FAQ – Italian language school

Frequently Asked Questions

 

Here you can find answers to the most frequently asked questions about Italian language courses at Solemar Academy:

School

Where is Solemar Academy?

Solemar Academy is located in Cefalù, in the province of Palermo in Sicily. Our main entrance is in Via Fermi (next to the Euronics shop; cross the car park and turn left). A second entrance (and our postal address) is at Via M.C. Tomasini, 5.

 

How far is the beach from the school?

The school is less than two minutes from Cefalù’s main beach. Both the train station and old town can be reached in less than five minutes.

 

Do they speak Italian in Sicily?

Absolutely! If you hear anyone claim that Sicilians only speak the local dialect, they’re completely mistaken. Italian is the national language, and Sicilian is a regional language (the Italians call it a ‘dialect’) like others found in the country, including Tuscan, Neapolitan and Romanesco. While it is still in use to this day, that’s only within circles of family and close friends (especially the older generation!). At the Solemar Academy we exclusively teach Italian.

 

What is the nearest airport to Cefalù?

The nearest airport is Palermo (1.5 hours away by car).

 

How do I get to Cefalù from the airport?

By train: Trains leave once or twice an hour from from the platform underneath the Arrivals hall. Buy a ticket to Cefalù, but you will almost certainly need to change at Palermo Centrale. The two journeys take 50 minutes and around an hour respectively, and tickets cost €11.70. You can buy them from the machine on the platform, which has an English language option, and accepts cash or card payments. Remember to validate your ticket in the machines provided before you travel.

Timetables can be found here.

 

Shared taxi: Shared taxis depart from a station around 30 metres to the right outside the main exit from the Arrivals hall. They seat a maximum of seven passengers and leave when full, or every half hour. The journey to Palermo Centrale station takes about 40 minutes and costs €7.00, which you pay to the driver in cash on arrival.

From Palermo Centrale you can take the train to Cefalù (One hour journey, tickets priced at €6.20).

 

Coach: Coaches depart every half hour from a stop around 60 metres to the right outside the main exit from the Arrivals hall. Tickets to Palermo Centrale station can be bought from a kiosk in the terminal and cost €6. The journey lasts one hour.

From Palermo Centrale you can take the train to Cefalù (1 hour journey, tickets priced at €6.20).

 

By car: take the A29 motorway (which later becomes the E90, though you probably won’t notice the change!) and when the road forks after about 75km, follow signs for Messina. Another 14km brings you to the Cefalù exit. Follow the road around to the right, taking the state road (SS113) into the centre of town. Journey time: approximately 1 hour 10 minutes.

 

Private transfer: from Punta Raisi airport to Cefalù (approximately 1 hour 10 minutes, from € 85.00). This is significantly cheaper than the cost of a taxi booked at the airport – contact us to book in advance.

Italian courses

Are the Italian courses taught entirely in Italian?

Yes, the teachers at Solemar Academy are all native speakers and will only speak Italian when teaching, even in A1 level classes. If this seems intimidating, remember that they have been doing this for years, and are expert at communicating, and at helping you to communicate in Italian. It is, after all, the language you have come here to learn! Learning to speak without fear of making mistakes is half the battle, and you will surprise yourself with how natural the process feels!

 

Are the Italian courses divided by level?

Yes. Our standard classes are always divided into groups which reflect the starting level of the students. We will perform an initial assessment and create groups ranging from absolute beginner through the six levels (A1-C2) of the Common European Language Framework. Solemar Academy is always committed to assigning each student a class which is appropriate to their starting level.

 

When can I take a group Italian course?

Group courses at Solemar Academy take place from March until December. They run Monday to Friday, and students can begin a course in any given week.

The group course programme is self-contained within each week, and is custom created by the teacher, taking into account the level and interests of the students in the class. These personalised curricula will include a range of different texts, activities and exercises each week. You could stay with us all year and never repeat the same week!

