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Bringing Italy to Lake County

Grayslake resident Nancy Gabriele shares her love of Italy through Italian language classes, tours to Italy and a gift shop with imported products.

Nancy Gabriele may be known as the unofficial ambassador to Italy.

This Grayslake resident wants to share the language, culture and food of her birth place within the Chicago area, and her audience is growing.

“Part of my mission is to bring something of Italy here to the United States,” she said.

Gabriele was born in the Puglia region in Italy and only spoke Italian until she was 6 years old. Her parents emigrated to Montreal where she learned to speak English and French and went to university where she earned her degree in language. In addition to working for Alitalia Airlines in customer relations, she worked weekends teaching Italian language to children.

After getting married to Tony, the couple moved to Grayslake 15 years ago. She began to teach language at the Italian Cultural Center in Vernon Hills but realized she wanted to teach on her own. After discovering open space in the Tomei Insurance Building in Gurnee, she opened La Gabri-Elle Language School in 2003.

“I wanted my own curriculum because I understood what adults wanted. You can’t just give them grammar,” she said. “I try to make it more fun and be more attentive and not discourage people because it is a difficult language.”

Gabriele offers an intimate classroom where students including children, teens and adults sit around a rectangular table. They study grammar but also learn to speak aloud from day one, so they do not feel embarrassed.

“They are afraid to speak out. Instead by doing that from day one, they laugh. That is how you learn. You have to make errors,” she said.

Gabriele said some students sign up because they love opera and want to understand the lyrics.  But most want to talk about the food.

“They want to be able to order from an Italian menu,” she said. “It always revolves around food.

Classes are gaining popularity, building enrollment from six students in 2007 to 40, divided among four levels. And students are coming from Northbrook, Kenosha and Chicago.

“It opens doors when someone speaks more than one language,” she said.

The fall session of adult classes will start Sept. 19. She offers beginner, intermediate and advanced levels. Tuition is $125 for 10 classes. Gabriele also offers private classes.

Classes are held at La Gabri-Elle Language School, 223 N. Milwaukee Ave., Suite 6, Gurnee. For information, call (847) 219-3678 or visit her Web site at www.lagabri-elle.com.

Many of her students return for more classes each year. It is those returning students who have become her friends and encouraged Gabriele to expand how she shares her birth place. She decided next to take them there.

Read more in: Brining Italy to Lake County: Italian Tours and Treasures

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