Wine Tasting Night – March 2014

wine tasting

Hi everyone and thanks for visiting us

This month’s article will talk about our most recent English speaking social night: WINE TASTING.

One of our big philosophies at ELC is for our social nights to give learners of English or foreigners who have lived in English speaking environments, the opportunity to use, practice, maintain and improve their language skills through a range of activities. This month we hope highlighted this belief and hope others will contribute also in the future.

We are no experts here at ELCmantova on Wine and wine tasting but one of our regular members had recently just succesfully completed a wine tasting course  and accepted a request to host a night on the procedure and techniques of this most wonderful activity. It also gave her a great opportunity to practice her presentation skills that were undeniably perfect therefore we thank and congratulate her on the evening.

The stage was set; the wine was bought and after a brief discussion about our hostess’ recent course and the guests’ knowledge of wine (which was zero) we completed the tasting in the usual manner:

– analysis of the appearence; its colour through the tonality and intensity, and the technique of tilting the glass

-analysis of the aroma/nose of the wine again through the intensity; the balance and the clarity of the wine alongside the technique of swirling the wine around the glass to oxidise the wine creating the aromas to come out more

– analysis of the taste noting the intensity; the balance; the body; the persistence and the after-taste, as well as the technique of allowing the wine to swirl around the mouth and understanding the different nots of sweetness, sourness and bitterness at various parts of the tongue

We started with a White Sauvignon DOC from Collio in the hills of Friuli; followed by a Valpolicella DOC; then a Franciacorta Brut/Champagne and finished with a Passito Dessert wine from the Ricchi vineyard in the hills of Moreniche between Mantova and the Garda Lake*. The best wines were certainly the Franciacorta and the Passito dessert wine whilst the others were interesting but slightly difficult to understand completely due to the plastic flutes used!!

I must also add, that through no fault of the hostess the first wine to be tasted was agonising; through learning the different meanings of the categories to analyse to the possibilities and options of what the analysis could mean meant waiting for some time and having a glass of wine just waiting in the hand to be ultimately drunk in the way we know best was rather excruciating; you would therefore think the first wine would have tasted so much better when in fact it wasn’t that good after all!!

I final thank you to another member who brought along some lovely little biscuit treats at the end that went perfectly well with the Passito; after 2 1/2 hours we were ready for eating something!!

All in all another wonderful evening with some good wine; great company and a new way of looking at the culture that is wine.

See you all next time

*Note to my mother; near Mozambique!

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Burns Night January 2014

HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone and welcome back to our recollection of social nights after a quiet November and December where nothing really interesting happened except Christmas!!

On the 25th of January every year a popular formal celebration is held in Scotttish households, pubs and clubs, and less informally in England, called BURNS NIGHT. This day is to celebrate the life and works of Scotland’s most favoured poet and lyricist ROBERT BURNS. Our night aimed to re-create a traditional Burns night through videos, Haggis, music, dancing and of course, Whiskey!!

Our night began with a small introduction to Robert Burns and his life and why The Scots celebrate 25th January as they do – here is a very short introduction to who Burns was:

This was followed by the most important part of the night; the central figure to the night – THE HAGGIS! Haggis is a meat dish consisting of the insides of the Lambs (brain, liver, kidneys, organs, etc), suet (basically fat), oats, onions and different spices. The HAGGIS on Burns night is a national Scottish symbol and before being eaten is given a procession of religious heights. The Haggis is piped in by a BAGPIPE player with the audience clapping joyfully as it arrives to the centre of the table; our audience went wild!! Once arrived at the table the famous Burns poem “ADDRESS TO THE HAGGIS” is performed and read in the original Scottish dialect although there are English versions; we used the English version of course! 

 Once read, we all toasted “TO THE HAGGIS” before tucking into the hot, steaming meat. The reaction was positive with one member particularly enthused by it. Traditionally, it is eaten with mashed potatoes and turnips and swede as displayed below! After lashings of Whiskey and Haggis we were ready for the next adventure!

