Teacher, entrepreneur, linguist; Daniela Montagner has many titles and when looking for an Italian language expert, who better than someone who has not only lived there for a large chunk of her life, but now teaches it (amongst others!)? As soon as she starts relaying her tale, her passion for languages is clear. After discovering a love of teaching and helping people develop their linguistic skills at university, she moved from Venice to Milan in a bid to get more experience in this field. Years later, with a wealth of experience in training and development, Daniela move to London to open her language school Fast Learning and now provides language teaching to students from all backgrounds and nationalities. With so much experience and knowledge on the subject, we sat down to chat to her about what she’s learnt and the challenges of learning a new language...
What made you decide to get into language teaching?
Love. I met my husband one year ago, when he was moving to London. I felt this was ‘my call’. London is a perfect place to start a business. The ‘innovative learning centre’ had to be born.
Some years ago I got certified in Suggestopedia: a most innovative method that enables adults to learn foreign languages up to 6 times faster. UNESCO recommended Suggestopedia as one the most effective methods of teaching and learning foreign languages. I studied directly with Prof. Georgi Lozanov (the developer of Suggestopedia) who spent his life researching mind capacities and developing Suggestopedia.
In the past, I used to teach Italian for foreigners through Suggestopedia as a volunteer. The results were stunning. During a suggestopedic course, people (adults) memorise up to 2000-2500 foreign words and phrases in 72 hours, they can use them actively and creatively in any common communicative context and, last but not least, they learn by having fun!
Unfortunately, Suggestopedia is not a well known method yet, even though its results are certified and proved by researchers, universities and UNESCO commissions. I think this is a shame; I believe people must have the chance to learn any foreign language faster, better and by having fun. This is the reason why I decided to get into language teaching again and to found Fast Learning School: the suggestopedic learning centre in the UK. This is my little contribution to Prof. Lozanov’s work. I have started with the courses in Italian and English, but I want to enrich the offer of languages as soon as possible.
Which languages do you speak? Do you have a favourite? And why?
I speak Italian, English, French and Czech. My favourite language is Czech because of my love for the Czech literature and poetry. I’ve always been fascinated by Slavic languages. When I got to know the Czech literature, I totally fell in love with it because of its magic and its unique sense of humor.
How do your language lessons differ to regular ones? We know you use drama to help people learn – how does this work?
Suggestopedic lessons are based on a theoretical and practical framework that enables people to reach the so called ‘hypermnesia’, i.e. the super long-term memory. In other words, adults learn like they used to learn when they were children. How? They are involved in playful activities and fun games, they have fun in a relaxing environment. They don’t struggle with grammar rules, but they simply interact naturally by using what they are memorising or getting involved in the activities the teacher suggests.
The suggestopedic teacher plays an important role; he or she supports the students and suggests the right words and phrases, rather than highlighting their mistakes. The suggestopedic teacher is like a mother or a father teaching her/his child to ride a bicycle.
In suggestopedic lessons we use lots of classical art and drama as well. Drama is the way we help the students to activate and use the vocabulary they are learning. Thanks to drama, students get in a parallel world, they choose to have a different identity and they can be anybody else and feel safe in the words they speak.
We never spend much time explaining grammar rules: students absorb them more naturally when they react to the teacher’s suggestions and get involved in games and exercises. We focus on grammar when the students are ready to understand the rules behind a communicative act. Until that point, they simply learn, absorb and practise spontaneously and by having fun.
What do you think it is about Italian that makes people want to learn it?
People want to learn Italian for many different reasons. Some people want to communicate with their Italian colleagues, friends or partners. Others are in love with the Italian cultural heritage, like travelling in Italy and wish to be able to communicate with locals. Others simply love how the Italian language sounds. Others have a passion for specific aspects of the Italian culture.
What’s the hardest thing about learning Italian?
Italian is more flexible than English and has a lot of exceptions. This is also the beauty of the Italian language. Don’t get stuck or frustrated if, at the beginning, you struggle to find the words to say a simple and common sentence like ‘I come from London’. Some of my beginners join in the lessons for intermediates just because they are keen to speak and communicate and they do it pretty well because their enthusiasm is stronger than their fear of making mistakes.
What do people find easy about it?
Pronunciation: you read Italian as it is written. No surprises!
What advice do you have for anyone interested in learning Italian (or any other language) but perhaps a bit nervous?
Always remember to enjoy yourself. If you are too concerned of making mistakes or using the right grammar rules, you will lose the contact with the people you are talking to. This is the worst mistake you can make! Most of the time, people don’t mind of your mistakes at all. They are happy to interact with someone who can speak (even a little) their language. Enthusiastic and cool people give a brilliant first impression (beyond their grammar mistakes!) because they never forget to enjoy themselves while they speak a foreign language.
If Daniela has inspired you to pick up your dictionary (or put your actor hat on) and start learning Italian, or any other language for that matter, have a look at the ones available here on Hotcourses, including Daniela’s Fast Learning School.