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Why study a new language now is a good idea

Cambridge Central Library


My experience abroad began a few years ago. From Italy I moved to the Uk in 2013. After the first year in London, I found new opportunities in Cambridge. Despite the difficulties that a completely new life in a different country from your own has entailed, now, I can tell that the latest have been years of great enrichment. One of the biggest frustrations on arriving in Britain, of course, involved the language.  For a sociable Neapolitan “communicator” and journalist who loves the Italian language like me, I can assure you that not being able to express myself with the surrounding world was a terrible feeling. The language we use, completely permeates our life, our interactions, as well as our way of seeing things and our freedom. Without this fundamental tool you feel lost. Now, after many courses, some exams, a Master’s degree at the Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge, and some work experiences in the UK, I can say that I am totally grateful for the path I have taken which forced me to master my second language. The motivation to learn is important of course. Given my low level of love for the new language at the time, it came to my rescue the fact that, to some extent, I find myself forced to learn and practice English by the kind of life I had chosen: a new working and personal life in England. After all, I had always wanted to be able to use English,  the most widespread language in the world, the ‘wildcard’ language, as I have always defined it. It happened during a trip to Norway, entering a little shop in Bergen, I missed a pair of earrings that I wanted to buy, but which, due to my insecurity in the language, was secured by another tourist, or when I found myself for work in New York, and I could not exchanged more than a couple of sentences with some people in a pub. The same happened when a group of American tourists tried to interact with me in Italy, on the island of Procida where I was during my summer holidays. It was embarrassing. Of course, knowing English makes you feel like a citizen of the world, a confident human being able cto ommunicate with anyone. The potential of a language that is so useful and influential even in the professional field, can seriously make you feel capable of crossing doors almost anywhere. English is the most widely spoken language in the world, used by more than a quarter of the world population. 

And therefore, I went from being too insecure even to order a coffee in any London bar, to working in a language school, as well as a European cultural center. At La Dante in Cambridge, where I have been working for a few years, I have certainly perfected my haltingly English, through phone calls, emails, marketing campaigns, presentations, social and cultural events and even radio broadcasts (the bilingual broadcasts of Radio Dante).

Cambridge, Uk

La Dante in Cambridge, which is one of the foreign branches of the Dante Alighieri Society, the Italian cultural institution that aims to protect and spread the Italian language and culture in the world, has allowed me to continue to have the fundamental bond with my country and its culture I needed,  and at the same time to come into contact with cultures different from mine in an environment made up of people who love languages. ‘A different language is a different vision of life’, said the Italian film director Federico Fellini. It is definitely true. Language learning, in addition to the pleasure and opportunities it provides, is also known to be linked to a better mental health: it prevents cognitive decline by reducing the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia, for example. This is because people who speak at least two languages ​​develop their temporal lobes, which allow for the formation of new memories. This increases the number of neurons that make up our brain. In addition, people who speak more than one language become better at ‘problem solving’, at better analyzing their environment and at carrying out more activities simultaneously (multitasking). These are undoubtedly some of the benefits that bilingual or multilingual people can enjoy. Neuroplasticity, that is the ability of the nervous system to modify itself to form nerve connections, is greater in children, but the brains of adults can also be shaped and improved. So it’s really never too late to challenge yourself and have a super brain! You think that most of the students of Italian at La Dante in Cambridge are really ‘very adults’, mostly retirees or academic professors. They are passionate, good at always making new progress, and are more than awake and active.

BBC, Cambridge, Uk

 I personally got a taste for it too and, since this new era of smart working and lockdown began, I took advantage and started studying Spanish with online courses, always with mother tongue teachers from La Dante in Cambridge. Nothing more pleasant. Even after a busy day of work, nothing is more comfortable than staying in the warmth of your own home, without having to travel in the cold or for a long ride by car, etc. I take a seat in my living room for a couple of hours with classmates of all nationalities (in my class at the moment there are two Turks, one Russian and one English for example) and my very nice Spanish teacher. Leisure, together with the feeling of using your time productively in something that contributes to your personal and cultural growth, do the rest. Obviously I am looking forward to going to Spain to communicate with the locals in the local language, but for now, safe from viruses, I have been preparing myself for that moment.

 I conclude with a quote from Francois Vaucluse who said: ‘Forgive them who speak only one language: they do not know what they do’. My wish for this new year to you is therefore to commit yourselves to learning a new language or to practice and deepen a second or third language that you already know or that you had started learning at school.



E-learning is as much, if not more effective than in-person lessons. The language courses of La Dante in Cambridge take place on Zoom with the help of Google Classroom and the use of the new online school platform, PLATEO, where all students can easily interact with each other and with teachers. Furthermore, with this new platform, all users, in addition to teachers, can easily share documents, videos, language tests and many other files to improve the learning experience and push all skills to the best.

 Since La Dante is a European Cultural Center, together with language courses, it also offers all its students many cultural events and extra activities, completely free to offer an experience as immersive as possible (conversation classes, cooking classes, aperitifs online, film club). The teachers, of English, Spanish or Italian, are all qualified native speakers who use an effective communication approach that encourages the students to speak in the language of study as much as possible.

