The Via Lingua Experience

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!

Contact Info:

Via Lingua Florence
Via Brunelleschi, 1
50123 Florence
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!

11 comments on “The Via Lingua Experience

  1. Thank you so much for this post!! I am attending Via Lingua’s June-July program in Florence in 2014. This made my heart rest a little more, knowing that the program is well taught.

    • You’re welcome Marissa! I remember being in your place – I just wanted to talk to someone who had been through the program. Let me know if you have other questions or concerns!

  2. Sarah, totally respect your blog and your opinion, but I don’t know what you are talking about at all. I attended this program in 2013 and had a completely different experience! Only 2 people in my program (which was 20 people total) got jobs after getting the TEFL certificate. I was a lucky one… probably because I had dual EU citizenship which really helped. Everyone else went traveling for a few weeks and then went home because they were not able to find legitimate jobs in Italy. Via Lingua says on their site that 85% of their graduates get jobs 0-30 days after finishing. I don’t see how that is true at all. It’s a complete distortion of the facts.

    Also, the school does give lists of language schools in Italy like you mentioned… but this is information that is completely available on the internet for free. Just search ESL Base for schools. In fact, Stephanie just pulled up job postings on TEFL.COM and printed them to put in the “Job Binder.” I don’t see that as having a really developed network. She had very few “contacts” as she told me via email before I enrolled. There was one guy in Rome who had a school (wasn’t hiring then) and then a contact in Milan who didn’t respond to my calls or email. Yep, that’s right, only two exclusive contacts. Via Lingua was of very little help in finding a job (the only good thing was that they work with you on preparing your CV and Cover Letter— but you have to be proactive and seek them out. It isn’t a part of the curriculum as much as I would have hoped.)

    • Hi Matt, Thanks for your comment. It’s good to have a second point of view. I absolutely see what you’re saying – and in fact I agree with you that Via Lingua wasn’t very clear about how necessary it is to have documents that allow you to work. Like you, I was lucky that I had applied for a study visa before coming. This is something that I mentioned my review.

      I think no matter where you get your TEFL or CELTA degree, there is a level of work you must put in to find a job! Many of my colleagues told me that they received the same amount of help that I did from Via Lingua. I found Via Lingua’s resources sufficient – they helped me narrow down my search, gave me advice on my CV and cover letter, and suggested that we list them as a reference. I hadn’t expected them to do much more…after all, they are a TEFL certification school – not job hunters!

      I got my TEFL in 2012 so perhaps some things have changed as well. :)

  3. Pingback: How to Obtain a Permesso di Soggiorno per Lavoro | Italy Project

  4. Hi Sarah!

    I’m planning to take this course in Florence in October. Have you heard anything about it recently? I’ve seen some reviews on the internet that job help from Via Lingua isn’t great, however I don’t have a set plan to stay in Italy. My thought is that it’ll be a good place to receive my TEFL, and then I can go job hunting where there are more prospects! Thanks again in advance for your thoughts!

    • Hello there friend! I haven’t heard much about it within the past year. The biggest complaint I received regarding the course was the lack of job placement – but personally I don’t think you can blame the school for that! If you are open to teaching in different places (Italy and beyond) you really shouldn’t have any problem. I thought the program gave me a good background in what I needed to know but of course you learn the most on the job anyways! ;) Good luck and let me know if you have any other questions.

  5. Sarah, I noticed there are no posts in 2016. I was curious to know if you used their housing when you were there? And if so, how was it? Also, you said you applied for a study visa. So, did you take Italian by an approved school? I believe this is what I read, that you can get a study visa if you are taking Italian from an “approved” school. Also, you don’t need a visa to go to the course, do you?

    ~Sarah Bevilacqua

    • Hi Sarah, I’ve been on a little blogging break (I’m a new puppy mom + crazy work life) so sorry if this response is coming too late. As I told Tea Rose above, for the first month I went with the accomdation that Via Lingua offered. They gave me a private, dormitory style room (connected with other students in the program). I had my own bathroom and there was a shared kitchen. It wasn’t anything glorious but it go me through the month. As far as the visa goes, I was lucky and got a visa for the Via Lingua program first. You can read more about my visa story ” target=”_blank”>here.

  6. Ciao Sarah!
    I just happened across this blog as I’m about to do the same course in a few weeks, and was wondering what accommodation you opted for? Things may have changed in the last 3 years though, haha

    • Hi Tea Rose, things may have changed but I’ll go ahead and tell you that I used the accomdation service through Via Lingua just for peace of mind. It was expensive (625 euro for a private dormitory-style room), but it got me through the month. After that I found my own housing with friends I made from the course.