For anyone looking to teach English professionally, a teaching certification is usually the first step. For me, I knew I wanted to teach English in Italy and since I studied abroad in Florence and had a wonderful experience, I decided to complete my Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) course in Florence, Italy at an American institution called Via Lingua.
I’m writing this review because I’ve received so many e-mails from prospective Via Lingua students who want to know more about Via Lingua before they sign-up. So, this is my 100% honest experience. I’ll even put my hand on my Marcella Hazan Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking cookbook and swear by it.
Via Lingua Review
Written by Sarah Dowling, August 2012 course participant
What happens in the course?
The Via Lingua TEFL course is an intensive, one month course, 5 days a week (Monday-Friday), about 5 hours a day. Typically, the first two hours of class are dedicated to seminars on grammar, pedagogy theory, teaching resources and general teaching guidance and advice. The next 1.5 hours are dedicated to hands on teaching practice where each participant actually teaches 30 minute English lessons to their peer observers. 2-3 times a week, the last 45 minutes-1 hour is dedicated to lesson planning.
In addition to in-class participation (which is mandatory!) there is also a bit of grammar homework and reflective journaling required outside of class. At the end of your course, you will be required to complete a few projects and take an English grammar test. Overall, I found the course intense but not impossible. In other words, you have to put some effort in, but it isn’t modern physics.
Throughout the course, you will accumulate a 3 inch binder full of teaching resources. I still have mine on my shelf and use it to this day!
What is the staff like?
I found the TEFL instructors to be professional, experienced, high-energy and even sometimes witty! Seminars were entertaining and I thought the instructors’ advice was very helpful.
Did Via Lingua help you find a job?
Yes. The owner of the school personally gave us career advice, including how to write a CV and cover letter and edited each of our CV’s individually. The instructors also met with us each individually 2-3 times for about 10 minutes each to give us more personal advice and allowed us to put them as references on our CV’s. I personally would have liked more one-on-one feedback, but that’s probably because I’m a very nit-picky person and need a lot of guidance when I first start out doing something new. The school also gave us lists of English schools in different areas of Italy, including the contact information for each school. This made searching a lot easier.
Also, the school allowed us to continue to use their resources as we continued to search for jobs, even after the course was finished. It was really nice to be able to print copies of my CV and browse through books after I “graduated”!
One negative thing about Via Lingua is that they state on their website that 70-80% of their graduates get jobs after completing the course. This might have been true at one point, but unless you have a legal working papers, its not true anymore. Via Lingua has a bed rep for telling prospettive students that they don’t need to apply for a visa before coming to Italy. It isn’t true – you really need to get a visa before you step on that plane!
Also many people have complained that Via Lingua didn’t help them as much as they would have liked. My philosophy ont his is that although Via Lingua gives you some advice, you really have to do the work yourself. They aren’t going to hold your hand through the process and I personally didn’t expect them to.
What is Via Lingua’s teaching method?
For me, Via Lingua’s teaching method is probably the BEST thing about the school. Via Lingua specifically taught us how to teach English using what is called the communicative method. Not all programs offer this method and not all English schools follow this method. Nevertheless, I find the communicative method extremely adaptable and invaluable.
The basic idea of the communicative method is that students learn a language via genuine, meaningful communication. Let’s say I’m teaching an English lesson on useful phrases for ordering food in a restaurant. Instead of throwing at my students a list of restaurant related vocabulary and telling them to memorize it and practice it, the communicative method says I should try to elicit this vocabulary in a genuine way. I can start by simply asking my students: “Have you been to any good restaurants lately?” and then slowly narrow down my questions to “What do you usually order?” and “What are different ways to order in a restaurant?”. We could then create a dialogue together, one that is produced by the students (not the teacher!). In this way, students will probably remember these phrases since they are having to think to produce them. I still have to plan my lesson and prepare some useful language/vocabulary to help guide my students, but generally speaking, the students lead the class. I’m just the facilitator.
My point is, Via Lingua teaches you how to use this method, as well as how to plan to use this method. No matter where you go to teach, it’s a great skill because it means you can easily adapt it to any material and be able to improvise while in class.
Where is the school located?
They have two locations in Italy: One in Sardinia, and one in Florence. I attended the Via Lingua in Florence. It was in a beautiful location – right in the center of the city in Piazza della Repubblica. It was wonderful to be able to wake up and walk past that every day!
What are the negative aspects about Via Lingua?
Overall, I had a really good experience and met a lot of wonderful people! Still, there were a couple of drawbacks about Via Lingua. The first is that they sort of iced over how important it is to have a visa or documents that allow you to work legally in Italy. Perhaps several years ago it was much easier to find a teaching job in Italy without a legal documents; however now, the government is cracking down on English schools to only hire teachers legally. This isn’t to say it’s impossible to find work without a permit of stay. In fact, 2-3 of my Via Lingua classmates found teaching jobs without any permit of stay (two in Prato, one in Rome). Unfortunately, a good percentage of my classmates had to return home after a few months of job hunting because they were more often than not told they couldn’t be hired without a permit of stay. I was lucky because I applied for a study visa before coming. (For more information about how to live in Italy legally, see my posts it here.)
I also wish there had been just a tiny bit more of individual feedback and care. I realize that there were about 50 of us, which is a lot to keep individual track of, but it would have been nice to have more feedback sessions and personalized career advice.
Would I recommend Via Lingua Florence?
Of course! Like I said, the staff is very knowledgable, the course will leave you well-prepared and, so long as you take the right steps to get a permit of stay, you’ll be well on your way to teaching English in Italy (or elsewhere if you’d like!). It’s a great school in a beautiful city!
Just keep in mind two things: get a visa before completing the program and be prepared to do some job hunting!
Via Lingua Florence
Via Brunelleschi, 1
Phone: + 39 055 283161
Fax: + 39 055 283196
USA Head Office
Via Lingua International
4320 North Verona Circle
Royal Oak, MI
toll-free 888 835 6207
Want more information about teaching English in Italy? Check out How to Become an English Teacher in Italy (and get the How to Become an English Teacher in Italy Checklist here).
If you know of anyone thinking about teaching English in Italy, you should share this with them using the links below. It could change their life!