Courses can be individual or group. The collective classes are formed by a few people in order to guarantee a higher level of individual attention to each student.


For more information or to register for English courses, english@ladante-in-cambridge.org, WhatsApp +44 7887 606227

For Spanish courses spanish@ladante-in-cambridge.org – – WhatsApp +44 7887 606227

For Italian courses for foreigners info@ladante-in-cambridge.org – WhatsApp +44 7887 606227

www.ladante-in-cambridge.org Radio Dante www.radiodante.org


Discover Radio Dante!

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Radio  Dante started to be broadcast on  3rd  March  2012,  founded by  Director  Dr. Giulia Portuese-Williams of the European Cultural Centre La Dante in Cambridge. The main objective of La Dante is the dissemination of European languages and cultures, in particular Italian, Spanish and English.

In 8 years, we have produced more than 100 radio programmes, trained 60 interns in radio broadcasting and marketing, built collaborations with  Colleges and Universities all over Europe and with La Dante Alighieri Society’s 500 offices around the world.



Radio Dante broadcasts every two weeks with half an hour in English and half an hour in Spanish or Italian on Cambridge 105 radio. We also publish our podcasts on Radio Dante’s website, on La Dante in Cambridge’s website, on Spotify , on our Facebook account and on other social media.



We cover cultural themes on our radio programmes:


We broadcast from classical to pop music. Moreover, we interview professional musicians who speak about their music, their artistic journey.






Knowing our roots allows us to discover the historical links that bind us to other countries. Our team is made up of people of different nationalities, which enriches the historical topics our journalists cover.





We also offer our listeners advice on language learning and other topics to enrich their lives and develop their skills.



To know the traditions of a community is to understand the way in which they relate among family, friends and the environment. Thanks to the multiculturalism of our team, we can tell our listeners all about the traditions of each region from different perspectives.

Pictures of our team at the broadcast studio



We have been working for the past 8 years with the Department of Italian and the Department of Spanish at Cambridge University where academics often come and participate to interviews (this has happened prior to the pandemic).

Over 60 University Students chose us for a successful professional internships over the years, knowing the work experience at La Dante is valuable and well regarded all over the world. We have partnerships with the Universities of Valencia, Madrid, Zaragoza, Seville in Spain as well as the Universities of Venice, Bologna, Florence, Rome and Siena in Italy.



We are recognized by the British Government and by La Dante Alighieri Society, which is a a Cultural non-for-profit organization with 500 offices around the world.

7 Reasons to Learn a New Language

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1. Connect!We can improve the way we speak

One of the most rewarding aspects of the human experience is our ability to connect with others.  Being able to communicate with someone in his or her language is an incredible gift. Bilinguals have the unique opportunity to communicate with a wider range of people in their personal and professional lives.


Connect with the world

2. Advance Your Career

Language skills can be a significant competitive advantage that sets you apart from your monolingual peers. Learning a second language also opens additional doors to opportunities for studying or working abroad.


3. Feed Your Brain 

The many cognitive benefits of learning languages are undeniable. People who speak more than one language have improved memory, problem-solving and critical-thinking skills, enhanced concentration, ability to multitask, and better listening skills. They switch between competing tasks and monitor changes in their environment more easily than monolinguals, as well as display signs of greater creativity and flexibility. If that weren’t enough, as we age, being bilingual or multilingual also helps to stave off mental aging and cognitive decline.


Madrid Gran Via


4. Deepen Your Connection to Other Cultures

Language is the most direct connection to other cultures. Being able to communicate in another language exposes us to and fosters an appreciation for the traditions, religions, arts, and history of the people associated with that language.




5. See the World

Traveling as a speaker of the local language can revolutionize a trip abroad. While monolingual travelers are capable of visiting the same places, travelers who know more than one language are more easily able to navigate outside the tourist bubble and to connect and interact with the place and its people in a way that is often inaccessible to those without the language.


6. Boost Your Confidence

Any language learner can attest to making his or her share of mistakes while discovering a new language—often in front of an audience. It’s a necessary part of the learning process! Learning a language means putting yourself out there and moving out of your comfort zone. The upside is the amazing sense of accomplishment you’ll feel when conversing with someone in their native language.



7. Gain Perspective

As we explore a new language and culture, we naturally draw comparisons to what is most familiar. Learning about another culture sheds light on aspects of our own culture—both positive and negative—we may not have previously considered. You may find a greater appreciation for what you have, or you may decide to shake things up!


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: “Definitely, in 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

Silvia: I think people can learn a language at any age. Taking a language course is not only learning an idiom but also discovering a world different from one’s own, a different culture. It is also a great occasion to meet new people.

Emilia: I believe that learning a new language is always within everyone’s reach.

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.

Emilia – Italian teacher at La Dante in Cambridge

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.


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



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.


