The Italian-Brazilian Rafael Tronquini, communication manager at Europass Italian Language School, talk to The Florentine on the novelties of the popular institution of Florence, including reduced class sizes, online offerings and innovative education for the coming months.
The Europass Italian language school team
The Florentine: Is your language school open for face-to-face teaching at the moment? If not, when do you expect to be open and what measures will be in place to ensure social distancing?
Raphael Tronquini: Our school reopened on July 6 for face-to-face classes, with the special visit of Sara Funaro, municipal councilor for well-being, health, reception and integration, and other distinguished guests. During the month of June we have made all the necessary preparations in accordance with the regulations of the Italian government for the response to Covid-19. With a smaller class size, students enjoy an even more intimate language learning experience. The first group of students to resume their activities in Florence came from various European countries.
TF: Are your courses offered online and are they popular with international students in Italy and their home countries?
RT: At the end of March, we expanded our offer of online courses. We have developed a Italian language online course called Agile Europass, a self-learning platform on which students can carry out activities at their own pace. For example, if a student can’t attend a webinar at the scheduled time, they can access the recorded lesson later, when it’s convenient for them. Webinars are offered once a week for different levels. Each course lasts a total of four months and is led by a native Florence teacher. We created Europass Agile in response to demand from foreign students who, for various reasons, cannot travel to Florence to study the Italian language. We also offer live online lessons for groups and individuals. During the summer we offer online courses for teenagers. All courses use the proprietary learning platform developed by our team. From March to today, more than 100 students have taken our self-study courses, more than 150 students have taken our group courses and 80 students have taken private lessons, joining us from a total of 20 different countries.
TF: What were your main student nationalities before the coronavirus lockdown and do you think this will change in the future? Are there student markets recovering faster than others?
RT: In recent years, our student population has consisted mainly of students from European countries (Germany, France, United Kingdom, Spain and Austria) and United States. Our community is international and multigenerational, with many students of Italian origin wishing to rediscover their roots. Today, we also welcome students from Latin America and the Middle East, many of whom choose to first study Italian online before later traveling to Italy. The European market reacted immediately to our online course offerings. Many former students of our face-to-face courses have chosen to continue their Italian language studies with us online.
TF: How have you stayed in contact with the agents over the past few months and how are they supporting you to recruit new students as soon as the situation allows?
RT: Agents play a key role in the design of our new online and face-to-face products. We have developed our online courses for teens in response to requests from our business partners. Agents contact us regularly, looking to collaborate and plan activities for 2021. Now more than ever, we work to find creative ways to fulfill our clients’ dreams of studying the Italian languagewhether in person in Italy or online from the comfort of their own home.
TF: What are your student enrollments for the rest of the year?
RT: Our website receives over 70,000 visits per month, with 7,000 subscriptions to our newsletter. Interest in our courses in Florence for 2021 is increasing, a sign of the growing interest in Italian language studies at an international level. We also offer a range of benefits for returning students who continue their studies online and online course student discounts for future face-to-face courses. This year we have significantly increased our digital communications in order to stay in touch with our students and support them in their continuous learning of the Italian language. For example, we organized a live broadcast with the famous Italian singer Eros Ramazzotti and our teacher Elisabetta Blini. Around this time, we launched a Christmas campaign to further promote our online courses, and our team of teachers continues to develop new online courses in a range of subjects, such as italian art. Next year we will offer the TFSA exam in our school, as well as TFSA preparation coursein Florence and online.