Benefits of a bilingual brain

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It’s obvious that knowing more than one language can make certain things easier — like travelling or watching movies without subtitles. But are there other advantages to having a bilingual (or multilingual) brain? Mia Nacamulli details the three types of bilingual brains and shows how knowing more than one language keeps your brain healthy, complex and actively engaged.

TED.com on the Benefits of a bilingual brain

Learning with creative, audio visual projects: Harry Potter theme

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IMG_3540When a child is immersed into learning a new language with creative, audio visual projects, not only they develop their language skills but that increases their capacity in story telling, make believe, acting and reciting. We did an interesting project involving characters of Harry Potter films with a group of children learning English. When they came, they could only say single words at basic level, towards the end of the week after working on creating the characters (we chose 5 good and bad) the Italian children were able to form sentences. Arturo had some sentences from the start, Davide a bit shy to begin with and Diana with just very few words. They enjoyed extracts of the Harry Potter videos from youtube, they described the characters and started forming sentences towards the end of the week. It was great to see how they built their confidence in the language through playing. The afternoon was spent with British children playing and doing creative activities. The full immersion worked like a treat and the children excelled in their confidence in English. We will be doing the same type of projects for those children who wish to learn Italian in Cambridge from September onwards.

It’s great to give our children the gift of a bilingual brain and invite you to read:
The benefits of a bilingual brain
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4 Reasons why learning a new language requires full immersion

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If you are anything like me and the millions of students who’ve gone through the American public school system, learning a foreign language is nothing short of a joke. Despite our education system’s best intentions, classroom learning is an exercise in laboratory futility. We memorize by rote a few words, we take a few tests, and when language learning is no longer a requirement, we forget everything immediately.

Although experiencing learning a language in an immersion environment is fairly common for some college students who study abroad, it’s definitely far from being the norm. Personally, I took almost three years of Russian language classes in college, and then I spent a semester actually learning the language in St. Petersburg, Russia. This experience differed drastically from my high school Spanish classes. Here’s why an immersion environment, even if only for a few months, is absolutely instrumental.

1. You learn to let your fears go

This was perhaps the most important reason for me in terms of learning in an immersion environment. When you learn a language in a classroom, you do so piecemeal. You memorize vocabulary words, do some conversation exercises, maybe write a few paragraphs. In an immersion environment, you have to speak the language, or else suffer isolation. This was especially true in Russia, where many of my Russian friends hardly spoke English. After awhile, you begin to lose your inhibitions and you become less afraid of making mistakes, grammatical or otherwise. And when you lose this fear, you open yourself up to authentic conversation practice, one in which you learn as you go.

2. You learn the way children learn-naturally

A friend of mine who speaks only English, once told me, rather jokingly, that she finds it remarkably how very young German children can speak a language that seems so incredibly difficult. This conversation made me realize that the quickest and best way to learn a language is to approach the process as a child would. You don’t memorize flashcards, and you don’t complete pages of homework. You just listen, absorb, and speak. Being an immersion environment helps language learners to learn a target language naturally, like a child.

3. You become acquainted with the way the language is spoken in “real life.”

I’m sure Russian language teachers cringe if they would have heard some of the slang that I picked up in my time in St. Petersburg. But there’s more than just youth slang when I talk about learning a living language, as it is actually spoken. There’s learning the way people joke, and the types of jokes that are considered funny. There’s also idiomatic ways of speaking that aren’t necessarily considered slang. For example, in American English, we may say “I’m about to head over to my friend’s house.” No English teacher would correct this construction, but it’s not something you’d learn to say in an English textbook either.

4. You learn aspects of language that cannot be replicated in a foreign classroom

Of course, I’m not in any way trying to dismiss the effectiveness of a classroom education. I probably would have not survived in Russia socially if I had not taken a few years of courses at my home university before departing. But I was astounded by how much more I learned about the Russian language-the pronunciation, the intonation, the vocal and facial emotions appropriate for certain expressions-by just going out for a few nights in St. Petersburg.

