with other children who speak the same language, creating an oasis where speaking the minority language is necessary – and fun!

What’s special about children’s courses at La Dante?
At La Dante, we made it our primary objective to create a sense of community. We want children and parents who come here to feel we are an enlarged Italian family in the heart of Cambridge, where learning comes naturally and where they can borrow Italian books or Italian movies and enjoy their time with other children who share their background. La Dante has been supporting families in this way since 2008 when the school was founded for this exact same reason. We have seen an incredible number of young learners studying for and successfully passing GCSE’s and A-Levels or IB exams with exceptional results… but remember it all started when they were kids and just enjoyed playing in Italian with their friends.
Raising a child bilingually is not easy – and that’s something our Director and Founder, Giulia Portuese-Williams, knows very well. Her sons, now at university, have gone through two different paths in their learning: one, Lorenzo, has always been enthusiastic about his mother’s language and thought it was “really cool to be Italian” once he discovered – at secondary school – that “girls love it”. While for the younger one, Luca, he didn’t see the point in speaking any language other than English, as “none of his friends at school spoke any Italian”. When he was 10, he completely dropped it. Giulia gave him the space he wanted, but she never stopped talking to him in Italian, until he started showing more interest and spontaneously chose to start learning it again when he was 14 years old. Giulia often took them on trips to Italy to visit friends, family, and certainly, their Italian nonna had a major role in keeping them attached to their Italian roots. She was the one who truly inspired them with her octopus salad and delicious food from Southern Italy. Luca and Lorenzo both came at La Dante to join our Italian classes to consolidate both written and spoken skills. They both managed to acquire a good level of Italian and confidence in speaking Italian and now they are both fluent.

How do you develop your communication skills with children?
We know that children are only capable of brief attention spans. Our Italian teachers are trained to vary the topics of their class often enough to keep their interest high while developing all four skills (listening, speaking, reading and writing) at different levels.
In small classes, children thrive and develop the Italian language from a very young age. Joseph, for instance, was just 4 when he first joined one of our classes – he is now 5 and has an incredible control of language: he loves making hot chocolate with the teacher when he starts his lessons and he speaks with a perfect Italian accent.
Our teachers take into account the age and needs of every young student and their personal and linguistic skills in order to develop a programme that gives them the confidence necessary to communicate in the language.

What children classes is La Dante currently offering?
We currently run two beginners’ courses, which are aimed at two different types of learners. The first group includes children from 4 to 5 years old and the second group is intended for children from 6 to 8 years old. Both these courses focus on the communicative approach and place particular emphasis on developing their speaking skills.
All children have the possibility to learn Italian while having fun with their friends through games and creative activities, under the supervision and the guidance of our native Italian teachers. They get to know every child and give constant feedback to parents.
Who is the Pinocchio bilingual project aimed at?
Our brand-new Pinocchio bilingual project is aimed at children who have already achieved some level of fluency in Italian skills but need to practice their writing skills and to develop their knowledge of Italian culture, as they would if they were living in Italy. In September 2018, the new classes will start following a programme based on consolidating Italian grammar, becoming acquainted with Italian traditions, and learning the basics of History, Arts and Geography.
La Dante is currently the only school that is providing this important educational service to the Anglo-Italian bilingual community in Cambridge, UK.
What happens in the classrooms?
In our children’s courses, children are exposed to basic Italian vocabulary and learn some simple sentences: they learn how to describe their daily routines, how to talk about their favourite food, to ask for their favourite pizza or pasta, how to talk about what they like to do in their free time, how to ask for directions, how to speak about their family and so on. Our Italian teachers make an extensive use of realia (real objects, photographs, games, role play, rhymes, songs, creative media tools, online resources and textbooks) to enhance the children’s skills.
As for the bilingual classes, the programme is different: we use a textbook to give the course a better structure and to enhance their knowledge of Italian culture, History, Geography, and Arts, as well as introducing elements of grammar in a structured way. Italian teachers use a wealth of textbooks used in Italy which will consolidate grammatical skills over time. Parents’ support and encouragement are extremely important in inspiring children and in helping them with homework at home. But don’t forget: at La Dante, we believe “learning through play” is the best and most effective way to learn.
The warm and welcoming environment at La Dante is where children make friends and have fun on Saturdays while learning one of the most beautiful languages in the world!
Come along to find out more – it is never too early nor too late for your children to learn another language! Give them the gift of fluency, they’ll be thanking you for life once they grow up.

The mayor George Pippas unveiled a commemoration plaque for the 10th anniversary of La Dante in Cambridge

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The event marked the significant contribution the European Cultural Centre La Dante in Cambridge has had in the community promoting and disseminating language learning and culture

Cambridge – On 24th April 2018 a commemorative plaque was unveiled  outside the European Cultural Centre La Dante in Cambridge during a ceremony that took place at the centre in the heart of the city to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The Mayor of Cambridge, Councellor George Pippas, to mark this milestone said: ‘Cambridge is a great city made up of unique people. We have a strong community of Chinese, Italians, Greeks, Bangladeshis, and Europeans. So it is like a patchwork in which everyone contributes to the success of the city of Cambridge. I am the first European Mayor elected here in Cambridge and I understand the importance of teaching first of all our children how to communicate, but also the adult people. I fully support what the European Cultural Centre is doing and I am fully impressed. I am also impressed to see so many adults. In Cambridge the Educational establishment is well known in the world and we endeavour in working hard to keep these standards very high. I am pleased that La Dante is developing not only a remarkable language experience where people learn Italian and Spanish and English, but has a weight in the cultural impact they have in our community’.

The main aim of the European Cultural Centre La Dante in Cambridge is to promote knowledge and enjoyment of Italian, Spanish, and English language and culture. Since 2008 when the Director Giulia Portuese-Williams founded it, La Dante in Cambridge has played a major role in language learning through its unique communication approach, and combining language and cultural traditions. Over the years, it has established partnerships with the most important cultural educational establishments in Cambridge, such as the University of Cambridge, Fitzwilliam Museum, Art Language Location, UKTI, Italian Chamber of Commerce, Italian Consulate and Cambridgeshire Chamber of Commerce to support the community in language learning provisions.

The Director Giulia Portuese-Williams said: ‘When I thought of La Dante, back in 2008, I dreamed of a European Cultural Centre where people of any background came to enjoy language and culture in Italian and Spanish as well as offering English to European students. “We all know how important it is to communicate in a language and how this facilitates understanding and integration in Europe thus improving mutual respect. At La Dante we have young and adult students who are passionate about learning Italian or Spanish and come to our regular film clubs, seminars to keep up their language and discuss modern issues with us. We also run for them a trilingual radio show, Radio Dante, thanks to the help of Cambridge 105 Radio and its facilities. Our oldest student, Margaret, at the age of 90, still enjoys reading in Italian and joins our classes as well as our youngest little student Joseph at the age of 4 playing with every day toys, singing songs in Italian. After all, that dream, back in 2008 became a reality with the support of our wonderful team, students and trustees to whom all my thanks go with all my heart.”