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Trip Report Learning the Lingua: in Lucca: 2 wks at Lucca Italian School (May 2014)

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Summary (For those who don’t want to wade through the long version that I will post):

After debating about which language school to attend in Italy, I settled on Lucca Italian School (LIS) I chose Lucca because I had never been there and the good train connections to nearby towns made the location even more appealing (more about that later). I had an incredible experience and hope I can convey what attending the school was like in this TR.

I have about 8 years of Italian under my belt. I have studied with community ed, attended courses at the university and met with a small group and tutor. I have got the grammar down but Italian just won’t come out of my mouth. After two weeks at LIS, I still cannot speak Italian fluidly. However, some things I knew became clearer and I learned some new strategies for studying Italian back home (e.g., I picked up “Dizionario Italiano per Stranieri” an Italian dictionary with explanation of Italian words in Italian). And I did recharge my batteries in regards to studying Italian. Mainly, though, I had an excellent time enjoying Lucca and meeting new people.

My fellow students were a mix of ages, although most were probably over 40. There was a nice mix of nationalities. The classes I was in had between 6 and 8 students. There were fun activities available in the late afternoon, if you wished to join (some for a fee).

The teachers spoke only Italian to us, even during the optional activities. Some students tried to speak Italian out of class while others needed the break from Italian. (I wish I had followed one student’s example in seeking out a non-English speaking student to have lunch with, thereby forcing the conversation to be in Italian.)

The teachers employed a mix of education strategies and were well prepared: worksheets, conversation partners, songs, games. One bit I thought was fun and helpful was having one conversation partner witness a crime and then describe the crime scene to the other partner, the investigator. A game based on the “Taboo” board game was also very instructive and fun. The hours in class flew by!

I am glad I chose Lucca, although I never really did take advantage of the great train connections! I was so engaged by Lucca that I was happy to stay there and explore. The cathedral has some fine art (including the exquisite funeral sculpture of Ilaria del Carretto by Jacobo della Quercia). The church of San Frediano was interesting, with a fine mosaic outside, and inside, a Della Robbia, a Romanesque baptismal font and the mummified body of the local saint, Zita. Also interesting was the Chiesa dei Santi Giovanni e Reparata, where you can explore the archeological digs underneath the church and see Roman and medieval era remnants. There are a number of Puccini concerts available, for those who enjoy opera. Of course, there are the walls, which are a pleasure to stroll around, enjoying the views and the bicyclists, joggers and walkers passing by. We were there for the on-going celebrations of the 500th anniversary of the walls and got to see antique vespas, Fiats and Ferraris drive through town.

I also thought Lucca was a good choice for the opportunity to practice Italian. The main streets, San Paolino and Via Fillungo, seem to attract the most tourists. But step away from those areas and there are many small stores where the shopkeepers are willing to patiently hear your request in Italian and answer in kind. I enjoyed trying my Italian out in the many small shops where I bought cheeses, wine, and other groceries to stock my Lucca apartment. After only two weeks, it began to feel like home.

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