CLIL: consejos prácticos para profesores

¿Hay alguna receta para CLIL?

Mucho se ha escrito sobre qué es CLIL y por qué hacerlo, pero hay muy pocas guías prácticas sobre cómo planificar y enseñar CLIL. Si eres un profesor de materias al que se le ha pedido que enseñe en inglés o un profesor de idiomas al que se le ha pedido que ayude a enseñar contenido, probablemente estás buscando la mejor manera de hacerlo. En nuestra opinión, CLIL no solo trata de encontrar la receta perfecta, sino más bien un viaje de aventura en el que puede embarcarse, pero no sin algunas pautas esenciales.

CLIL: ¿por dónde empezar?

Hay algunas cosas que debes tener en cuenta cuando comiences a planear una clase CLIL. Antes que nada, piensa en quiénes son sus alumnos: su nivel de inglés (o lo que sea que sea el segundo idioma), su conocimiento previo del contenido que les va a enseñar y lo que esperan de la clase. Una vez que lo sepa, puede comenzar a delinear el programa que desea seguir, haciendo coincidir el nivel de idioma de sus estudiantes con el contenido y seleccionando los materiales para usar.

Aquí hay dos ejemplos para subrayar el impacto que el nivel de idioma de sus estudiantes podría tener en su curso. Durante un curso CLIL, nos postulábamos en Italia en una escuela secundaria, enseñamos a estudiantes que tenían un nivel bastante alto de inglés. Esto nos permitió enfocarnos más en el lado del contenido (en ese caso, Artes y Ciencia) y el idioma inglés fue solo el medio que utilizamos para impartir las clases. Con estos estudiantes, pudimos adaptar material diseñado para alumnos nativos de inglés. Luego tuvimos otra experiencia en una escuela donde el nivel de inglés de los estudiantes era bastante débil. Esto nos obligó a elegir un enfoque más orientado al lenguaje, centrándonos en el vocabulario particular relacionado con las áreas de contenido (en este caso PE y Música). Con estos alumnos, los libros de texto nativos de inglés eran demasiado difíciles desde el punto de vista lingüístico, así que adaptamos y creamos nuestros propios materiales a) para enseñar conceptos clave y vocabulario sobre PE y música y b) desarrollar sus habilidades lingüísticas, con el objetivo de permitirles utilizar libros de texto con contenido real en inglés en su último año de escuela.

¿Cómo seleccionar el material correcto?

Un factor importante a considerar al seleccionar materiales es evitar sobrecargar a los estudiantes con demasiada información que no podrán procesar. Esto se puede hacer eligiendo un área de contenido relativamente simple o usando un área que ya ha cubierto en L1 y haciendo el curso CLIL como revisión y extensión.

Los maestros podrían encontrar útil trabajar en libros de texto en inglés diseñados para escuelas primarias de inglés nativas. Esto tiene ventajas tanto para el docente como para los estudiantes: el nivel de contenido de estos libros no es demasiado difícil, pero proporciona un contexto auténtico para el vocabulario que los alumnos necesitarán más adelante. En cuanto a los profesores, pueden usar los ejercicios ya preparados para evaluar el conocimiento del contenido, mientras se enfocan en el desarrollo de actividades adicionales para consolidar las habilidades del segundo idioma de sus alumnos.

Recursos en línea para CLIL

Internet tiene muchos recursos para los docentes: por ejemplo, el British Council y editores como Pearson ofrecen contenido gratuito en línea. También puedes echar un vistazo a una muestra de una clase CLIL sobre el Induismo aquí. También encontrará más ideas en esta página.

Es muy importante que los profesores de idiomas y los profesores de contenido trabajen juntos como un equipo. Compartir ideas y observar las lecciones de los demás realmente mejorará sus habilidades CLIL.

Por ejemplo, los profesores de contenido tienen una gran cantidad de materiales en los que es posible que encuentres equivalentes en inglés, y los profesores de idiomas probablemente tengan ideas sobre cómo explotar esos materiales para fines lingüísticos.

Análisis de materiales y cómo usarlo en su mejor momento

El vocabulario es definitivamente uno de los primeros aspectos a considerar: ¿hay algún vocabulario técnico o especializado que tus estudiantes necesiten saber para el curso o para entender el texto? Si ese es el caso, asegúrese de explicarlo de antemano haciendo que los alumnos relacionen las palabras con las definiciones o imágenes, a través de ejercicios de relleno de espacio o ayudándoles a adivinar el significado del contexto.

Ideas prácticas: Su clase probablemente se enfocará en la comprensión general de un texto principal, haga que sea más interesante mediante el uso de actividades de comprensión como lagunas de información, tareas de lectura de rompecabezas y tareas confusas. Las actividades de seguimiento pueden ayudar a reforzar el vocabulario enseñado anteriormente y desarrollar tanto las habilidades del lenguaje como la comprensión del tema. Estas actividades pueden incluir discusiones en grupo, presentaciones individuales, hacer afiches y escribir sobre el tema.

Para obtener más información sobre nuestros cursos CLIL, consulte: english@ladante-in-cambridge.org

CLIL: Entrevista a los formadores de docentes de La Dante‎

Mary Spratt y Helen Baker han llevado a cabo nuestro curso CLIL de dos semanas para un grupo de profesores de secundaria de Zaragoza, enseñaron una gran variedad de disciplinas, desde educación física hasta música y arte. Los hemos entrevistado después del final del curso.

