Our school was born out of the idea of making of language learning something radically different from the average. Why? Although coming from very different backgrounds, we are all, in the first place, people deeply interested in language and all the disciplines connected somehow to language, from logic and mathematics to history. Therefore, we are deeply unsatisfied when we see how foreign languages are traditionally taught. What we mean by this is the approach of learning first a bunch of abstract grammar rules, and then start memorizing all sorts of materials, from endless wordlists to whole texts which are not even taken from real literature or contemporary social or political discourse but instead simplified (we could say “watered”) material designed specifically for learners. As we said before, we believe that language itself is a fascinating object of study, but we are also aware of the fact that for many people acquiring a foreign language represents mostly the means to achieve access to the working or studying in another linguistic area. Nevertheless, this shouldn’t mean that language learning should be a lifeless, boring and monotonous process by which rules and words are swallowed as a medicine we feel reluctant to take. Our main goal is to show how interesting and meaningful and yes, why not, useful can be the study of language.
The following are a few focal points of our approach:
- Comparative and historical linguistics: We believe that a general idea of historical linguistics can be enormously helpful to the study of any foreign language. In the case of Indo-European languages, we can take advantage of the close kinship and common origin of the many languages from which English has borrowed (Greek, Latin, French, Old Norse), besides the history of English words themselves and arranging them in an organic and logical comprehensive frame.
- Historical and cultural background: Of course all this knowledge about the history of language must be complemented with occasional reference to other related fields: actually, since language is such a vital instrument in every field of human activity, it is hard to think of any which is not somehow related to language. The most obvious field related to the history of language is history itself, and of course history is intertwined with a wide range of social and cultural phenomena. Our aim is therefore too to provide, “long the way” a general background of the classical cultural tradition of the west, which can help to make the study of vocabulary something lively, tangible, real.
- An active, spontaneous way of teaching: Without relinquishing high academic standards (a wide but very precise choice of contents to be taught and a demanding program of homework, reading and testing) we would like to get rid of the traditional distance to be kept between the students and a monologging teacher. Instead, we propose a method based on interaction, and also in the use of humor and abundant anecdotic material of all sorts to make the learning experience something pleasurable for its own sake.
- A multimedia approach: We count with first-class technology for teaching. Smart-Boards (TM) in the classroom allow for a rich variety of multimedia material to be used during class, and all classes are taped for eventual reference.
- Stimulating teaching material: Our tests and reading materials are all designed to develop, beyond their own didactic purpose, the general cultural background we spoke before. In particular, the readings we propose are all based on scholarly material and are meant to illustrate the actual use of advanced English vocabulary in the context of interesting, curious and controversial topics taken from history and culture.
- Beyond English: The concept of a “cloud” alludes to a “nebular” knowledge, whose different branches are interconnected and interact in a variety of ways. While teaching advanced English for technical and academic purposes is still our main aim, we plan to expand our methodology to other languages. For the moment we are starting, along with the English vocabulary class, a course in Latin, which, as a language of enormous cultural significance in the West, provides a precious insight into the knowledge of virtually any western language. Our plans are to teach German, French, Spanish and Italian all integrated into a cohesive general framework, in which we can explain and show their interaction and reciprocal influence.