 

How long does an Italian lesson at Solemar Academy last?

Our courses are divided into units of 45 minutes, although these are invariably combined. On a standard course, students usually study four units a day, totalling three hours of class time.

In the case of unusually small groups we reduce the class time to reflect the extra intensity. When a class has only two or three students, they study three units a day, and if there is only one student they study two units.

We also offer combined group courses, including the standard course with one one-to-one unit per day. Also available are intensive courses (which comprise a standard course with two additional units in a group per day. This intensive course is valid for the German Bildungsurlaub scheme).

 

How long does an Italian course last?

Solemar Academy’s group Italian courses run weekly, so the minimum study time with us is one week. However, students can book as many weeks as they wish!

 

How much time do I need to advance my Italian by a level?

The time it takes to learn a language is very personal and depends on many factors, such as motivation, knowledge of other languages, intensity and frequency of study. The programme for a beginner level (A1-A2) can usually be completed with 4 weeks of a standard course. Intermediate levels (B1-B2) would normally take longer to complete.

 

How can I discover my level of Italian and take an entry test?

One week before the start of your course, you will receive a ‘Placement Test’ which must be completed online. This will help us to determine your starting level. The final part of the assessment is that when you arrive at Solemar Academy you will have a short conversation to assess your spoken skills.

 

What time do group Italian courses at Solemar Academy start?

On the first day of class, you should arrive at the school at 8:30 am. After a welcome coffee, the staff will help you take care of registration and outstanding entry tests. From Tuesday to Friday, lessons begin at 9:00 am. We programme a 15 minute break after the first two units.

 

What time do individual courses at Solemar Academy start?

One-to-one courses normally start at the beginning of the second shift, i.e. at the end of the standard courses (from 11:00 am onwards). Our school manager will let you know a precise schedule no later than the Friday before the course begins. Individual units followed as part of a Combined Course will begin after the group lessons, allowing a short break to relax, recharge and re-caffeinate!

 

Can I extend my course after I’ve started it?

Certainly! You can extend your course by speaking to school staff at any time. By all means, stay as long as you wish!

 

Can I reduce the duration of my Italian course I’ve started it?

No, it is not possible to convert a booked course into a shorter one. If a student misses or shortens their course after starting it, they are not entitled to a refund or to compensation for lessons which have been missed.

 

When do I have to book leisure activities?

The calendar of available leisure activities for the week is presented to students each Monday morning. These activities must be booked at school and according to the deadlines provided by the school manager. Activities are only confirmed once a minimum number of participants (as explained on the Monday) has been reached.

 

When days is the school closed?

The school closes on public holidays during the Christmas period, New Year’s Day, Epiphany (6 January), Labour Day (1 May) and Ferragosto (August 15th). Any lessons missed due to a holiday are made up during the rest of the course week.

Method

What teaching method is used to teach Italian?

At Solemar Academy all teachers use a method called the Communicative Approach. We start with real, tangible things which are relevant to your life and work outwards. In this way students can integrate what they already know with the new rules and vocabulary we learn together in class, in a natural and organic way. This method has received superb feedback over the years for being engaging and effective.

 

Do you only practice conversation in group Italian courses, or do you also do grammar?

In class we never explicitly separate grammar from conversation. We want you to arrive at the rules and structures that underpin our language independently and intuitively. Grammar is acquired step by step, by listening and conversing, by comparing yourself with your peers and by following your teacher’s input. In this way, you will feel ready for the tasks most relevant to your stay in Italy – whether they be to order a coffee, buy a train ticket or read a book!

 

What teaching materials are used to learn Italian for foreigners?

At Solemar Academy we prepare a custom booklet containing a syllabus for each week’s course. These are created specifically by the teachers, so that we give you texts that are always up-to-date and on interesting topics. We know that there is no such thing as a perfect textbook because no two students are identical. Moreover, year after year, more of our students decide to come back to us – and we would never want them to repeat old materials.

