This is the story of Clarissa, an American woman who planned to visit Italy and learn about Italian culture. She loved the Italian language and wanted to learn it in a fast and easy way. Her additional incentive was being able to communicate with her new Italian friend, Carlo, whom she met in a chat room a few months ago.
Carlo, an Italian native, had always wanted to learn English well. He knew a bit of English as most Europeans do, but Clarissa knew only three Italian words: ciao, amore and gelato. So they made a deal. They decided to practice by speaking in each other’s native language.
Wanting this exchange to be more balanced, Clarissa decided to take a course in Florence, which is not far from the small town in Tuscany where Carlo lives.
Being an art lover, Clarissa did not have to think hard about which city to investigate. Florence is where the spark of the Renaissance movement started and flourished a few centuries ago. Italy stores more artworks than all of the rest of the world combined and Florence is at the heart. The task now was to find a good school that would fit her personality.
A bit shy but adventurous, she asked Carlo to find a good school for her to learn Italian. However, he could not give her much help. Florence is a big city, and he would have to go there himself and check into the different schools. And, after all, she knew herself better than Carlo. So, she decided to choose on her own and went surfing the web.
To her surprise, she discovered there are many more schools in Florence that teach Italian to foreigners than she thought. There are schools for every taste and any possible interest. She even found a course to learn Italian while sailing on a yacht.
After assessing a few schools, she signed up for a week-long total immersion course to give her a taste of what it would be like. She would learn enough Italian to allow her to move around in Italy. Later, she would choose an in-depth course that would take perhaps several months to complete and give her the ability to communicate on a deeper level.
A month later, Clarissa was at a school in Florence, learning lots of vocabulary she could use to get around the city. Through some classroom lessons and many trips to museums, restaurants and shops, she learned to construct sentences in Italian and to express herself. She also experienced the basics of survival in a foreign country. And, of course, she learned to better understand Carlo, who turned out to be more likable than she expected.
Now Clarissa is back in Florence for the second time, taking a six-month course with a concentration on the art and architecture of the 17th century. What a fantastic time for her—perfecting her Italian, enjoying her new skills, broadening her knowledge. Thanks to Carlo and her new capacity to converse in Italian, she has many Italian friends. When she returns to the U.S., she will connect with them in Italian via email.
These are her recent words about her continuing experience.
“Learning another language is a life change. It opened a new world that I did not suspect existed. This world was inside of me. You can only find it when you give to yourself the chance to look for it. Like I did.”
Thank you Clarissa for your story and your inspiring words!