Learn a Language, Join a Community

“He who knows no foreign languages knows nothing of his own.” – Goethe

In this week’s #NIAFblog, our guest blogger, Jenifer Landor – founder of Live and Learn Italian, an immersive, language-learning travel experience – offers an inside look into her company’s travel program, which focus on learning about Italian language and culture. 

 

My Italian American family was monolingual in English, so I went to Italy speaking almost no Italian. In the small hometown of my grandfather, I was immersed in a warm community. It was an extraordinary experience…

People get really passionate about learning a language, and Italian is one of the most popular. An active brain staves off dementia, helps fight depression, and enhances emotional well-being. Barriers come down, strong connections are formed, and your mind is broadened. American journalist Flora Lewis observed, “Learning another language is not just learning different words for the same things, but learning another way to think about things.”

And it’s actually a thrill – a fact confirmed by those who join our program each summer. Many of our participants are somewhat older, but they still find such joy and satisfaction from the relatively new obsession of conversing in another language!

My top tip is: do a little something every day. Talk to yourself, read out-loud, put on headphones with Italian language podcasts or music when you’re walking, or in the car or on the bus … say buongiorno to the barista in your local coffee shop. By all means, find a buddy on Skype for conversation exchange, but don’t neglect learning grammar. After all, a sentence can’t be formed without grammar. And taking lessons, even if on-line, is a must.

Then, of course, go to Italy. Most Italian-learners have visited Florence, Venice and Rome, and lust for more, which gets them yearning to communicate. Get away from the tourists, and you’ll find myriad opportunities for practice. Italians are charmed and delighted when a foreigner speaks in their language – no matter how hesitant. So, reinvent yourself – you can be more playful in a second language, funnier even. The more you try, the wider your comfort zone. Make mistakes…it’s pointless to be shy or worried about getting it wrong.

Through my quest to learn the language of my family, I discovered a rich community, which I now feel very much a part of. It’s completely different from living in a big, multicultural city. Simple, shared traditions bind people together; festival days punctuate the calendar, foods welcome in the seasons. The locals’ love and attachment to their traditions are strong. Campanilismo, an exaggerated attachment to ones own town (or bell tower!) translates as parochialism, which, in English, is not a positive term. In Italian… well, it makes Italy Italy!

I created a language and culture program in Italy, inspired by this rich community: the family Di Nucci, making award-wining cheese for 12 generations; a young copper-smith, working hard to stay productive so he can raise his family in the town of his birth; the baker, Tonino, who is not only a master of bread, but a poet and playwright, writing in the town’s ancient dialect; Marco, who abandoned a global career to come back to his land, reviving vines and orchards and raising animals; Nicola, director of the bibliotecca antica, a keen horseman leading visitors along the ancient traturri of the shepherds; and in the world’s oldest bell foundry, the 25th generation of my grandfather’s cousins still make artisan bells by hand. These are just a handful of friends who welcome our guests, and connect with them to help them learn the language.

This summer, we are continuing to host sessions for intermediate and more advanced learners, and adding a Not Quite Beginner session in September. If you have some familiarity with the Italian language, but never managed to really make progress, this is the program for you.

You are invited to share in the daily lives of a traditional community – to cook with them, hear their history and traditions – and explore the slow life.

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  LIVE AND LEARN ITALIAN offers language and culture holidays in the small historic town of Agnone, Alto Molise, far from tourism. Mature students of Italian come to live among a friendly community to practice, improve, listen and engage.  Cook with the locals, visit family businesses, and discover the culture and history of a beautiful

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