La Dante in Cambridge
St. John’s Innovation Centre, Cowley Road, Milton, Cambridge (UK) CB4 0WS
Tel.: +44 7887 606227
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(for English courses)
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Dante in Europe in 2016 … towards 2021 at Clare CollegeEnglish
On the 15th November 2016 a special seminar Dante in Europe in 2016 … towards 2021 was held at the Latimer Room in Clare College in Italian and English and was attended by over 40 people, including many students of our Cultural Centre and representatives of the Cambridge University Italian Society. Dott.ssa Giulia Portuese-Williams, our director and founder spoke about the role of our Cultural Association as part of the Dante Alighieri Society which actively promotes Italian language and culture in Cambridge and the UK. This important event had high visibility: on our social media pages, a radio show entirely devoted to the seminar on Radio Dante with Euridice Comuzzi and Alessandra Icardi. You can listen to the podcast on www.cambridge105.fm and watch an interview during Business Focus on Cambridge TV with journalist Alina Trabattoni.
The Roman writer Raffaela Cavalieri presented one of her publications ‘Italy through Dante’s eyes: Traveller’s Guide’. She gave an interesting account of the journey Dante had during his exile with detailed maps, enriched by images and interesting stories like Paolo and Francesca at the Gradara Castle, the journey of exile endured by Dante one he was exiled from Florence due to the war between Guelfi and Ghibellini. A journey that goes from Florence to Ravenna where the poet’s bones rest in a tiny church next to a monastery.
Dott.ssa Anna Bonazza, from Ravenna Festival, presented the prestigious Ravenna’s Festival programme, with a rich array of performances held during May and July 2017.
‘Young Artists for Dante’ appeals to a new generation of artists and lovers of Dante (the majority of the members of the group must be under 30) to create shows which are no longer than 40 minutes . The selected proposals will run every day at 11 am, from May 25 to July 2, at the Franciscan Cloisters.
Dubois, director of the Centre Choréographique National de Roubaix / Ballet du Nord, is back with Les mémoires d’un seigneur (Palazzo De André, June 8). Thanks to the meeting on the stage between a dancer (Dubois’s favourite Sébastien Perrault) and 40 amateurs selected through a workshop, this work explores the notions of power and temptation, turning into a Caravaggesque portrait of inferno. An entire civilisation is reflected in Dubois’s seigneur and explored through the protagonist’s solitude as well as through the ever-shifting mass of bodies – which are the very raw material and ‘living scene’ of the choreography – the same way Dante’s journey is human and universal. Almost an epic of the solitude which develops between struggles and triumphs through three epochs (The Glory, The Fall, The Farewell) the three-part tale of Les Mémoires acts as a prologue to a project dedicated to the Commedia that will accompany the Festival toward 2021 with Dubois’s contribution.
The second part of the seminar was about the Parchi letterari, with a special focus on Le Terre di Dante. Mr Moroni presented the various itineraries the tourists can visit with an accurate description of the beautiful landscapes in Tuscany and Emilia Romagna through audio-visual images, songs and stories. The seminar concluded with the viewing of the silent monochrome film Inferno (1911).
The successful event was thanks to the partnership with the Cambridge University Italian Society and in particular with the help of their Vice-President Michelangelo Chini and the Ravenna Festival. La Dante in Cambridge thanks Attilio Moroni for his promotion of I Parchi Letterari –Le Terre di Dante and La Società Dante Alighieri for their wonderful efforts in promoting Italian culture abroad.
Video about the seminar: https://youtu.be/9oGdK6Vd7LE
Thinking in a Foreign Language: How to Do It and WhyEnglish, Italian, Spanish
Thinking in a foreign language is an important step in the long road that is fluency in a foreign language, but it’s a step that, for some reason, many language learners tend to ignore. Thinking in the language you are learning is not necessarily easy, but it’s something you can practice at any time of the day. Chances are you will NOT wake up one day thinking in a foreign language just because you’ve been learning it for X amount of months/years. Well, it can happen eventually, but I’d like to suggest an alternative that is a bit more, shall we say, efficient, and that will both jump-start your vocabulary acquisition and your fluency. What I’m proposing is that thinking in a new language is a decision you can make, and that you should make from Day 1.
Why Would I Do It?
You might be wondering why anyone would go through the discomfort of trying to think in a foreign language, especially during the early stages or learning. Well, for starters, thinking in the language you’re trying to learn is one of the easiest ways to review the vocabulary and grammatical patterns you’ve recently acquired. Plus, by actually forcing your brain to think in a language it is not used to think in, you’ll also help activate the newly-acquired information by giving you a real-life use for it. This, in turn, will speed-up thepassive-to-active vocabulary transition. In a nutshell, passive vocabulary includes the words stored in verbal memory that people partially “understand,” but not well enough for active use. So you might know the word for “vocabulary” in Spanish (vocabulario), for example, but you might not be able to plug it in a sentence of your own yet if you’re a beginner. Your active vocabulary, on the other hand, includes the words that you canreadily use when speaking and writing.
