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Birmingham is one of the most culturally varied cities in the UK. For centuries, people have travelled from different countries around the world to build their lives here. Amongst those travellers are the Italians, and each year there are about 1 million Italian tourists visiting the UK. In return, there are between 4 to 5 million British tourists visiting Italy each year There are also about 200,000 Italians living in the UK and in 2011, there were 7,100 Italian students studying in UK universities. This makes Birmingham a great place to meet authentic native Italian speakers and to brush up on your Italian language skills.
Each year the city of Birmingham hosts around 50 annual festivals - so there is always something happening to celebrate different cultures, languages, communities and diversity. Birmingham’s restaurant scene also offers around 30 different nationalities and styles of cooking including very tasty Italian cuisine. It's a great city to be in to learn this romantic language, but where exactly should you turn to? What's the best way to learn?
The possibilities are indeed quite varied: there are associations you can work with, take courses at language schools, via group lessons or with a private teacher dedicated to your learning. It is above all a question of your learning goals.
Brasshouse Languages is the largest adult education centre in the UK and specializes in language services and courses. They offer an enormous range of options for learning languages including 30 different foreign languages.
The institute offers a wide range of courses and workshops centred around language and culture with many different dates and times possible. The prices are reasonable and they even offer some free courses to help those looking for work or who are receiving government subsidies.
Learners are placed in classes according to their language level classified according to the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages. Classes are taught at a range of ability levels, from Beginners through to Advanced Conversation & Culture.
Just a few of the many course options :
Beginners Italian for £72 with a discounted fee of £36 runs for 6 weeks
Intermediate Italian for £121 with a discounted price of £61 runs for 11 weeks
Advanced Italian for £132, and £66 with the discount runs for 11 weeks
According to the institute, "Learning another language is an incredibly rewarding experience. You’ll learn new things about yourself, improve your job prospects, meet new people, and gain the confidence to travel to exciting places all over the world". How true!
Brasshouse Languages also offers Language Clubs for those who are interested, which can be informal events or gatherings led by their tutors. They are free of charge and each session has a theme and can be presented as a lecture, quiz, workshop or discussion. On various afternoons and evenings each week, they also offer various cultural and language activities, such as the language cafe at the library of Birmingham.
According to the brochure: "Come and practise your French, German, Greek, Italian or Spanish in a relaxed and informal atmosphere. Sit around a table and have a chat in your preferred language with other speakers. Native speakers are also very welcome." Sounds great!
The University of Birmingham’s Guild of Students runs active language societies and produces an on-campus magazine – The UoB Linguist- for students interested in culture and languages.
One of those societies is the Birmingham Dante Alighieri Society, also known as 'The Dante', and is one of the oldest campus based societies with a membership that spans the whole region. For anyone interested in Italy and Italian culture, the society runs a packed program of talks, musical events and informal gatherings, often with an array of Italian food. To celebrate 50 years of the foundation of Birmingham's Dante Society, this year the University of Birmingham's Department of Italian Studies is hosting a series of open lectures by Dante specialists from UK, European and American Universities.
One of those lectures centres around Dante from Medieval Italy to the Third Millennium and takes place every Thursday in March. The topics include "the creation of the character 'Dante' in his own poem, the relation between art and nature in the Divine Comedy, Dante and music, and the question 'what makes Dante great?'"
The University of Birmingham is also home to the Leopardi Centre in the Cultural Collections, with the aims to promote the study and knowledge of Leopardi and his cultural context in the UK.
Finally, at the University, you can really immerse yourself in this romantic language by taking an Undergraduate degree in Modern Languages. The program offers you the chance to be taught and supervised by international scholars with a wide range of expertise. Over 75% of the research in the Department of Modern Languages has been judged to be ‘world-leading’ or ‘internationally excellent’.