800px-A_haggis_serving

Using our creative Whiskey induced happiness we decided to finish the night with a spot of poetry writing using the inspiration of Burns; his poems and the celebrations – below are two examples: 1) AN EXISTENTIAL DREAM 2) An Italian modern re-make of AN ADDRESS TO A HAGGIS

A DREAM (Sara & Alexandra)

I had a dream 

I saw you walking – on that beach – where we happened – to see in that ancient time

I was on the tree – and you were like a doll – and like the life of a doll – it was just a dream.

RISOTTO AL HAGGIS (Riccardo & Enrico)

Spoon after spoon – plate after plate – full of Haggis and good Rice – Poor devil; who which don’t put Haggis and Rice in his belly

Haggis and Rice fed person – looks healthy and Bond-like – While Japanese Sushi – Radioactive and scorned

For you who dream of this dish – land of food so rich – the name of this dish – RISOTTO AL HAGGIS.

And to finish of the night we sang AULD LANG SYNE in true Scottish fashion with more Whiskey and rowdy voices!! 

Thanks to you all for coming and hope to see you for future nights; the next one being on the 28th February; details coming shortly.

TO THE HAGGIS!!

Oscar Star Night – September 2013

Oscar-Statue-heads-landscape

Hello readers and welcome to this new post of the academic year 2013/2014. ELCmantova is back up and running after a busy Summer; we hope you’ve had a good one and look forward to seeing you throughout the year.

Our opening night was a fantastic event full of laughs, tension, embarassment but positively some stellar performances from our guests. The theme was to promote our next available course ACTING IN ENGLISH; a weekend dedicated to developing English communication skills through the use of Drama, Theatre and Acting. The course is next weekend (28 & 29 September) so if you are interested then please go to our site, http://www.elcmantova.com and go to corsi adulti.

Using drama and theatre principles is an excellent way of developing many skills and aspects of communication and these were explored throughout the evening through different activities, performances and conversation/discussion.

Make no mistake doing role-play and acting in English in public is one of the most difficult activities to do; not only did students have to face the fear of performing monologues and group scenes it was also done completely in English and we are always amazed at the response and willingness of students to try such an activity, our guests did nothing more than incredible. Nerves were flying around the room at the beginning of the night when they were told of the night’s activities but by the end they were relieved and full of confidence in what they had achieved. It is also worth saying that our guests were of all levels: from beginner to advanced and some in-between showing the inclusiveness of Drama and Role-Playing.

We started with a quick question & answer guessing game as a warm up before the main activities started. We split the night into 3 parts: 1) auditions, 2) film scene/performance, 3) awards ceremony. Firstly, students prepared a short role-play scene of being in a restaurant allowing the teachers to understand the language and acting levels before giving them their main roles and films for the performance. The audition brought out lots of interesting debate after about the use of role-play and drama in the EFL classroom and why it is such a useful activity; issues included: body language, pronunciation, learning new vocabulary, practising known vocabulary, placing oneself in a real-life situation, improvisation and responding to language, thinking on the spot/on your feet,  using language naturally and as lexis, not as grammar, developing fluency through making mistakes but creating meaning/understanding and very importantly breaking a psychological barrier of using English when feeling uncomfortable; an all too familiar feeling when learning a language.

Films and roles used were The Matrix (where the main character chooses the red or blue pill); Titanic (where Rose tells her story at the end of the film); The Blair Witch Project (the end monologue), and a story was read from a children’s book. The students explored the language in their text and prepared their scene. After the scenes were completed we all voted to see who won the Best Actress and Actor awards. The winners were chosen; awards were given and the final THANK YOU speeches were done.

All in all another really enjoyable evening and a big thanks to the participants and their contribution.

We will be back in October with another Halloween inspired evening so keep an eye out for that on our Facebook page and website – http://www.elcmantova.com.

