Future 50: Honour for La Dante in Cambridge founder

Giulia Portuese-Williams of the La Dante In Cambridge cultural centre

Giulia Portuese-Williams established the La Dante In Cambridge cultural centre in 2008 - Credit: La Dante in Cambridge

Guilia Portuese-Williams, founder of Future 50 member La Dante in Cambridge, has been awarded the Order of the Stars of Italy – an Italian knighthood – for services to her country, in recognition of the work she has done since founding La Dante in 2008.

"I have two boys, born here in Cambridge, and it was important for them to be bilingual so they could speak easily with family and friends in Italy,” Mrs Portuese-Williams explains. However, even in the prestigious university city, there was a lack of suitable language tuition – so she decided to organise her own. 

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The Future 50 programme is supported by the partner businesses - Credit: Archant

“La Dante was put together as a concept, that you learn by embracing the culture – not just the language,” she explains. “Language-learning is a 360-degree experience, so you learn with a teacher – of course – but you also embrace the culture and make friends in the community, in a social hub.”

She got backing for her plan from the La Dante Aligheri Society in Rome [equivalent to the UK’s British Council] and started initially as an Italian cultural centre, teaching 20 students. 

Since then, La Dante in Cambridge has gone from strength to strength. First it added English tuition for Italians, to become a truly bi-lingual language centre, then expanded to offer the same language-learning approach to Spanish. It even added its own radio station and podcast, Radio Dante, to help learners absorb language and then moved to a new site... just before last year’s first lockdown.

Now La Dante has had to move online – but maintains the immersive approach to learning. “We teach online and now we attract people from outside Cambridge,” Mrs Portuese-Williams explains. “We have developed a unique online school platform. Students can access all the lessons, resources and communication with the teacher, but there is also a community hub. It puts people together with a Facebook-like interface, but it’s a school platform so it’s incredibly safe.”

For more information, see www.ladante-in-cambridge.org

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