Double interview with Stefania and Silvia, founders of LLT, on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the founding of our Association
Well yes, dear online readers: LLT deserves a celebration! And the pleasure of devising this double interview fell to me, the last one in.
I could have gone on about the merits of the founders, women who have been their own entrepreneurs; women who network and score without ever thinking of winning but always of sharing, women who welcomed me so enthusiastically and sensitively that I felt reborn after I retired … But rather than speak about them, I want to give the floor to them and you will recognize them without fail in their replies, their voices, their grace, their culture and personality.
So, let’s begin.
- What prompted the idea of starting Lingua Libera Tutti?
Stefania: It began when I met Giulia during the Master in Didattica dell’Italiano come L2, (Master’s in Teaching Italian as a Second Language) at the Università per Stranieri di Perugia and Silvia as a colleague at a language school in Todi. A collaborative relationship was immediately established both during the Master’s studies and in the work at the language school and I became the glue that brought together this trio of teachers: one from Tuscany, another from Le Marche and the third from Veneto who thought of sharing what they knew to give birth to Lingua Libera Tutti because alone as individuals, we would have been able to do very little compared to what could result from our working together … and we were right.
Silvia: Stefania and I met at a private language school; we were colleagues teaching Italian to foreigners. We loved our work but we both had new projects in mind, such as working with children in Italian schools, and we understood that we needed to join forces and ideas. Stefania introduced me to Giulia, her classmate, and …that was the beginning of Lingua Libera Tutti!
- At the beginning, how did you reach students? With public meetings, through the grapevine, with the help of already-existing associations that you contacted?
Stefania: As you can well imagine, it was far from easy at the start. To reach students, we moved around the region organizing meetings in Italian, short courses or simply small convivial events to present the association. Collaboration with associations and cooperatives already active in the cultural and teaching fields with whom we had worked was absolutely essential. Our online presence was most effective. We created our own site and Facebook page right away, both of which gave us visibility. Word of mouth was fundamental: our students were our first promoters; thanks to the grapevine, we met many foreigners who live in Spello, for example, or in the area of Lago Trasimeno.
Silvia: In every possible way: at the beginning, we got together often to decide what to do and how to do it, to put together various ideas and to divide up the work. We worked hard, and setting up both the web site and our Facebook page was crucial: if you’re not on the web and especially if you’re not on social media, you don’t exist!
- And as you grew, needless to say you began to need others by your side. I don’t know, a webmaster, a business accountant, others. So, tell me about these choices.
Stefania: The role of webmaster was fundamental from the very beginning of our business, simply because to exist it is necessary to be present online. And so, our dear friend, Michele, supported our project that he had always encouraged and admired, building the web site, the Facebook page and monitoring us continually, keeping us updated and explaining tricks to promote ourselves. The business accountant was another fundamental role, and still is, for the financial side of the association and here too we were fortunate to have a friend, Marco, who became our accountant, even if we teachers do part of the bookkeeping directly but always under Marco’s supervision.
Silvia: Our first need was the creation of the site (as I mentioned before) and for that we immediately turned to an expert, Michele, with whom we are still working. His support was essential because he even helped us with the promotion of our business. Then too, all three of us being “arts and letters” types, not very comfortable with numbers, we needed a business accountant, Marco, Giulia’s friend, who was very patient in explaining the basics of bookkeeping to us. Another indispensable contribution was from our Canadian friend, Eileen, whom we met through Elisabetta and who became our translator. Thanks to her, every month we have the English version of our newsletter (even this one!) and the English version of our site is her doing. Eileen is always available, quick and very, very attentive and precise. … Nothing ever escapes her!
- In 2018, I, Elisabetta, replaced Giulia Gamba who together with you was a founder of LLT. She went off to teach abroad and we three stayed here in Perugia. For the tenth anniversary of LLT, what happy memory of your beginnings would you like to recall?
Stefania: It’s true: in 2018 there was a change. Giulia left and Elisabetta, who had been Silvia and my professor at the Università per Stranieri, joined us. Imagine how proud I am to work day after day, side by side with the one who taught me how to do this work; it is wonderful! There are many happy memories; we met so many students and heard so many life stories. At the beginning of our adventure, we worked a great deal with foreign children in the schools and working with children sparks the imagination. I think back to the material produced, to the new and possibly engaging ideas that we were always searching for and often managed to put into practice. I must say that the give and take among the three of us, whether with Giulia or with Elisabetta, is at the heart of the work of LLT and we are fortunate that there are three of us, because every time we meet, new ideas surface that we usually succeed in implementing. Another part of my work that I love is the events we organise for our students during the year: the visits to the brewery and the dairy, the end-of-the-year aperitivo and the summer pizza party, the visit to an ancient villa in Perugia and the film screening. And, hold onto your hats because our tenth anniversary means lots of things are brewing. I am really proud of what we have created so far, the reality of LLT gives me enormous satisfaction, and I will never stop saying that my work is the best in the WORLD!
Silvia: I remember fondly and extremely clearly the day we went to the registry office (Agenzia delle Entrate) to register our company: 13 September 2013. We were there almost all morning, first to wait our turn, then to sign various papers and documents.
We were undecided on the name to choose: there were two possibilities and finally we chose Lingua Libera Tutti. …The other one will remain a secret!
I also remember just as clearly the day that you, Elisabetta, joined the association: it was September 2018. We met at a bar in Ponte San Giovanni and we talked about every detail of the work, drinking prosecco and munching on something … and so began the tradition of working while we enjoy an aperitivo.
Ah well, so I was the one to introduce alcoholic drinks then …
And how curious we are, Silvia, about the other possible name! But whatever the alternative, Lingua Libera Tutti was a lovely choice: it involves the feminine together with freedom, our placing ourselves at the disposition of so many, or rather potentially of everyone.
We are small but we are growing in good health and, as the saying goes, “Health is everything!”
Thank you, Stefania; thank you, Silvia and happy birthday to LLT!