The language & culture abroad field struggles
The situation isn’t stable yet we must draw conclusions
During the blackest period of contagion and quarantine, many Italians have put messages of hope at the window, the most common being andrà tutto bene – it will be all right. To be honest, we weren’t too fond of this kind of message, but we considered it potentially negative because it could have generated the false idea that all this would have passed without leaving any social, economic and moral consequences on Italy and the world.
The moment to start analyzing
Now we know that not everything has “gone well” even if still the scope and effects of this event are not fully measurable or assessable yet. It is necessary, however, to analyse the situation to discover new perspectives and to pave the road for the future.
In order to write down some ideas – with particular reference to adult students (age group from 35 and up) from central and northern Europe – it is first necessary to draw some data.
The student population of Learning Italy – DA Siena belonging to this group constitutes 35% of the annual presence. Most of them enroll for an average of 4.2 weeks and attend courses with a strong cultural connotation like Alma Siena 50+ (46%), Language and cooking (33%), Language and culture (21%).
As for the online educational offering, from last March Learning Italy – DA Siena undertook distance learning by offering online lessons of Italian language and culture. It results that 85% of the attendees were aged 35 y.o. or over and that the nationalities more represented were: Switzerland (36%), USA (30%), Germany (24%), Others (10%). We can therefore understand that the on-line and in-presence audience largely overlap.
What is more important for students?
During the lessons, teachers checked – in addition to the appreciation and effectiveness of the course – what the attendees were missing the most in comparison to a course in-presence. It appears that the interaction with the hosting community is the most important feature (55%), followed by cuisine (28%), and arts appreciation (i.e. visits, excursions, etc. 13%).
These data speak for themselves and they confirm the fact that the most relevant motivation for learning our language is the cultural interest in Italian heritage
At the same time it is also evident which direction our efforts must take to best satisfy the expectations and needs of adult European students.
In order to recover from the 2020 crisis it will of course be necessary to develop new promotions, but we shall also use this chance to focus and to reserve a special care for those who will start over this journey with us.
With this occasion we would like to share a beautiful video made by our former student Klaus Ehret (Swiss) that was recently presented on the occasion of a Zoom Conference prepared by him. His lecture (in German, his mother tongue) is a powerful example of the high interest that learning Italian culture and language can generate in adult, intellectually aware students. But it also reminds us that no virtual learning experience would allow understanding and interpreting an event as complex and articulated as the Palio di Siena.