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'I realised I was too Mediterranean to spend my entire life in Germany'

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'I realised I was too Mediterranean to spend my entire life in Germany'
Photo: Romina De Simone
21:51 CET+01:00
In this week’s instalment of My Spanish Career we talk to Romina De Simone, an Italian teacher living in Madrid and the founder of Mucho Mas Que Idiomas about how language learning is changing.

Born in Pistoia in Tuscany, this 33-year-old has come up with a different way to learn languages; through combining teaching with cultural and leisure time activities 

‎What made you decide to live in Spain and why specifically Madrid?

I lived in Germany for eight years where I worked at the Göttingen University. At first I loved my German life including the opportunity to get closer to the German culture and being able to improve my knowledge of the language. Until one day when I realized that I was too "Mediterranean" to spend my whole life there and I made the decision to search for new work opportunities in sunnier places. A selection process at the Istituto Italiano di Cultura of Madrid was announced, I didn't think about it twice... and here I am!

What made you set up your business?

I always had the, gusanillo del emprendimiento as the Spanish say. I love languages.  I have studied German, English and Spanish. I also have a Master's Degree in Italian as a Foreign Language and another in Audiovisual Translation. I wanted to bring together my passion for languages and teaching with my desire to create a world in which language could be learnt and practiced in different ways. The outcome of this was muchomasqueidiomas.com


One of the activities is art in English for children Photo: Muchomasqueidiomas

What attracts people to learning through activities?

Most people don't enjoy learning a language through doing grammatical exercises in an anonymous class which traditionally has been happening for decades. The financial crisis has made us realize that with less time and less money we can't do everything we would like to do, and that for example, we have to choose between studying a language, doing a cookery course or taking part in a sporting activity.  The idea grew of teaching languages through cultural and leisure time activities, where people could practice a foreign language while dedicating themselves to one of their hobbies such as the cinema, art, literature, or sport. And last but not least, to enjoy their time spent with other people with the same interests and passions!

What are your most popular activities? 

The activities people seem to like most are the interactive visits to museums, the cooking classes and literature clubs. In each of these activities the focus is on the participants.  All activities are in the target language and people are encouraged to get involved in practical tasks such as discovering art through treasure hunts, discussing books while comparing them to the film version of the story or cooking dishes from a foreign country while at the same time practicing and improving their speaking skills.  And all the while having a great time together - laughter and fun are the two basics ingredients of our activities!

What are the differences between Italians and Spanish?

After living in Germany for eight years, I don't find it that easy to see the differences between the Italians and Spanish.  From the very beginning I felt at home in Spain. Although I would never say we are the same... for example I think Spaniards are much more liberal than us. You just need to think about artists like Picasso or Dalí, or directors like Almodovar or same-sex marriages that have been legal for 10 years in Spain and unthinkable in Italy.  The presence of the Catholic Church in Italy has played an important role in that.

What do you miss most about home?

Of course my family. I left home at the age of 20 to study in Pisa and from there I went to Germany. I never went back again except to visit which I do two or three times a year.  And then the possibility of "breathing" art and history just by walking in an Italian city - I'm thinking about where I lived in Tuscany. Fortunately nowadays it is neither difficult nor expensive to travel in Europe, so I can still enjoy a walk in the places I grew up in or have a real pizza.


Photo: Muchomasqueidiomas

And love most about Spain? 

The openness of the people here. I remember the first time I heard a boy addressing his professor as, "tú" just a couple of days after I left  Germany where I was obliged by my boss to be Frau De Simone to all my students, whether they were the same age or older than me. Here there is no distance between people - when meeting someone for the first time you will also get two kisses on your cheeks. And living in a cosmopolitan city like Madrid makes socializing even easier.

Who inspires you?

The figure of Conrad Koch, a young English teacher who, in the late 19th century, broke the rules of language by teaching English through football has always inspired me.  I highly recommend the film Lessons of a Dream based on his story.

What is your attitude to life?

I love the title of a very famous Italian film, La vita è bella, (Life is Beautiful) and I think of it as my philosophy of life. I think life is a gift and something beautiful that nobody should misuse for one moment. I am a curious person and always want to learn and discover new things. I love travelling and finding out about different cultures and I think my passion for languages has a lot to do with that. To be passionate about everything I do is important to me no matter what. Life shouldn't be about, "I must" but, "I´d love to"

To find about more about the activites organised by Romina De Simone take a look at her website muchomasqueidiomas.com

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