As well as leading the Italian Experience Cotswold days, Alessandra combines this with working for the prestigious Oxford University, Marlborough College Summer School and the Defence Academy of Great Britain. I caught up with Alessandra in June 2020.
Editor (Ed): Can you remember your thoughts after the first experience day?
Alessandra (Aless): “Really, really satisfying. We had a three month run in- having started the Italian Experience Day idea at the start of spring 2017. I remember being quite nervous- we had planned a lot and we wanted it to succeed. The day itself I was on a high in excitement and I couldn't have asked for more. We had such energy at the end of the Day!
Ed: “And highlights of Italian Experience days,starting with 2018 ?
We had grown immensely, our following multiplied on social media and the number of participants we have had means its easier. They are spreading the word for me! At my last count we have over 1,000 followers on social media!. We have increased our participant numbers by over a third in one year and our participants keep booking to come back..so that shows its well-liked!
In the Autumn of 2019 we moved to our base in Alba House in Watchfield. This offered a home from home comfort and it enables a relaxed atmosphere, intensive learning - but also by popular request, my home-baked Italian cakes! Students seemed to like it there.
By Spring 2020, with the global pandemic, we continued online and this has brought us participants from all over the UK! For 2021 we shall continue online as we are getting marvellous feedback.
Ed: "So how did the idea for The Italian Experience originate?
"Thinking back, it stemmed from coming back from the International Language School (DILIT) in Rome in Spring 2017. I was enthused to try out the new techniques for studying Italian. A combination of factors really. I love teaching and the Experience Days give me an opportunity to show an array of ways of learning and research a wide field of language study from the best international experts. I was also frustrated and wanted (for my private students) to give them more opportunities to interact and study with others- and just to feel good about their learning Italian.
Ed: You have now achieved full member of Chartered Institute of Linguist status – did that help your decision to do the Italian Experience Cotswold days?
“Yes, definitely. Chartered status is sought after. And you only get it after years of professional practice. I think it boosted my confidence to go it alone. I realised I was already working for some of the biggest names in languages in the region and with Chartered status it gives customers an assurance of quality.”
Ed: Where have participants come from?
We thought to begin with our participants would come from local areas, In fact our Italian Experience customers have come from Oxford, Gloucestershire Wiltshire, Reading and also as far away as the Midlands, Plymouth and Hertfordshire! Its amazing.. we have now covered most of the South of England. In fact in 2019 I even covered a bespoke training weekend in Salcombe in Devon!
Ed: What is it about the Italian Experience in Oxfordshire that is proving so popular?
“I think it is the concept of a special day. One that you can look forward to for several months. To switch off and immerse yourself fully in learning Italian. For the beginners it is a start of a journey – and for the more advanced it’s a reinforcement and a practice – ready for that summer holiday or work engagement in Italy.”
Ed: And tell us about the concept launched in the Autumn 2020?
"This was very exciting. It's combining the latest technology with You Tube (we have our own My Igloo channel) together with online learning using the features of Zoom to the maximum. We have our own Igloo space for safe learning and we retain the marvellous sense of a community of Italian learners meeting each week."
Ed: What if I’m already learning Italian somewhere else – is this for me?
“Yes, absolutely. Italian Experience Days are designed to complement your existing study – and for beginners- hopefully, the start of a longer journey learning Italian. I keep the content a mixture of speaking, listening, and reading so that the everyday Italian is built up and essentially gives you a big, big confidence boost. There is normally a new grammatical feature that we master and I always like to feature a culture or heritage highlight too. It is not designed around a syllabus or a test. Just a love of Italy and the language of Italian.”
Ed: And the Experience Days are a husband and wife team, which is quite unusual in business. And going forward?
Aless. “Yes! I suppose it is quite unusual! – we both like doing different aspects of the Italian Experience Days which helps. I do all the teaching and Steve helps with administration and marketing. I plan training in new techniques in Rome for April and this will give me a new impetus to add the most cutting edge of teaching and learning techniques for the days.
We want it to be a must have site for the student of Italian.
Ed: Thank you Alessandra. And best wishes for more success and growth in 2021.
In bocca al lupo - I think you say in Italian?!
“Grazie mille. A presto !”