But who are the language enthusiasts that teach at Taalhuis Amsterdam, and why do they love what they do? Read the interview below to find out more about Italian teacher and coordinator of the Italian department: Francesca Branca.
Please introduce yourself!
Hi! My name is Francesca Branca, I come from Sardinia, the less known but still amazingly beautiful big Italian island. I live in Amsterdam and I give Italian lessons at Taalhuis. I also coordinate the Italian department and organize some workshops for teachers.
Why did you become a teacher?
I have always wanted to teach Italian, or to teach foreign languages. I discovered it when I was 13 years old and I had my first French lesson. I fell in love with the teacher and his passion for another language and culture, so I decided to become a teacher myself. At first, it was just a vague dream, then I started to give it actual form by studying Didactics at the university in Italy and in England and by taking a Master in “Teaching Italian to foreigners”. I had found a discipline – applied linguistics and didactics – that triggered me and felt like the right path for me. This was 15 years ago, since then I have never stopped learning, and in the many courses and workshops I have followed I have met so many enthusiastic mentors and teachers that made me love even more this job!
Teaching Italian to foreigners is great because it puts me in contact with people: I love communicating, discovering people, and giving them a voice, giving them the possibility to express themselves in a different language when they are in the country of the language they are studying. Benjamin Lee Whorf said “language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about”, and I think being part of the process that brings someone to shape their comprehension of a different reality (read culture) is an absolute privilege.
How would you describe your lessons?
During my lessons I try to interact as much as possible. I try to put the students at the center of every communication process and to stimulate them into becoming active part of the lesson. People are often afraid that online lessons are too static, so I try to create a lot of movement and dynamics. There is a lot of interaction among students and between the students and me; we read or listen to dialogues or articles, we do games, projects, sometimes we watch videos from Italian TV, and we always talk a lot about the subjects at hand using different cooperative and interactive techniques. Then of course, we also study the grammar: I love guiding students to the discovery of the beauties of Italian language and seeing the sparkle in their eyes when they understand a new structure and use it successfully for the first time.
Last but not least, do you have a message for your students?
Of course! “Dare to speak and to make mistakes, like that your Italian will improve much faster and you’ll also develop a very typically Italian ‘facciatosta’. Non vedo l’ora di conoscervi – o – non vedo l’ora di rivedervi (per i miei vecchi studenti)”.
In English: “I am looking forward to meeting you – or – I am looking forward to seeing you again (for my old students)”!