Story-Telling Night

Once upon a time, there were 7 highly motivated English students looking for interesting and stimulating social occasions to practice and maintain their already excellent English skills. One day, they came across ELCmantova’s monthly social nights; they were so surprised, yet excited, that such an event could be organised in their quiet, little town; they decided to go to the next event – STORY-TELLING NIGHT; an evening full of stories, activities and conversation.

The hour of the event approached and after a taxing week at work they prepared themselves for their literary journey. One by one they arrived and entered the magical yet mysterious world that struck them immediately – they had entered puppetland; a world decorated and controlled by puppets – everywhere they looked puppets surrounded them; watching their every move; hearing their every word. The puppets stayed silent throughout the night but their presence was felt as an uneasy start and hesitation in story-telling ideas unfolded.

Fortunately, the 7 highly motivated English students were saved by the sudden appearence of the beautiful, courageous and happily married Cinderella and her Prince Charming, to bring a smile to everyone’s face as she told her story of horror, despair and love. The group engaged in a question & answer session with Cinderella and her Prince about the different accounts and re-interpretations of her story. But Midnight was fast approaching and despite her new-found freedom Cinderella was still used to being home for Midnight and quickly dashed off.

The group had now well and truly entered into the spirit of puppetland and despite a brief appearence by The Wicked Witch, who tried to startle and interrupt the group, it was ready for its next adventure; a visit of Puppetland without its guides. The 7 highly motivated English students, split into 2 groups, went on an independent  journey on their own accord and creation and discovered all the joys and despair Puppetland had to offer. On their return, they told of their adventures with animals, toys, ever-lasting edible cakes, tyrant kings, dark & long caves, talking and moving rocking horses, parties and  happy endings.

The group had survived their enthralling trips; their strange meetings and wild celebrations. In the end, they all went home happily and lived happily ever after.

To hear the next chapter please return in May where we hope to continue the story.

Thanks for reading and don’t forget to follow us and receive automatic updates of further chapters of ELCmantova’s English Social Nights.

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Welcome one and all to this month’s blog.

March’s ELCmantova social night was based on an idea by several of our members in the previous night in February so first of all we  must thank Sara, Lucy and Luisa for their input and ideas  which was an Easter inspired CHOCOLATE TASTING NIGHT, and what a sumptuous night it was where, guess what, we tasted lots of Chocolate!! Sorry for those who couldn’t make it.

After a brief introduction to the history of Chocolate and a brief video showing of the film CHOCOLAT and the difficulty of resisting the temptation of chocolate we dived straight into action with our mouths wide open. For some participants it was all too much and immediately on the first piece they were digging their teeth straight into the action but with some control we gradually went through the tasting process.

With lots of will power and resistance we quickly looked at 3 components connected with tasting:

1. Appearance (colour, consistency,gloss, etc)

2. Smell and aroma

3. Snap – the sound of the break (dull or crisp/sharp)

AND then we tasted:

4. Tasting (3 processes) Initial taste and consistency – Flavour – After-taste

It was suggested that the mouth be always neutralized by water before tasting a new piece and the chocolate should always be placed on the tongue and moved around the mouth to allow it to melt and slowly release all the flavours; it is also possible to bite and eat the chocolate but research told us it limited the experience; several members at the end of the tasting mentioned how different and more pleasurable the experience was for concentrating and noticing all the different textures and flavours.

The tasting process also brought out lots of chocolate related vocabulary and adjectives to describe flavours, sounds and textures – we explored: SPICY; CREAMY; SMOOTH; WAXY; GRAINY; CHALKY; THICK; ZESTY; ORANGEY; MILKY; SWEET; DARK; BITTER; TOO BITTER; BLAND/DULL; CRISPY; SMOKEY; BUTTERY; NUTTY; WOODY; TOBACCO FLAVOURED; TO DISAPPEAR; TO LINGER; FLAVOURLESS; SCENTLESS

Here are the 7 chocolates we tasted; all from the Lindt brand:

1. 99% cocoa

2. Orange Intense

3. Milk without added Sugar

4. Chilli

5. Creme Brulé

6. White

7. Irish Coffee filled with Whiskey & Coffee

Hope to see you all next month and Happy Easter from all at ELCmantova

 

Our February social night was designed around THE SIX THINKING HATS, a model designed by Edward de Bono that can be used for exploring different perspectives towards a complex situation or challenge.
It provides a means for groups to think together more effectively, and a means to plan thinking processes in a detailed and cohesive way. Seeing things in various ways is often a good idea in strategy formation or complex decision-making processes.

