The benefits of learning a new language and playing tennis

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

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

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.