Meet the School – Taormina, Sicily’s Founder & Director

 Alessandro Adorno is the founder and director of the Italian language school in Taormina, Sicily in the south of Italy. In our opinion, Alessandro is one of the hardest working and most enthusiastic school directors we have ever worked with. His school was awarded the LTM Star award for best Italian school in 2008 and was a runner-up in 2009 and 2010.

What is your background?
I am 43 and I am university graduate as Interpreter and Translator for English and French. I am not married but I live with Katarina, Oliva (our dog) and Boh (our cat) not far from the school in Taormina, a few meters away from the beautiful Greek Theatre.

Do you travel abroad often?

As I promote our school programs to our foreign potential students and representatives, I am often abroad for conferences, lectures, fairs and exhibitions.

Have you studied abroad?
I studied abroad in France and the UK.

Which languages do you speak or have studied?
I speak English, French, Spanish, some words of German and… Italian, of course. And Sicilian dialect too!

Italy_taormina-sicily_aerial-beach When did you start your organization?
After getting my University Degree in Foreign languages (Translation and Interpreting) in Florence, being a native Sicilian, In 1992, I founded the Centre for Italian Studies with the intention of offering those who  love Italy, the Italian language and culture the possibility to learn Italian in Sicily. I felt that people would be interested in another part of Italy, other than the traditional destinations for learning Italian in Italy. A view in which nobody shared and many considered it "crazy" to offer Italian courses in the south of Italy and some even laughed at us. Our Centre for Italian Studies is the oldest Italian language school in Sicily and one of the oldest and most accredited Italian language schools in South of Italy.

For more than 2500 years, Sicily has shared its spirit with travelers from many lands. Situated in the center of the Mediterranean, Sicily has served as a meeting place for three continents, each of which has contributed to Sicily's unique history and culture. There are few other places which have been impacted by as great a number of civilizations: the Sicani, the Sicilians, the Greeks, the Carthaginians, the Romans, the Byzantines, the Arabs, the Normans, the Spaniards, all influenced the vibrant Sicilian culture. Our study abroad programs reflect Sicily's magnificently rich 2500 years of knowledge, poetry, art and traditions. Studying Italian in Sicily is also an opportunity to discover the roots of the Italian culture.

Since 1992, we have passionately dedicated ourselves to promoting our Sicilian heritage and culture along with the study of the Italian language. Since then, we strive to offer opportunities for learners of Italian language to also become learners of the Italian culture and Italian life.

What do you enjoy the most about your job?
It is very different and in no way it is a routine. First because I like to take care of any aspect of the  business, second because we devote an incredibly amout of energy and time to make our students  experiencing their quality time with us at school, third because I meet so many foreigners by simply staying in my home and land.

Was there a person, group of people or organization that were instrumental in your success?

The ABC school in Florence that first employed me as Italian teacher and made me discover a world I would fall in love with later on for the rest of my life.

Tell us one of your biggest challenges in starting your organization?
As said before, a bet in which nobody believed in 1992, when it was considered "crazy" to offer Italian courses in the south of Italy. I didn’t just have to convince people that we had a great program but I also had to convince people to study in Sicily.

Tell us one of your biggest mistakes in your job, studying/teaching a language and/or traveling abroad?

Everyday we make small or big mistakes, everyday we can do things a bit better. Probably my biggest mistake is that I want to participate in every process at any stage in my school. You may say a bit control-freak! However, I have been fortunate to build a strong team of teachers and staff who share my enthusiasm for our programs.

AmeriSpan note: we love owners and directors that are very involved in the day-to-day aspects of a school. Our experience shows that these programs maintain a very high quality.

How did you and AmeriSpan begin working together?
We met in the USA a long time ago when I went to visit their office in Philadelphia. Since then we have had a very positive relationship.

Can you tell us about your schools philosophy and why you think it is special?
A language is not the result of a set of grammar rules. A language is the result of a culture, of its history, its traditions, and its territory. The main goal of our programs is to give our students the chance to study Italian and to enjoy a life and cultural experience in Sicily, fully immersed in its culture, in its history, in its traditions, in its territory.

Studying abroad is an experience that broadens our knowledge and our spirit.

Our reference teaching methodology is communicative but not in its extreme consequences (read Krashen). We do think that language analyses is also important. For this reasons we divide our standard course in two parts: "Language Analyses" and "Communicative Tasks".  The language analyses activities include controlled oral and written production, while the communicative tasks involve listening and reading comprehension and free oral and written activities.

In both in Language Analyses and Communicative Tasks parts we focus our attention to the 5 language activities: listening, speaking, reading, writing and metalinguistics. As teachers of Italian as foreign language, we believe that our students will "learn and fix" more having a deductive approach to the language. For this reason our Italian lessons are never a frontal lessons and for this reason we believe in "the class" as a group and therefore we ask our students to do lot of work in pairs, role-plays, dramatizations, etc.

We do believe the student MUST be the "primadonna" in class. The teachers' role MUST be "analyzing and understanding" his/her students needs and proposing all those activities conducive to maximize learning in class.

In linguistics, we divide between "learning" and "acquisition". In other words, "learning" implies all the activities involving the rational, conscious, analytical activities of our brain; "acquisition" requires the involvement of the subconscious side of our brain. The brain process of knowing a language is made up of 80% "acquisition", 20% "learning".

Italy_taormina-sicily_mazzaro In fact, the study of all the rules of a certain language does not bring knowledge of that language, meaning that the only use of the rational, analytical, conscious side of our brain is not sufficient to learn a language. In fact, we all, as native speakers of our own mother language, have NOT learned our language by reading and analyzing sets of grammar rules or through pedantic corrections (which cause frustration, fears, apprehension, resentfulness and the child/learner to become clammed up etc). Rather – during childhood – we needed to make our mistakes, to have our mistakes passing without people around continuously correcting us and frustrating our creativity and desire to express ourselves. In fact, what we all have needed was a balance between corrections from outside "tutors" and learning through our mistakes.

Correction is one of the activities to be done during a language course, but for sure the whole course cannot be based on corrections. And this is why we do not correct our students in the second half of the lesson ("Communicative Tasks"). What is important here, the aim of this part of the course, is communication, and improving our general ability of communication and understanding.

That's why our course is divided into 2 parts "language analyses" (listening, speaking, reading, writing) and "communicative tasks" (listening, speaking, reading, writing). Correction is one of the activities and it relates to the Language Analyses part of our Italian language courses.

If, beyond learning Italian in Italy and a full immersion study abroad stay, our students also want a fuller cultural experience in Sicily, they can choose our Italian culture courses: Art History in Sicily, The Sicilian Writer in the Italian Literature; History of Sicily and combine them with our Italian language courses.

In our Italian language courses, we combine high teaching quality with the most personal and friendly atmosphere and environment. Since 1992, we have had years of constant appreciation and academic recognitions. Our students have consistently mentioned the “special” atmosphere at our school. The high percentage of students who return to our school, or recommend the school to their friends, additionally attests to the merit of our programs.

For more information about this program, visit Italian School in Taormina-Sicily

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