Another great reason to practice thinking in a foreign language is that, according to a study conducted by University of Chicago psychologists on how language affects reasoning, you will make decisions that will tend to be less biased, more analytic, and more systematic. Why is that? “Because,” according to the study’s lead author Boaz Keysar, “a foreign language provides psychological distance.” So by thinking in a foreign language you will not only be jump-starting your skills in that language, but you’ll also make smarter decisions. Talk about a no-brainer!
How Do I Do It?
So how can you actually start thinking in a foreign language? Is it something that will magically happen after having gone through your 10cm thick textbook? Chances are that won’t happen, unless you make a conscious effort to make it happen. So here are a few tips that I’d like you to try to implement in your daily life.
#1: The first thing that’s really important to do is to create a language bubblearound yourself, especially if you’ve reached an intermediate level or anything above that in your target language (but really, the sooner the better). I’ll go a bit more in detail into this in the “Making the Language a Part of Your Life” section just down below, so don’t stop reading just yet!
#2: The second step is to start making a conscious effort to describe things around you in your target language. One easy way to start when you have a very limited vocabulary is to just look around your room, your neighborhood, and your workplace/school and mentally label whatever you can. If you know colors, scan whatever is around you and think the word for the color of each item you see. If you have recently been learning about furniture, adjectives, or moods, try the same thing with those. Whatever vocabulary and grammatical patterns you are currently learning at the moment, make a conscious effort to think in your target language using those newly-acquired tools. See it as a game, something to enjoy doing.
As you begin to increase your vocabulary little by little, start gradually increasing the complexity of your thoughts by making phrases and by describing what’s going on around you. Don’t jump steps and try expressing complex thoughts that are in sharp contrast with your current level, though. For example, don’t try to say “I wish I would’ve been there” if you are still a beginner in your target language, because the grammar involved is too complex. Instead, simplify what you want to say. You could say something like “I want to go there,” or “I wanted to go there but I couldn’t.” Don’t worry, in due time you’ll reach a point where you’ll be able to say more complex things, there is no rush!
#3: If you are a bit more advanced in your target language, as you go about your day try to think through some typical conversations you would normally have in your native tongue. As you’re leaving your apartment, your neighbor greets you. What would they have said and how would you have replied in your target language? On the way to work, you stop to buy a cup of coffee. How would you order that in your target language? If there are some common words and expressions that you find yourself unable to express, especially on repeated occasions, write them in a small notebook or in your smartphone, and in the evening find the translations. That’s an extremely useful way to quickly gain useful vocabulary that you know you are likely to use in everyday situations.
#4: The last tip here is to speak to yourself or to a camera. If you are ready to put aside your shame, and especially if you don’t have roommates or family members nearby to eavesdrop on you (!), it’s also quite useful to talk to yourself. Aside from being useful in organizing your thoughts, it also allows you to practice pronunciation. If you don’t like the idea of talking to yourself, why not make videos of yourself talking to track your progress? You can organize your videos around themes. For example, in one you might try to talk about the weather, and in another one you might tell your real or fictitious listeners how you began the study of your target language, or which methods you’re using at the moment. Countless language learners and seasoned polyglots do exactly that and regularly post their videos on YouTube. If you do the same, you’ll kill two birds with one stone and be able to connect with other members of the language learning community.
Making the Language a Part of Your Life
In short, if you want to start thinking in the target language you’re learning, you have to get out of your comfort zone and make the foreign language a part of your life. Don’t be afraid, I promise nothing bad will come out of it! It’s something we all hesitate to do because we are all afraid of the unknown, and we are all afraid of having a feeling of discomfort. Staying in your language bubble and in your comfort zone are easy options, but they are unfortunately not what will bring the best results in terms of foreign language fluency development.
Many people—in fact most people, it seems—approach language learning in a very, how should I put it, “confined” manner. What I mean by this is that they see language learning as something to be “studied” or “learned” during a certain period of time during the day/week, and then everything else they do is somehow totally unrelated to the language they are learning. I often ask my students what they do outside of class to improve their language skills. Nine cases out of ten, they either do nothing or study a bit through their textbook. They basically pat themselves on the back for paying for language lessons, and as soon as the lesson is over they somehow turn a switch in their brain which means they can totally forget about the language they are learning. Many students later wonder why they aren’t somewhat fluent after studying the language for years upon years.
I’ve thought about it and I think that the reason why many people recommend to go abroad to learn a foreign language is that it kind of forces yourself to step outside of your native tongue bubble (although many expats still manage the amazing feat of staying inside their native tongue bubble for years, despite living in a country that speaks an entirely different language). If you go to Spain, for example, you’ll be forced to hear Spanish on the streets, to read signs in Spanish, and perhaps even to listen to Spanish TV and, who could’ve imagined, meet Spanish people who speak Spanish.
