So, you don’t need to speak another language to study English at any of Leicester’s partner universities. That’s the easy part. If you want an easy, peaceful life, however, knowing enough of the relevant European language is critical. Especially in Italy, where bureaucracy is king — and not knowing English is queen. I don’t know whether it’s due to the desire to preserve the Italian language or due to some other complex social factor (polenta?), but you certainly can’t count on people knowing English here. So, unless you’re one of those people who either…
A) Had the strength of will to continue a language learnt at school to fluency or had the even greater strength of will to become fluent in a language entirely outside of the education system, or
B) Should be disqualified from the game for having the unfair advantage of a parent of non-English-language-origins…
…you will find yourself in the realm of language classes, before and during the Erasmus year.
There are numerous opportunities within the University of Leicester’s campus for languagification. The first chance comes in the first year. Leicester English degrees feature Option Subjects in the first year, among which are Modern Languages. The options are French, Italian, and Spanish, which vary in hours from three to five a week. They slot in among your regular first year English modules and act just the same — in other words, you must pass them. If you know right from the start that your destiny lies in Europe, you can sign up for one of these. But not everyone starts out knowing they want to spend a year of their life abroad, and if you miss these Subjects there’s always Languages at Leicester.
In fact, even if you didn’t miss the Subjects there’s Languages at Leicester in general. The evening courses offer a wide variety of languages, certainly all the ones you’d need for an Erasmus year. And Erasmus students get half price. So there. Languages at Leicester also has tiers normally rising from Beginner to Business, which means that you can start a language as an Option Subject and then continue it at a higher level in your second year, by which time you should be thoroughly grounded to at least get by in a foreign country. And if you do your homework, you’ll be extremely well-equipped for the coming madness.
The Università degli Studi di Torino, as I mentioned before, offers free afternoon and evening Italian classes divided into three tiers of proficiency: Principiante, Intermedio, Avanzato. The great thing about Italian is that I don’t think I need to provide translations. You pick a group upon arrival, and then in the first lesson take a test. If you do badly, you’ll be moved down. If you do okay, you’ll stay in the same group. If you utterly destroy the test, you’ll rise to a higher state of being, etc. The lessons are two hours long, and they’re two times a week for the first semester, leading up to a small final exam.
My point is that although learning a language to absolute fluency requires work in your own time, quite possibly all the time, you’re never deprived of the chance to be taught. Nothing beats the gradual, often surprising realisation that you’re understanding more and more of a foreign language. Well, few things.