Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Come to Italy. Improve your Spanish!

It might sound odd, but my Spanish has really improved since I arrived in Pisa two months ago. For 15 years, I have been hopelessly in love with the Spanish language and I’ve been happily chasing a long-term dream of fluency in both castellano and Latin American Spanish. But back home I am usually too busy running my language center (and teaching Italian) to actually take advantage of our fantastic classes. So when I got to Pisa and realized I finally had time to indulge in my linguistic fancies, one of the first things I did was search for language centers in Pisa. I was thrilled when I quickly discovered the site for the Istituto Linguistico Mediterranneo – a small, 27 year-old language center offering courses in Italian for foreigners as well as a variety of other tongues, from Arabic to Russian. A few minutes after writing an exploratory e-mail, I received a phone call from a very cheerful Eduardo and the next day we met in person. Eduardo, half Argentine and half Italian, and his Italian wife Rossana (both pictured above) own and run the school together, with joy and efficiency. One or both of them greet me with a smile each Monday and Wednesday afternoon, when I come for my hour-long individual lesson with my lovely Valencian teacher, Maria Gomez. For 60 intense minutes, Maria and I review and practice pronunciation (Spanish style) and grammar, build vocabulary (today we talked about clothing and fashion) and she always gives me a topic to discuss at the end – multiculturalism in the U.S., my favorite vacation and, lately, American politics. When I told her I was planning a trip to Cordoba, she devoted an entire segment of our lesson to the region and cuisine of Andalucia. The group classes are conceived in a similar way – eclectic, personal, conversational and ultimately, I’ve found, both effective and enjoyable. Now that the entire educational system of Italy is suffering scrutiny, huge budget cuts and constant strikes on the part of students and professors, it’s nice to know that at least one school in Pisa will not be touched or negatively affected.

Tranquil, culturally-vibrant and full of conveniences (no need to carve out time for errands with everything you need just outside the door) Pisa is the perfect place to indulge in personal enrichment of every kind - but especially linguistic. Note: ILM is located one block from the Pisa Centrale train station and is a pleasant 15 minute walk from Market Tower. If you take Italian lessons in the morning, you could even hop on a train for an afternoon trip to Florence or Lucca. Or do like I do and just head home for lunch!

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