Meet the team: Francesca

Francesca imageCiao, I’m Francesca and, as you can guess, I’m Italian! I’m a teacher of Italian as foreign language and I have been in this profession for over a decade. I joined Radio Lingua in 2014 when I witnessed the birth of Coffee Break Italian! I assisted Mark in the production of Season 1 and at the moment I’m contributing to the development of Season 2.

What is your role in Coffee Break?

My role is varied as I am not only the Italian voice you hear in the podcasts, but I also deal with the design of course outlines and content. In other words, I’m in charge of deciding which grammar points, vocabulary and communicative situations are presented in each episode of Coffee Break Italian. I also enjoy the Radio Lingua team at events where we get to know our listeners and tell them more about language learning.

Francesca and Pierre-Benoît at the Language Show in London

What experience have you had speaking and learning other languages?

I started learning English in Italy when I was about 11 and it was love at first sight! I think it gave me a new identity and a different way of looking at the world so I decided that I would have never abandon it. When it came to choosing my secondary school, I opted for Liceo Linguistico where, amongst other subjects and English, I learned French, German and Latin. I studied English and Russian at the University of Trieste, where I specialised in Translation and Interpreting. As part of my degree I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to spend some time abroad: I did my Erasmus year near London and I took part in an exchange programme with the Moscow State Linguistic University. I must say that my love for foreign languages includes my own beautiful Italian which I have been teaching for years after specialising in Teaching Italian as a Foreign Language at the University of Siena. I taught Italian in Kiev for a year and I have been teaching Italian in Scotland since 2009. I never tire of learning new things about languages and at the moment I’m trying to master Spanish.

Francesca in Ukraine
Francesca in Ukraine

What are your favourite memories of working with Coffee Break?

I have so many nice memories with the lovely people of Coffee Break, but my favourite dates back to April 2016. As you might remember, Mark, Katie and I were at Lake Maggiore filming and recording the last ten episodes of Season 1 of CBI. One day we decided to visit Pettinengo, the mountain village where I grew up and where all my family live. We went around interviewing all the locals (like the pharmacist, the barista, the owner of the only food shop), chatting with all the familiar faces and visiting my parents. It was very emotional for me being back home and listening to the tales (and jokes!) that everyone had to tell. Despite being away from Pettinengo for so long, on that occasion I felt I belonged there and I could never thank Mark enough for giving me such a privileged way to rediscover my roots!

Interviewing native speakers on the shores of Lake Orta

Where would your ideal coffee break be, and with whom?

I would love a coffee break with the Italian writer Andrea Camilleri in a remote Sicilian village at the seaside. If accompanied by traditional paste di mandorla (soft almond biscuits), even better!

What’s your best language-learning tip?

Language learning must be a pleasure and it only happens when you are enjoying it and you are highly motivated. My tip is try not to be afraid of making mistakes and accept them as part of the learning process. Once you have overcome that barrier things will get easier. Grab every single opportunity to speak and do something with that language. Don’t leave it in the grammar book! Learning by doing is the best way to put all those hours of study into practice.

Francesca and Mark winning the British Podcast Award for Coffee Break Italian

Quick-fire round

  • Favourite language: English
  • Favourite word/phrases in that language: I have a full list of words and phrases which I love in English. Here are three of my favourite ones:
    • Bob’s your uncle!
    • Whatever!
    • Glaikit (in Scottish!)
  • Favourite film: Pane e Tulipani
  • Favourite TV show: any cooking programme
  • Favourite book: La casa de los espíritus by Isabel Allende
  • Favourite singer: Franco Battiato
  • Favourite destination: I don’t have a favourite destination I think, but that magic of abandoning mainland to reach Venice by train is unbeatable.

Do you have a message for the Coffee Break community?

If you are reading this page it’s because, like me, you are also a language enthusiast. It’s great to see that the world is not monolingual and hopefully more multilingual people will contribute to making this planet a better place where we can all learn from one another. To quote Nelson Mandela: “if you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart”. Obviously the same is true for women, too! Happy language learning, everyone!