Evanston native uses immersion to teach Italians English


After Phoebe Hoyt went through the Evanston public school system, said goodbye to her hometown, and moved permanently to Milan, Italy, she began teaching English to Italian children. She said she noticed that it was very difficult for them to learn the language in class.

Italy Credit: Image from Pixabay’s image bank

She said that when adults tried to explain to young students that learning English was important because it opens doors or provides opportunities, the children didn’t understand.

English teaching “wasn’t done well in schools and had to be done outside,” Hoyt said.

Since 1985, Hoyt has served as the director of several summer English-language programs for Italian children, and for the past 10 years has brought Italian teenagers ages 14 to 17 to Chicago for summer internships. two weeks and English lessons. immersion possibilities.

This year, seven students arrived on August 17 and stayed until August 31 for Hoyt’s program. They stayed in a rented house with Phoebe Hoyt in Chicago’s Ravenswood neighborhood. Teens participated in daily internships or volunteer opportunities from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

Origins of Active English

When Hoyt began teaching English at her first summer camp, a 10-day overnight camp for 30 children (the program repeated three times over the summer), she was not using classrooms. of class.

Her students learned English through games, sports and other activities. The camp teachers/counsellors were American and British university students who came to camp, many of whom were studying Italian themselves. Italian parents paid for this program for their children, and it still happens at the Dynamo Academy camp and dormitory in Italy.

An active Englishman visits Chicago

The Active English US Abroad program originally started in Boston and then moved to Coronado, an island outside of San Diego, but once Hoyt welcomed her to Chicago, she knew that the city would be the long-term destination for the current summer trip.

“Because I know Chicago, having grown up there,” Hoyt said. “I have people who can help me with ideas, and [students are] invited to people’s homes for barbecues. This allows teenagers to really immerse themselves in the United States.

To decide which internship each teen will use, Hoyt asks teens to think about what they’re passionate about or what they’d like to study in college. One student replied that he was passionate about cooking, so she helped connect him with Boka Restaurant Group, an Italian-owned restaurant group.

“So he was enthusiastic,” Hoyt said of the student.

Other places where the Italian students were interned included a health clinic in Highwood, the Chicago Botanical Garden, the Muslim Women’s Center and the Syrian Community Network. In the latter two locations, interns helped settle Afghan refugees in the United States.

“My son came with me. He’s 32,” Hoty said. “He was bringing this group to Chicago for their internships and back until they could go on their own. And one did, the others we brought them back.

In their free time, the students went to Navy Pier, a guided tour of downtown, Montrose Beach, and Bernie’s Book Bank, an Italian bookstore that provides new books to low-income children.

Next year, Hoyt wants to bring a group of older children to Evanston for a month and will be looking for interested families in Evanston to help with hosting. Hoyt will remain in Italy, however.

“I love the Italian way of life,” she said. “I appreciate the Italians, their way of life, their work is not necessarily essential. It is important.”

Talking about other places to visit in her Milan home, she started listing nearby lakes, mountains and countryside.

“It’s a nice place to live,” she said.


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