Due to the nature of the method of the hats, the night was designed around 2 discussions/complex challenges, one without the hats and one with the hats and after both discussions we discussed both methods. The first discussion was done without any prior knowledge of the hats method allowing us to discuss freely and openly our thoughts and opinions, without direction, lets say. Our topic of discussion was in what ways and strategies could Italy change to improve its current economic, political and social climate – there was lots to discuss!! We eventually decided that politicians should be removed with new, younger ones; taxes lowered, and Mafia/fiscal corruption and fraud targeted.

The night then moved onto the discussion of the method created by De Bono; below is a summary of the meaning of the hats:

Types of hats

The six hats and the thinking processes that they represent
White hat – Facts & Information
Red hat – Feelings & Emotions
Black hat – Logical negative
Yellow hat – Logical positive
Green hat – Creative thinking & Possibilities
Blue hat – Control of process & Steps

The hats system was designed to create parallel thinking allowing all participants to think of the same aspects at the same time, i.e. wearing the red hat everyone thought of their feelings, intuitions and emotions on the topic. It was noticeable that our discussion was more ordered, structured and allowed us to concentrate on each aspect of a discussion, and not go off topic like in the first discussion. Our topic was ‘what should be the next ELC social night event’? We want our nights to be for its members and participants therefore we thought it would be a good chance to give some control for our members to see what they wanted to do.

To cut a long story short (as the discussion took about 40 minutes) we decided that with it being Easter we should have an Easter theme and after discussing the benefits, disadvantages and feelings of various ideas we came to the conclusion that the best idea was top host ‘CHOCOLATE TASTING EASTER NIGHT’ with films, chocolate tasting and other fun Easter and chocolate related disucssion therefore we look forward to seeing you all on the 22nd March 2013 at 19.30 at our place in Cittadella; directions can be found here: http://www.elcmantova.com

Overall, despite the small numbers, we all thoroughly enjoyed the evening and the discussions, learnt about this new technique; and gave people the chance to speak freely; one participant even said she was going to use it with her husband to solve their problems!! ELCmantova social nights, not only fun but family changing!!

See you in March

The Trouble With Harry

Our first social night of 2013 brought us together to watch The Trouble With Harry by Alfred Hitchcock, his 1955 comedy romp about a dead man called Harry and several passersby who believe they may have killed him!!

This social night aimed to give our guests a rare opportunity to watch a film in its entirety in English in public and also to receive some tips and information on helping them to watch films in the future in English on their own.

Some of the ideas we discussed were using the film’s synopsis, posters, images and trailers before watching films to give some idea of the plot and its characters in order to give some insight into the film beforehand allowing more concentration on following the film’s direction and also in taking in more language.

We watched the movie in English with English subtitles and this helped our guests further to follow; without them it would probably have been too difficult. The use of subtitles can seem distracting and take away the viewer from watching the movie but it can be a vital link for understanding unfamiliar accents and improving one’s ear and linking the written form to listening improvement; even simple sentences can be mis-understood because of accent, intonation and pronunciation. Despite some parts of the dialogue not being understood the general feedback was that our guests followed the film and could comprehend the film; not an easy feat if you know the film and its contrasting American accents. It did though highlight the importance of not having to understand every dialogue and piece of language to follow, understand and ultimately, enjoy film.

All in all it was a very satisfying night and we hope it gave our students the chance to see one of Hitchcock’s least known films (although one of his best in our opinion); be informed of ways to help one’s understanding of watching media in English and some hope and belief that it’s possible to watch movies in English in the future on their own. Just don’t expect to understand and hear everything just yet!

See you in February