Mary Spratt, formadora de docentes y escritora de cursos

 

  • ¿Cómo fue tu experiencia con el curso CLIL en La Dante? Fué muy positivo. La Dante es una escuela pequeña y, gracias a ello, todos pueden reunirse, todos apoyan y dan ideas unos a otros. Creo que este tipo de configuración es bastante especial.
  • ¿Cuáles fueron los aspectos más destacados de estas dos semanas? Hemos trabajado durante dos semanas con tres profesores de español que enseñan Arte, Deporte y Música en una escuela en Zaragoza. Creo que lo más destacado de estas dos semanas fue escucharlos hablar sobre sus propias lecciones y sus propios estudiantes. Algunos de ellos tenían buenas ideas sobre cómo podían crear programas para sus clases y cómo convertir sus clases en clases CLIL. Estos profesores estaban muy motivados y ha sido un placer enseñarles.
  • ¿Cuál es el mensaje más importante que les darías a los profesores que deseen inscribirse en un curso CLIL en La Dante en Cambridge?Creo que muchos profesores de asignaturas están bastante asustados o preocupados por enseñar CLIL y de igual manera, muchos entrenadores de profesores de inglés están preocupados por enseñar CLIL. CLIL es un desafío, estoy de acuerdo, pero también creo que CLIL es una gran diversión y experimento: uno de los profesores de español esta mañana dijo: “enseñar CLIL es una aventura”. Algunas personas probablemente piensen “No quiero una aventura, quiero una receta”: es difícil encontrar una receta para CLIL, pero hay pautas y dentro de esas pautas, puedes hacer nuevas aventureras preciosas. Es cierto que cuando los estudiantes aprenden tanto el contenido como el lenguaje juntos, les ayuda a motivarse para ambos y a progresar mucho.

Helen Baker, formadora de profesores y examinadora de Cambridge

  • ¿Cómo fue tu experiencia enseñando CLIL en La Dante?Realmente disfruté la experiencia de enseñar CLIL aquí en La Dante, tuve algunos estudiantes muy motivados que estaban realmente interesados ​​en aplicar sus conocimientos de enseñanza a la situación CLIL. Lo mejor para mí ha sido verlos desarrollar sus ideas y poner la teoría en práctica a lo largo del tiempo. También tuvimos un ambiente de trabajo relajado.
  • ¿Cuál es el mensaje más importante que les darías a los profesores que deseen inscribirse en un curso CLIL en La Dante en Cambridge?Recomiendo que tengan una mente abierta y estén preparados para aprender mucho, tal vez en poco tiempo, y adaptar sus conocimientos de enseñanza, que ya deberían ser extensos, a la situación CLIL. Espero que más estudiantes quieran unirse durante los próximos años y tener esta experiencia viendo cómo CLIL realmente puede enriquecer su enseñanza.

Para obtener más información sobre nuestros cursos CLIL, consulte: english@ladante-in-cambridge.org

 

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

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.

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.”

La Dante in Cambridge celebrates its 10th anniversary on February 24th and on April 24th

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Cambridge – The European Cultural Centre La Dante in Cambridge, a not-for-profit cultural association recognised by Dante Alighieri Society in Rome (Italy), is celebrating its 10th anniversary this year. For the special occasion there will be an Italian Opera Concert on 24th February 2018, and an official unveiling of a commemorative plaque on 24th April 2018 with the Mayor of Cambridge, George Pippas. The concert, in partnership with the Cambridge University Opera Society, “L’ Elisir D’amore” by Donizetti, will take place at West Road Concert Hall, at 7.45pm (tickets available online at  adcticketing.com/amore  or by telephone at 01223 300085); whereas the official Ceremony with the Mayor Pippas will be held at the European Cultural Centre La Dante, in Hawthorn Way  (The Lodge, Hawthorn Way, off Chesterton Road CB4 1BT) at 12,30pm.

As part of the international organisation La Società Dante Alighieri, which has 500 offices worldwide, La Dante in Cambridge is one of the most prestigious centres in Europe. Its main aim 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.

When Giulia Portuese-Williams thought of La Dante back in 2008, she dreamed of a European Cultural Centre where people of any background could come 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,” said the Director, Portuese-Williams, “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.  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, 4yo, who likes to play with everyday toys and sing songs in Italian. After all, that dream came true back in 2008 with the support of our wonderful team, students and trustees to whom all my thanks go with all my heart.”

 

Intermediate Spanish intensive course from July 17th-July 21st

Hello amigos! New Spanish Intermediate intensive course starting on July 17th until July 21st, from 7-9pm. The course will be taught by a highly qualified native teacher who will use a communicative approach. Feel free to sign up at marketingladante@gmail.com or (0)1223 315191. Nos vemos pronto!

Thinking in a Foreign Language: How to Do It and Why

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Thinking in a foreign language

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.

Language bubbles#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 LifeBengali computer keyboard

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 languageFacebook in Spanish 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!

Korea Indie Music

#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.

Couchsurfing Logo

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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!

By Lingholic

La Dante in Cambridge contributes to the Erasmus Traineeship

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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.

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