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The International GCSE (General Certificate of Secondary Education) we held this year was a project to teach English B2 level, Geography and Maths in English for the best students coming from the Lyceum Fardella-Ximenes in Trapani, Sicily.  The thirty-five Italian students aged 14 and 15 came to La Dante in our lovely Cambridge in February for two weeks. Our English CELTA qualified teachers organised interesting and stimulating tasks in and out of the classroom that went far beyond the exam preparation. The students’ commitment and interaction was excellent and so were the tutors who accompanied them, Prof Matteo Peraino and Prof.ssa Lucia Abate who were pivotal for the success of the project. The course programmes were topical and planned accurately, with challenging and stimulating activities. For each course, they had to run interviews and research, presentations and debates.  In the Geography class, they discussed themes based on environmental issues, such as climate change, hurricanes, and weather forecasting. They studied issues related to cities and specific industrialised countries. Teaching and discussions during these themes were both rewarding and newsworthy as the students came from one of the most beautiful places in Sicily where pollution problems are extremely low.  As the IGCSE programme developed into English B2 level they discussed and enriched their vocabulary and enriched their speech. The lessons focused on social media, law and order, and sustainable fashion. They took several tests in preparation for their exam next year.












As for IGCSE Maths we had the professor Alex Datta who helped them consolidate the maths programme in view of their exams: from differentiation questions to understanding quadratic functions, the students responded well and were proactive during the whole course. The teenagers have also been given the opportunity to take advantage of our beautiful city to enjoy British culture. So the teaching was integrated by a social programme, which included a walking tour of Cambridge. The first point of interest was the iconic King’s College, and then they gained a better insight into what Cambridge University life is like by visiting a variety of colleges. Of course, the Cambridge experience would not have been complete without a punting trip under an incredible February sunshine. The group also went to Grantchester to enjoy a walk through its typically British meadows. Along with the cultural experience, we offered them karaoke evenings and the screenings of British films to relax after their hard work. They really enjoyed that and at the weekend they visited the nearby cathedral town of Ely, as well as London.

It’s safe to say the group experienced everything British weather has to offer, from the unseasonal February sunshine and blue skies to gale-force winds and hail. We’re grateful to them for bringing the sunshine!    Our teachers and our team really enjoyed meeting them. We took the opportunity to interview these excellent and motivated students to find out their take on the experience. Here is what they thought about the IGCSE course in English, Maths, and Geography at La Dante in Cambridge:

Alessandro: “This experience is a big opportunity because I think that studying in Cambridge, in England is a big opportunity to improve my skills and my language. I really like La Dante teachers, (Michael Jill, Michael Brown, Rebecca Caute, Alex Datta, Gudrun Hughes) we talked about current affairs, and my English is improving a lot. The best thing is that we always speak in English. In Trapani you study English but here it is a different type of study, much more effective, of course”

Aurelia: “I am enjoying this experience. I haveimproved my pronunciation as well as my understanding. I feel more confident. The thing I like the most is that I am learning about English culture and traditions. Also the family who hosts me helps me in this because they often talk to me, so I feel more confident when I speak in English.

Martina: Professors are really good, they’re nice and gentle and we are practicing writing, speaking, listening and learning a lot of words.

Ruben: The teachers are so well prepared, my objective is improving my English skills, and I can feel more comfortable in communicating. I also love being with my friends and at the same time learning new things. Cambridge is a very nice city, and the people, who live here, such as my house family, are lovely and hospital.

Martina II: This is my first time in England with the school and my classmates. I think that it is something that everyone has to do because we can do so many new experiences, we can learn so many things about the language, culture, and tradition in England. Cambridge is a beautiful city. The best thing about this city is the place itself. I loved the punting tour on the river Cam.

Giuseppe: I am really enjoying this experience at la Dante in Cambridge because the teachers are so good and the atmosphere is very nice. We are lucky because we can practice a lot with high-qualified teachers. The things I like the most are the lessons themselves because they are perfect.

Alberto: La Dante is a happy place, and Cambridge is a really nice city. I am so enjoying this experience. It is very effective because you are in a city where people do not talk your language and so you have to push yourself. I am always with English people. The things I like the most is being with my friends and seeing Cambridge, its parks, cinemas, and colleges. Living with British family is so cool. I am enjoying this because you only talk English with them.

Serena: I am learning a lot about the English culture and habits. I really like the city with it monuments and the colleges and also the people who are very kind. Here they eat very early in the evening and this is strange for us because we have dinner at 8 pm and they from 5 to 7 pm. On a typical day, in the morning we go on trips, we visit the city with a guide or the teachers, and on the afternoon we have the lessons on Geography, Maths and English teacher. My favourite subjects are English and Latin. I am a very curios person, I want to discover this culture because I think it is important for my future to use a good English. It is the first language in the world, so the first tool to find a good job and to learn more about other people habits. I really like La Dante teachers, they are very kind and they make us feel at home. Thank you so much La Dante in Cambridge!

  We welcome more IGCSE projects in English, Maths, and Geography, and of course for other subjects. Our European Cultural Centre, La Dante in Cambridge attracts the best qualified trained native teachers and we have been developing exclusive projects in Europe since 2011.

For more information, please do not hesitate to contact us at: english@ladante-in-cambridge.org

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

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