At a certain point in life, so many of us begin to say to ourselves “I wish I never gave up the piano!” or “J’aimerais pouvoir parler français” (which is French for “I wish I could speak French”).
And whether it’s a dramatic change in circumstances or just an overwhelming sense of regret, some of us eventually get spurred into taking action.
Every day in the UK, thousands of private tutors are sharing their talents. From retired concert pianists to born language lovers, today’s private tutors are reigniting our love for learning – years after we started thinking it’s too late.
But what are the stories behind the people responsible for teaching our country’s old dogs new tricks?
In today’s post we get some insight through the eyes of Adele – a native Italian tutor who moved to London 15 years ago to pursue her passion of teaching the Italian language and culture.
“I come from the South of Italy, from a place called Calabria which is located opposite Sicily. I lived in Rome for a while and also in Switzerland for a couple of years, where I privately tutored Italian for the fashion company ‘Guess’.
I like to think of myself as a person who loves life and loves people. I am very much a people person. I love being around people and discovering new places all the time. I’m quite proud to be Italian. I love our culture. How passionate we are and how much love we share with everyone, how much we value good food and we build friendships over that food.
Now I teach Italian as a foreign language, mainly to adults. I’ve been teaching adults as an Italian tutor for over 20 years now, and before that I used to teach Italian in local Italian public schools, to much younger children! So I’ve covered pretty much all age ranges you can think of.
I started tutoring when I was quite young – I was in my twenties. But it was when I moved to London that I officially got my training to teach adults and realised that I really enjoyed it. In particular I enjoy connecting with adults through my language and passing on my culture. So I’ve decided to make Italian tutoring my main job and sort of my business. I have the freedom to decide when to work and with who and it’s all very energising. A lot of the times I would meet my students in Italian cafes, have a nice cup of coffee and chat in Italian – that’s of course when we have conversation lessons. So now it will be around 15 years that I’ve lived in London and I really love my job.
I love tutoring Italian to people who I have a lot in common with, because in a way it is easier to find topics that we are both interested in. But I also really enjoy teaching people who are very different from me because it then forces me to learn more about their interests and in a way I grow as well as they do. I enjoy tutoring people that are sincerely interested in my language and in my culture and are hungry for knowledge and want to learn with the intention of actually eventually travelling to Italy and using the skills and knowledge they’ve learned with me.
I like to start my Italian lessons very communicatively, starting with simple sentences and going though the structure of those sentences, putting them into real life situations. Only after that do I head towards grammar. From my experience, starting with grammar too quickly tends to get very stressful and messy. I like to start with useful and exciting words that reminds them immediately of our culture, makes them realise that they already know a lot of our words. Cappuccino, Gelato, Pizza, Pasta…
Then when we get a bit more advanced over time, I love to introduce a visual side to the language, such as music videos and movies even advertisements. I have actually categorised some videos and movies into different stages of Italian language so that we can practise and put the sentences we’ve learned into a practical everyday life. It is so much easier than to understand and memorise them. It also helps a lot with understanding the culture as well as the language. Helps you to see the hand gestures and hear the accent and understand the facial expressions.
To learn a new language can be quite challenging for some people and I remember having this student that called me the other day almost a year after our sessions telling me that he is now speaking fluently in Italian and he was really thankful to me. That is incredibly rewarding to hear.
Another amazing story is that for many years I was tutoring Italian to a group of four women who were not speaking Italian at all at the beginning, but towards the end we got to such a high level that we were able to watch movies in Italian together and have proper conversations about them afterwards. One time I even taught them how to make a proper Italian pasta at my friends little Italian restaurant in London, so that was amazing!
My goal is for my students to feel confident in speaking. At the end of the day, when you learn Italian you eventually want to be able to travel to Italy and be able to confidently speak and have a conversation about anything. So to get them chatty and comfortable in speaking is the most important thing to me.
I chose the National Gallery for our meeting today because I consider myself a bit of an artist as well as an educator. Although I come from a family of teachers, my father actually used to be a painter and two of his paintings are in a museum in Calabria, where I am from. So I am very proud of my dad and I even managed to organise an exhibition of all of my father’s paintings, which was very successful and we actually managed to sell a lot of his paintings to the Chinese computer company Huawei. And so I feel very connected to this place. It has a lot of rooms full paintings by classical Italian Artists and whenever my friends from Italy come to visit, we are always here. We always get a nice coffee and go to exhibitions and around all the displays.
My favourite place to tutor Italian would probably be a nice cafe, where we can get a good Italian coffee and have a nice conversation. My favourites are proper Italian cafes where there are actual Italians working, because then my students can actually immediately practise how to order and have a bit of small talk. It gets very real and very exciting for them. It is very motivating.
I guess what shines through in my Italian tutoring is that I don’t like to be bored. It is not representative of Italians either. We are exciting people with exciting culture so there really is no point in teaching Italian if it’s going to be boring! So I always try to organise something special for us to do in our lessons, and something completely new to experience.
Thank you for reading our fourth Tutors of London story with Italian tutor, Adele.
If you would like to get in touch with Adele for Italian lessons, you can find her profile here and contact her on the Tutorean platform. Adele has 25 years experience teaching Italian for all ages and ability levels.
Also, feel free to give our Instagram page a follow if you’d like to continue to follow our Tutors of London journey through photos!