Not all language learners, of course, will have the opportunity to spend some time in an immersion environment. But if you can’t actually fly across the world to learn a new language, you can always create an immersion environment. Find native speakers in your vicinity using MeetUp or Live Mocha. Talk to native speakers using Skype. Another great option is just paying a few dollars extra to subscribe to a Russian, Chinese, Spanish, or English language channel through your cable company, like I did when I got home to America. Whatever you do, try to replicate the immersion environment as best as you can. You’ll be surprised at the results.

by Katheryn Rivas

Find out more about the Full Immersion programme for children and teenagers in Cambridge at La Dante International

Supporting the BBC Radio Cambridgeshire and Thorpe Hall Hospice

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BBC-Radio-CambsLa Dante is proud to support BBC Radio Cambridgeshire, who are organising an auction to raise money for the county’s hospice Thorpe Hall. The hospice has been BBC Radio Cambridgeshire’s chosen charity partner this year, as they are raising funds for a new building to help people in their final weeks and days be cared for in the best way possible.

On December 7th this year, BBC Radio Cambridgeshire are having an On-Air Auction – the station will auction off donated items or experiences to our listeners and encourage them to bid as much as possible to raise funds! La Dante is proud to donate a Summer Cappuccino intensive course in Italian worth £180 to the highest bidder.

Radio Dante and bilingual families blog

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bilingual-familiesPer le famiglie bilingui con un interesse linguistico in questo ramo La Dante ha creato un blog http://radiodantecambridge.blogspot.co.uk/ e’ pieno di articoli, referenze, consigli e aiuto per genitori e figli, per una crescita armonica che promuova il bilinguismo a Cambridge.

Abbiamo anche una collaborazione con Cambridge Bilingual Network (Universita’ di Cambridge) e Bilingualism Matters (Universita’ di Edinburgo).

Unique language tandem opportunity at La Dante

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Famiglie bilingui

tandem-opportunity-la-dante-cambridgeWe always thrive to be a bridge between Italian and English cultures and this June we have a unique and wonderful opportunity at La Dante:
A European language tandem cooking session where Italian children from a primary school in Chieti in Abruzzo (Italy) is having a cultural exchange with children from La Dante who are learning Italian.

La Dante is an oasis of culture where the two cultures: the British and the Italian meet.

Primary school children from Istituto Comprensivo Chieti, aged 9/10 are coming to learn English and with the English children coming to learn Italian we’ll have cooking sessions, sing, make fairy cakes with Italian flags and coluored marzipan. Singing and miming in English and Italian.
It’s a unique chance for them to have fun, learn and experience a new culture in the heart of Cambridge.
La Dante’s aim is to facilitate cultural exchanges in Britain.

Dates 18/6/2013 venue: La Dante in Cambridge 4.30-6.30pm

Radio Dante and the Fitzwilliam Museum

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Special programme with the Fitzwilliam Museum Radio Dante presents: Italian Art at the Fitzwilliam Museum

Radio programmes on Sat 1-2pm on Cambridge105.fm
One hour programme held in Italian and in English

24th November: Italian paintings – Titian, Veronese and Palma il Giovane
19 January: Italian sculpture – Renaissance Bronzes in Italy and Upper Marlay
16th February 2013: Italian ceramics forcusing on maiolica
16th March 2013: Italian arms and armour –
27th April 2013: Roman Antiquities – focusing on objects that relate to family life in Ancient Rome in the Roman Gallery

Interviewing: Dr Charlotte Avery, Keeper in Applied Arts
David Scrase (Keeper of Paintings, Drawings and Prints and co-Acting Director)
Mrs Sue Rhodes (Development Officer, Development Office)
Mrs Tao-Tao Chang (International Development)
Lucilla Burn (Keeper of Antiquities)

This is a great opportunity for La Dante to link with the prestigious Fitzwilliam Museum and highlight the beautiful and world reknown treasures from ancient Rome up to Titian and wonderful Modigliani.
Find out more: Fitzwilliam Museum and Radio Dante Cambridge