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Saturday, February 2, 2013

Tre Domande: Three Questions With Simon And Donatella At The Stresa Italian Language School


 Husband and wife team Donatella and Simon, at the Stresa Language School.

Can it be three years already since the Stresa Italian Language School first opened its doors? Yes, it can! And I'm happy to say that it is growing and going great. I assist the school di tanto in tanto, from time to time, with various things, but more importantly, I am happy to call Donatella, Simon, and the others at the school my friends. Simon has agreed to answer my Tre Domande, three questions, and tell us a little bit more about the school that he and his wife Donatella founded and run:

1. What were your original reasons for starting an Italian language school in Stresa?

Simon: Donatella and I had owned a language school in Milan, before migrating out to Stresa. We started the language school in Stresa three years ago when we realized that there was a huge (geographical) gap in the market, literally, in that there were no Italian language schools between Milan and the Swiss border. Furthermore, many such language schools in Italy tended to cater to a different profile of student: young people and students looking to combine a language course that lasted several weeks with a beach holiday or an experience in a big city. Stresa seemed like the ideal location to launch our own idea, especially in summer, as temperatures here are much more bearable than elsewhere in Italy.

2. So what does differentiate Stresa Italian Language School from other schools in other cities? And who is this different student you cater to?

Simon: The main differentiator has to be the fact that we are catering to the not-student crowd. We have organized many courses for retired folk, many of whom have bought houses locally. We have prepared special courses for corporations sending their employees here to learn Italian. And we can personalize courses for travelers who are here for either a week or a season. We also offer language classes to many local Stresiani, not only tourists. This allows some nice intermingling between tourists and locals, which is something we wanted to encourage, and which benefits everyone.  Another aspect is the fact that we organize “hands-on” afternoon activities, encouraging our students to interact with locals. We visit the caffes and local shops, and organize cooking lessons and dinners, as well as excursions. This is possible because class sizes are very small. Another new initiative, since the partners in the school all share a love for Italian culture, is that we are in the process of establishing an "associazione culturale," planning to organize cultural events, not just for foreigners and travelers, but also for local residents.


Here we are: Myself, Simon, Davide and Donatella, surveying the view of Piazza Cadorna from the balcony of the school, above Cafe Torino.


3. Now, you are expanding into other languages, such as German, Russian and English. Why?

Simon: It seemed like an obvious course of action to expand to other languages, but it was a Swiss lady who was studying Italian with us who provided the catalyst. She suggested that we organize German courses, and as she is a qualified Swiss teacher of German, the offer seemed too good to pass up on. The German courses have been very successful, and as fate would have it, one of our students of German is a Russian teacher who lives in Stresa and we are now in the process of organizing Russian courses. So we are experiencing this wonderful organic growth, while addressing unmet needs in the community. Interestingly, there has been less demand for English so far, presumably because many people here speak it passingly well already. Stresa has recently become incredibly popular with Russians  however, and many locals feel the need to communicate better with their Russian clients.

Thank you Simon, grazie tantissimo, for taking the time to speak with us.

Interested in some lessons? Here's the Stresa Italian Language School website.

Get to know some other friends and colleagues in our other interviews.






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