 

What do I find in the syllabus booklet?

In the booklet you will find a variety of newspaper articles, pieces of literature, songs, vocabulary guides, worksheets and activities to practise your Italian. Of course, the course does not by any means take place purely on paper. During lessons you will also use other tools ranging from websites and videos to newspapers and magazines, board games and anything else our superbly creative team of teachers can dream up!

 

Will I be given lots of homework?

Don’t worry, we know a study holiday can’t be all study and no holiday! Once again, we know that all students are unique, and we are always flexible to your schedule and preferences. Even the most industrious students need at least a few days to enjoy their down time without the spectre of homework hanging over them! In the afternoons you will have time to explore, go to the beach and practise your Italian ‘in the wild’. The more fun you’re having, the more receptive you are to learning: this is the underlying philosophy of our friendly Italian school by the beach.

Accommodation in Cefalù

When can I check into student accommodation?

Student accommodation is always rented on a weekly basis. Check-in is on Saturdays or Sundays between 16:00 and 21:00. For arrivals after 21:00, a late check-in fee of €20.00 is applicable. Check-out is by 11:00 am. Students must inform the property of their arrival time in advance.

 

Can I rent shared accommodation if I am not attending an Italian course?

No. Rooms in shared accommodation are rented exclusively to students enrolled on Italian language courses at our school.

 

How can I reach the accommodation once I arrive in Cefalù?

All of our accommodation in Cefalù is all within walking distance of the train station. As you will see, this is a small town where everything is easily accessible on foot in 20 minutes. If you have too much luggage to carry or want to save the hassle you can take a city taxi (€ 10.00 per ride).

 

Can I book a transfer to get to Cefalù with the school?

Our school offers private chauffeur-driven transfers from the airports of Palermo (prices start at €85), Catania and Trapani (prices start at €140). Costs will vary depending on the number of passengers. Bookings must be made through the school at least one week before the journey. Payment is direct to the driver upon arrival – please have cash available for their convenience.

Booking

How do I book an Italian language course?

To book any of our Italian courses, send a request via the registration form or an email to info@solemar-academy.com. You will receive a personalised offer for a course (and accommodation if requested) within 24 hours!

 

When do I have to make the payment for the Italian course?

Once you have accepted the offer we have sent you, the school will send you a confirmation letter with all the necessary payment information. A deposit must be paid within 7 days of receipt of this letter in order to confirm your booking. The balance can be paid on arrival at the school, by credit card or in cash.

 

What is the school’s cancellation policy?

As stated in our Terms and Conditions, if your need to cancel a booking for a course, accommodation or both, you must send written notice via email to Solemar Sicilia.

A cancellation up to 11 weeks prior to arrival will incur a cancellation fee of 15% of the total amount. A cancellation 10-8 weeks prior to arrival will incur a penalty of 30%. A cancellation 7-4 weeks prior to arrival will incur a penalty of 50%. A cancellation 4 weeks prior to arrival will incur a 95% cancellation penalty. All penalties are applied at the sole discretion of Solemar Sicilia.

 

Do I need to obtain a visa to come to Italy?

What you will need to do to visit Italy will depend on where you’re coming from. EU citizens are of course free to come and go as they please. Citizens of other countries should consult the page http://vistoperitalia.esteri.it/home/en for details of entry requirements and visa applications.

 

Does Solemar Academy take care of the paperwork to obtain a study visa in Italy?

Solemar Academy will provide any registered student with a certificate of enrolment. If you are applying for a student visa this certificate will be essential. All visa applications are the sole responsibility of the student. However, in case of difficulty, our staff will endeavour to offer all reasonable support.

We are only able to provide the certificate of enrolment on receipt of full payment for the course. In the event that the visa is refused, the student will receive this payment refunded in full, minus the relevant registration fee. This refund is subject to receipt of the official certificate of refusal provided by the relevant Consulate.