But that is still not enough. And, frankly speaking, one doesn’t have to go abroad to immerse oneself in a foreign language (Benny the Irish Polyglot learned Arabic in the middle of Brazil, making use of great websites such as italki to get speaking practice online). “Okay,” you say, “so how can I do it?” Well, here’s a second list of tips that I encourage you to implement in earnest:
#1: Start reading the news and/or blogs in your target language. To get into the habit of doing so, make your homepage (when your browser starts) a page that is in the foreign language you are learning. For example, every time I open Firefox, I get to see the news in Korean. I just can’t avoid it. I also try to avoid watching the news in English. Or what about Facebook? YouTube? Movie players? These are all websites or programs that have a changeable language option.
#2: If your phone has a “language” option, change the language of your phone to the language you are learning. At first it will be really uncomfortable, but the necessity to understand your phone’s function will soon be strong enough so that you’ll have no choice but to remember a whole lot of new words and become proficient in using your cell phone in a foreign language. I’ve recently switched my phone to Korean and frankly, I don’t know why I didn’t do it earlier.
#3: Watch movies in the target language. When you watch movies in your own language, try to watch them with subtitles in your target language. For example, if you are learning Spanish but decide to watch an American movie, either try to find the same movie dubbed in Spanish, or get the subtitles for it in Spanish. As you listen to the movie, you’ll be reading the entire time in Spanish. This will also tremendously help to increase your reading speed.
#4: The next time you need to install Windows on your computer, ask somebody who speaks your target language to download the version in their language. Just as with a cell phone, it will be really uncomfortable at first, but you’ll get used to it eventually. The same can be done whenever you download programs such as movie players, etc. If you’re still a beginner, that’s not necessarily recommended, but for intermediate learners and higher, it’s worth giving it a try.
#5: Watch YouTube videos in your target language. We all have the urge to do something completely unrelated to the task we have at hand. This is called procrastination. Kill two birds with one stone byprocrastinating in your target language. You’ll be watching stupid videos, but at least they’ll be in a foreign language. Watching stupid stuff in a foreign language is cool.
#6: Listen to music in a foreign language. Not only you will discover new, awesome music, but you’ll be getting used to the language’s flow, intonation, and rhythm. If you feel like it, get the lyrics and sing along your favorite songs. By the way, I’ve recently written a guest post about Korean music on Susanna Zaraysky’s blog. If you’d like to discover new music, check it out here!
#7: Meet friends who speak your target language. Visit a website such as meetup.com or Couchsurfing, join a local club, volunteer, make a language exchange partner online. Whatever you do, remember you have dozens of ways to get to speak in your target language. No excuses.
What do you think? Have you ever tried to force yourself to think in a foreign language? How much are you willing to get out of your comfort zone? What steps are you actively taking to make the language you are learning a part of your life?
By implementing only a few of the many tips I’ve given you today, I am confident that you will see, within a short period of time, a dramatic change in your fluency and in your ability to think in your target language. See it as a game, and as a way of pushing yourself and making language learning more than something that needs to be “studied”. Remember, it’s all about having fun and challenging yourself!
La Dante in Cambridge contributes to the Erasmus TraineeshipEnglish, Italian, Spanish
It’s with great joy that I am sharing this piece of information with you. We just received a commendation from the Erasmus office for the contribution given to training Italian graduates from the best Italian Universities. We had a training programme for Erasmus students since we started in 2008 in Cambridge, training Italian graduates in marketing and administration. Thanks to the training, most graduates, up to 90% of them, find full time positions within 18 months of leaving La Dante in Cambridge.
The Italian graduates we attract are bright and energetic, they come along with an Erasmus scholarship, often with no previous working experience, straight from University. They need to have a C1 proficient level of English to do the working experience here like Euridice Comuzzi from Milan University , Alessandra Icardi from Genova University, and Linda Lauzana from the University of Venice. They are full of enthusiasm for their working experience and eager to learn.
Our trainees are trained in online and offline marketing, organisation of cultural events, coordinate classes, customer service skills, administration. They also do market research, project management and most of all help with the promotion of our Italian culture in Cambridge with enthusiasm and professionality.
Here is the email we had from the Erasmus office:
3rd October, 2016
Dear Esteeemed La Dante in Cambridge,
Italian Erasmus Mobility for Traineeship (EMT) had a year growth of 44% in a.y. 2014/2015. Compared to other European countries, Italian mobility reached the fourth highest number of outgoing students. More than 6.000 European enterprises hosted an Italian Erasmus trainee.
