You can listen to my interview on the Couragemakers Podcast:
Interview featured on the Spf Website
1) Do you speak languages fluently because of your origins or because a teacher inspired you to learn?
I speak fluent French because I am a native speaker, fluent English because I fell in love with the language when I was seven years old and Italian because I love the culture and country.
2) Can you name a living, historical or fictional character that you think is the emblematic representative of the language's culture?
That’s a hard question for any culture and any language! I would say Albert Camus for France, Jane Austen for England and Leonardo Da Vinci for Italy.
3) Is there a typical word, phrase, tradition or behaviour in the language that you particularly like?
I love idioms because they can reveal a lot about the culture and psyche of a country. My favourite are: ‘Chercher midi à quatorze heures’ (literally, ‘to search for noon at 2pm’, meaning to complicate things needlessly), ‘devil’s advocate’ (to be against an idea many support, in order to make people discuss and consider it in more detail) and ‘toccare il ciel con un dito’ (literally, ‘to touch the sky with a finger’, meaning to walk on air).
And my favourite French tradition is offering lily of the valley to loved ones on the first of May (May day).
4) Why does speaking languages matter to you?
Every new language I speak is an opportunity for me to broaden my horizons, learn new things and speak to more people.
5) What is the main difficulty in learning languages and what can help the process of learning?
Letting go of one’s own mother tongue, especially if the languages have different roots, like English and French.
6) Provide a valuable anecdote related to your language learning or your days at school.
I always tell my students that not knowing the word they want to use is not the end of communication, that it’s up to them to figure out a way to express the idea in a different way and that, in the process, they will practise the language far more than if they had known the word from the very beginning.
To illustrate such an idea, I tell them the story of how I went to a supermarket in Glasgow to buy a mop, except I had no idea what a mop was in English. I was a post-graduate student at Glasgow University, studying Shakespeare, and I couldn’t ask for a mop! So I asked for ‘a piece of cloth you dip in a bucket of water in order to wash the floor’. ‘A mop’ replied the shopkeeper, before directing me to the relevant aisle. It might not have been the most concise way to express myself, but in the end my kitchen and bathroom floors were clean!
7) How has travel or a specific trip helped you to increase your skill and knowledge of languages?
I first went to Britain when I was seven and, subsequently, twice to three times a year. By the time I was thirteen, I already spoke fluent English. That said, I learned Italian while living in the UK and ended up meeting many Italians in Cambridge. Also, I always tell my students that, thanks to the Internet, there are countless resources to practise a language from a different country.
8) What makes you a Superprof in language?
I offer a safe space to my students, I support and encourage them and I empower them with language by explaining what it means to learn a language and by making grammar accessible. I am their ‘superchampion’ and I enjoy every minute of our lessons.