Learning Italian at Florence’s Koine Center
By Denene Brox
I managed to avoid my fear of language learning when I was younger because studying a foreign language was never a requirement for me when I was in high school and college.
Then the summer before my senior year of college I went on a study abroad course to study art and architecture in Italy and fell in love with the culture.
I took a second trip to Italy last spring to take an intensive language course in Florence, figuring that since I planned to make travel to Italy a regular part of my life, it would be nice to learn the language without all of the pressure of grades and exams.
I enrolled at the Koine Center located near the Duomo in Florence. Koine’s teaching method is total immersion with the instructors only speaking Italian in the classroom. I signed up for two weeks worth of group lessons.
Upon arrival at the school, I was given a fluency test. The written portion consisted of grammar questions which were mostly fill-in-the-blanks.
After completing the written test I was given a private oral assessment and then placed in a beginning level classroom. There were three other students in my class – two Americans and one lady from Germany.
My time at Koine was challenging and fun. We did a variety of lessons from workbooks, basic conversation exercises, and listening comprehension.
My teacher was funny and engaging. Every morning at the start of class she would ask each of us what we’d done the previous afternoon during our free time.
We’d go around the room recalling what we had done and trying to find the right words to express it in Italian. She would tell us about her afternoons spent riding her bike to the park with her two dogs.
After class I went to lunch or dinner with some of the other students. I met people from all over the world including England and Japan. Sometimes the only common language between my new acquaintances was my limited Italian which made conversations an interesting adventure.
Classes at Koine run from one week to six months or more depending on the student’s desire and availability. Classes began at 9 a.m. and went until 1 p.m. with the afternoons free for exploring Florence. The school also arranged cultural trips to neighboring towns like Fiesole.
If you are interested in learning a second language there are thousands of language and cultural schools across Italy and Europe to choose from. Begin researching your options on the internet and in guide books. Prices for courses and accommodations vary, so shop around.
The whole experience of language learning in an intensive course totally immerses you into the fabric of another culture which is a great place to be.I opted to stay in a private apartment, but my classmates participated in homestays and shared apartments. The secretary at Koine arranged my apartment rental which saved me a lot of leg work.
I look forward to returning to Italy for continued language and cultural study. I realized after my trip that it’s not only a pleasure to learn Italian, but it’s my duty to give something back to a culture that has made me feel at home.
For more information on language schools in Italy and around the globe, visit the following websites:
KoineCenter – Koine offers courses in Italian and culture throughout the year in Florence, Lucca, Cortona, Orbetello, and Bologna.
Study Abroad allows you to search for programs of interest. Check out their adult study abroad program listings for language courses.
GoNOMAD.com – Visit the alternative travel portion for articles about language study.
Transitions Abroad – This site offers resources, language program listings and articles by travelers who have participated in language programs.
Meet Up.com connects people with the same interests all over the world. Use this site to find people at home or abroad who share your interest in learning another language. Search the database for “Italian” or “Arabic” groups by ZIP code. This is a great way to continue practicing your language skills at home and abroad.
Denene Brox is a freelance travel writer based in Kansas City. Her work has appeared inTransitions Abroad, BootsNAll, Trips and Journeys and Kansas City Magazine.