A European Community survey carried out in 2015 found out that Italian students receive the highest number of job offers compared to all the other European countries (51%).
The Italian Erasmus National Agency (NA) would like to thank you for contributing to reach that goal.
Benefits of a bilingual brainEnglish, Italian, Spanish
It’s obvious that knowing more than one language can make certain things easier — like travelling or watching movies without subtitles. But are there other advantages to having a bilingual (or multilingual) brain? Mia Nacamulli details the three types of bilingual brains and shows how knowing more than one language keeps your brain healthy, complex and actively engaged.
TED.com on the Benefits of a bilingual brain
Learning with creative, audio visual projects: Harry Potter themeEnglish, Italian, Spanish
When a child is immersed into learning a new language with creative, audio visual projects, not only they develop their language skills but that increases their capacity in story telling, make believe, acting and reciting. We did an interesting project involving characters of Harry Potter films with a group of children learning English. When they came, they could only say single words at basic level, towards the end of the week after working on creating the characters (we chose 5 good and bad) the Italian children were able to form sentences. Arturo had some sentences from the start, Davide a bit shy to begin with and Diana with just very few words. They enjoyed extracts of the Harry Potter videos from youtube, they described the characters and started forming sentences towards the end of the week. It was great to see how they built their confidence in the language through playing. The afternoon was spent with British children playing and doing creative activities. The full immersion worked like a treat and the children excelled in their confidence in English. We will be doing the same type of projects for those children who wish to learn Italian in Cambridge from September onwards.
It’s great to give our children the gift of a bilingual brain and invite you to read:
The benefits of a bilingual brain
4 Reasons why learning a new language requires full immersionEnglish, Italian, Spanish
If you are anything like me and the millions of students who’ve gone through the American public school system, learning a foreign language is nothing short of a joke. Despite our education system’s best intentions, classroom learning is an exercise in laboratory futility. We memorize by rote a few words, we take a few tests, and when language learning is no longer a requirement, we forget everything immediately.
Although experiencing learning a language in an immersion environment is fairly common for some college students who study abroad, it’s definitely far from being the norm. Personally, I took almost three years of Russian language classes in college, and then I spent a semester actually learning the language in St. Petersburg, Russia. This experience differed drastically from my high school Spanish classes. Here’s why an immersion environment, even if only for a few months, is absolutely instrumental.
1. You learn to let your fears go
This was perhaps the most important reason for me in terms of learning in an immersion environment. When you learn a language in a classroom, you do so piecemeal. You memorize vocabulary words, do some conversation exercises, maybe write a few paragraphs. In an immersion environment, you have to speak the language, or else suffer isolation. This was especially true in Russia, where many of my Russian friends hardly spoke English. After awhile, you begin to lose your inhibitions and you become less afraid of making mistakes, grammatical or otherwise. And when you lose this fear, you open yourself up to authentic conversation practice, one in which you learn as you go.
2. You learn the way children learn-naturally
A friend of mine who speaks only English, once told me, rather jokingly, that she finds it remarkably how very young German children can speak a language that seems so incredibly difficult. This conversation made me realize that the quickest and best way to learn a language is to approach the process as a child would. You don’t memorize flashcards, and you don’t complete pages of homework. You just listen, absorb, and speak. Being an immersion environment helps language learners to learn a target language naturally, like a child.
3. You become acquainted with the way the language is spoken in “real life.”
I’m sure Russian language teachers cringe if they would have heard some of the slang that I picked up in my time in St. Petersburg. But there’s more than just youth slang when I talk about learning a living language, as it is actually spoken. There’s learning the way people joke, and the types of jokes that are considered funny. There’s also idiomatic ways of speaking that aren’t necessarily considered slang. For example, in American English, we may say “I’m about to head over to my friend’s house.” No English teacher would correct this construction, but it’s not something you’d learn to say in an English textbook either.
4. You learn aspects of language that cannot be replicated in a foreign classroom
Of course, I’m not in any way trying to dismiss the effectiveness of a classroom education. I probably would have not survived in Russia socially if I had not taken a few years of courses at my home university before departing. But I was astounded by how much more I learned about the Russian language-the pronunciation, the intonation, the vocal and facial emotions appropriate for certain expressions-by just going out for a few nights in St. Petersburg.
Not all language learners, of course, will have the opportunity to spend some time in an immersion environment. But if you can’t actually fly across the world to learn a new language, you can always create an immersion environment. Find native speakers in your vicinity using MeetUp or Live Mocha. Talk to native speakers using Skype. Another great option is just paying a few dollars extra to subscribe to a Russian, Chinese, Spanish, or English language channel through your cable company, like I did when I got home to America. Whatever you do, try to replicate the immersion environment as best as you can. You’ll be surprised at the results.
by Katheryn Rivas
Find out more about the Full Immersion programme for children and teenagers in Cambridge at La Dante International