According to the University, "The aim of the department is to put students at the centre of the learning process, with an engaging approach to small-group teaching and student-led seminars. As part of your programme, you will enjoy a year abroad in your third year for full immersion into your target culture(s)." They also offer teaching and work placements across Europe, Asia, Quebec and Latin America where you could really get a chance to expand your horizons!
There are many associations to choose from in Birmingham such as The Poetics and Linguistics Association, The Language Gallery, The National Association for Teaching English and other Community Languages to Adults, The West Midlands Association for Language Learning and more! Associations can offer training for the professional public as well as for individuals and learners of all levels. Several categories of courses or workshops are often offered. You will especially find classic lessons dealing with the main linguistic themes of Italian such as grammar, vocabulary, written comprehension, spelling and more.
In addition to classes, associations also offer thematic workshops on cinema, literature or geopolitics, and everything related to Italian culture. Some also have a literary circle where you can sometimes have lively discussions or even take an Italian cooking workshop together to combine a mastery of the language and gastronomy!
Many language associations also offer courses and cultural activities centred around the Italian language. They aim to be places of sharing, meeting and exchanges around the two main subjects of language and culture. Teaching teams often consist entirely of native speaking Italian teachers.
Courses are available for all levels and skills. In these classes, for example, you can be working on your listening comprehension, your written expression, perfecting your vocabulary or working on your pronunciation.
In addition to these courses, associations can also offer thematic courses that are accessible according to a certain level of language (depending on each workshop). You can find yourself getting closer to Italian culture since some workshops will deal with Italian art, Italian song, regions and traditions associated with each of them, or even literature.
Finally, associations often organize, among other things, language holidays to learn Italian in total immersion, offering weekend immersion classes, or sometimes group trips to Italy!
Choosing a language school can be an extremely effective tool in learning to speak Italian. We already explored one popular Birmingham language school- Brasshouse Languages, but there are even more to choose from such as the Language Gallery, EDSkils, the UK Language Project Birmingham, the Language Studio and more.
Language schools offer a variety of courses for learning modern languages because, in addition to Italian, it is also possible to take English classes, German, Spanish, Arabic, Greek, Russian, French and Chinese!
Italian courses are often divided into two groups: those for individual students and those for the professional public:
● For professionals, there will be classes designed to learn or review certain concepts and lexical fields specific to the professional environment. For example, it could be Italian for business, Italian for new technologies, tourist Italian, or Italian medicine for example.
● For individuals, more general courses are organized according to the level of the learners: from beginners to advanced.
● Within these levels, intensive courses are also proposed to help students progress more quickly. Intensive courses are offered for around 15 pounds per hour in a small group. Less costly than to pay for an hour of private lessons with a dedicated teacher.
There are other course options for those under the age of 18. For adolescents, for example, there will be advanced courses corresponding to preparation for a college program or beginner courses to complete the high school requirements of learning a second language.
General Italian courses are also provided with the aim of mastering everyday situations while exploring key grammatical issues. Courses for children are also available as an introduction to the language, as well as a la carte courses, personalized for those wishing to work on a particular language aspect.
Whereas most of the proposed options listed above were group lessons, it can also be effective to take classes with a private tutor to help you progress quickly in your language goals. These classes can be available in-home or online via a webcam.
You'll have at your disposal a teacher who can set up for you a specific program and exercises tailored to your needs and goals. You can ask them for help with preparing for an exam, learning some Italian phrases for an upcoming trip to Italy, or just to help you practice and improve what you've already learned.
At Superprof, the average price of one hour of Italian lessons in Birmingham city is 18 pounds. Depending on the qualifications or experience of the tutors, it is possible to reduce the cost of this hourly fee to less than 10 pounds per hour. Indeed, taking in-home classes with a young teacher will be a less expensive option than working with a teacher who already has several decades of experience in teaching the Italian language.
In addition, almost all of our teachers offer the first course for free, which is a great way to evaluate the methodology and personality of your potential tutor. So what are you waiting for? Andiamo!