Italian student Laura gives an interview

Tell us a bit about yourself, Laura.

I’m a 24 year old Italian student from Cagliari.

Where / how have you learnt English so far?

I have been studying English since Elementary school. When I was 11 and 12 years old I attended two mini English Summer Courses in UK.

Later, I had English classes during high school, but in the meantime I had extra English classes in a private school.

When I went to University, I attended a very specific English course to prepare the TOEFL certificate exam. Last year I attended a Business English class.

What do you like most about the English language?

What I like the most is the British accent: the pronunciation is so elegant and harmonious. I love to hear native speaker talking, because the language conveys their culture: respectful and polite towards the other.

It’s a very live language. From the point of view of a person who has studied the language I really appreciate the structure: very straightforward so there are no misunderstandings.

Why is the English language important, in your eyes?

English is a Lingua Franca, the most spoken language as a “second language”, I think it’s fundamental in any business organization and in life, because the world is everyday more global and international.

Studying English widens your perspectives and ideas.

What is your main motivation for improving your English?

I would love to work in London or New York. So I would need to improve it not only for work reasons, but even to be able to live abroad. I reckon that the English studied in class is never really useful. To live and work abroad you need to know idiomatic expression, words that are actually used by native speaker.

What is the problem with learning English in a classroom?

In a class it is very easy to be distracted. Sometimes I realized that I was learning things and words I would have never used.

Moreover mostly only the teacher speaks, so there’s no room for practicing, for example the pronunciation, so after the class, you forget what you have learnt after a couple of days.

Why were you interested in a homestay?

I think that after all those years I spent studying English in class I needed a tutor concentrated only on my needs. I needed to practice the language day and night in every possible situation, and the only way of doing this is a homestay immersive course.

What were your goals (language and otherwise) before you went?

My biggest objective was to be able to have a conversation without stopping because I can’t remember a word, or I can’t understand the accent or idiomatic expressions. So, my goals were to improve my pronunciation and practice a lot, mostly to learn more vocabulary for everyday life conversation. I wanted to be able to learn faster and surrounded by native speaker so that what I learned stayed with me for a longer time.

I also expected some specific grammar classes for some mistakes I’m still making. At the same time I wanted to live a real Brit experience in a real Brit family and as well learn how to cook traditional dishes (I love cooking and try new cuisines!). I was very curious to visit new places and at the same time never stop learning.

How did your tutor prepare you before you arrived?

My tutor, Erica, one week before my arrival sent me an email asking me had I specific needs. She was very nice and we agreed to visit the Seven Sisters and Lewes. We were already starting to know each other before my arrival, she was very friendly and I promised I would have cooked a very good risotto.

What were the 3 best things about your homestay?

I would say the first one are the very pleasant conversations with Erica, her husband Chris and their daughter Caroline. All three of them were so funny and friendly so I immediately felt at home.

The second thing is that Erica gave me to do a diagnostic test, so she was able to spot exactly where I needed help. Besides, I could decide how many hours per day to study, so the atmosphere was very relaxed but efficient at the same time.

The third thing is surely the chance to experience life in Lewes, a stunning little village in the East Sussex. Being there with a native and knowledgeable person was incredible. For example: one day we went shopping in the local fish shop and bookshop, later, it was great to come back in the house and being able to call it home.

What cultural experience(s) did you have?

Does going to the local pub count as a cultural experience? In that case it was a great one, I had the chance to taste the local beer from Lewes brewery “Harveys”.

Erica showed me the most historic places in Lewes: the Ann of Cleves house, the Priory ruins, the castle and the near hill where the battle of Lewes happened, leading to the first session of the British Parliament.

Describe your tuition experience

Thanks to the diagnostic test, Erica was able to assign me to a level. She told me the three or four things she recommended me to learn and let me choose from what I wanted to start. Moreover she had plenty of books for me: all advanced level, but regarding various topics, for example I asked for a specific lesson on British idioms for conversation.

During the lessons she asked me if I preferred to read or if I wanted her to read the grammar book. I choose to read and after memorizing the rules I did some exercises. I still made some mistakes but Erica corrected me, but never giving me the right answer, just leaving as much time I needed to think about it. Erica, during the days we spent together, took mental notes of my mistakes so she was able to see exactly where my knowledge lacked.

I did some other exercises involving, for example, hearing a business conversation and then I had to invent very specific questions to already recorded answers.

What was your tutor like?

Erica was the perfect tutor for me. She has much experience both in teaching and in homestay tuition, and I could absolutely notice that, in fact she was at the same time very affable and sociable, but finicky and demanding. She welcomed me as I was part of her family and was always ready for any necessity I had, both for studying and for everyday life in her house.

How did you feel you improved during your homestay?

Firstly, I would say that this course has given a boost to my self esteem in speaking English, so now I speak much more than before. Now I know what I have to improve, I know what particular structures I have to be careful about: would rather that you did was so tricky to me!

In addition, the fact that I spoke only in English round the clock gave me the chance to just say even very wrong things (I went on using receipt instead of recipe!), but Erica was there trying to understand what I was trying to say. Now I can absolutely say that I’m self aware of my gaps and I was able to fill a lot of them.

How did your awareness of the English culture improve?

That was a very interesting part of my homestay. I realized how rude sometimes Italian can appear to a British person. We are so much more bold and direct, even our tone of voice is too loud for British people, so I trained a lot to say things in less direct ways, always surrounded by thank you and please.

As well I “studied” the British cuisine: I learned how to cook a delicious chicken and leek pie. Obviously, also the lunch and dinner routine are very different compared to the Sardinian ones: I’m used to cook more than one dish both for lunch and dinner. Here lunch is very open and simple. Pies are something to die for. And, of course, is served a couple of hours before the Italian use to!

Would you recommend TLL to your friends, and (if so) why?

I would totally recommend The Language List to my friends. It’s a great value platform.

Starting from the website, very easy to use, you know you are putting yourself in very experienced and professional hands. Firstly, it’s great that you can choose your tutor: where else is this possible? You can see very different tutors profiles, so you choose the tutor you feel more linked to you, based on the interest you have in common, for example.

On top, you can ask for special diets or allergy and the tutor will do his/her best to make you feel at home. For what concerns the tuition, they are very personalised, so you study precisely what you need, the type of English you need (Business, Conversational, etc.) and for how many hours per day you prefer.

Meanwhile you get the chance to visit UK, do some day trips with your tutor, experience a new culture and be immersed in the English language.

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