I often get emails from club members, and try to respond to all of them. And sometimes I’ll take advantage of the fact that I’ve already typed out advice that I think would be of general benefit, or my correspondent has, to lighten my morning workload a little by quoting from our email exchanges.
Given that I’ve got an online Turkish conversation lesson in not much more than an hour, this is one of those days!
So this from Deb,who I’m sure won’t mind me making good use of our email exchange:
My biggest hurdle so far is getting over my nervousness in speaking with native speakers. Nerves don’t help recall at all, but perseverance and motivating words like yours are super helpful!
To which I replied:
Like most things, if you do it regularly it ceases to be a problem. I usually advise anyone who can afford it to take some one-to-one conversation lessons, which if done right are the fastest and simplest way to overcome nerves. It worked for me, anyway, though you do have to manage the teacher and insist on lots of speaking.
Turns out she already knew that:
I am taking weekly one-on-one (via Skype) conversation lessons. Speaking IS getting easier, somewhat, but the nerves kill my brain! Prior to this, and helped quite a bit by taking on a professorship so I’m forced to stand in front of a group and talk regularly, I had debilitating stage fright. Some of that comes right back and yes, the more I learn, the more I learn to listen and process, makes all the difference! And like you said, doing it regularly is the key. It gets frustrating when you KNOW you know something, or a lot of things, but can’t bring them up! So! Onward and speaking more frequently! I think the biggest fear is that I’ll be speaking with someone, not be understood and be stranded somewhere. Again, the nerves… My instructor tells me quite often that I know more than I think I do! She’s great! Very encouraging and patient. But aside from our weekly lessons, maybe more wine will help 😉
And my final reply:
Sorry for not replying to this before, Deb. We’re fostering a small baby, so my working time has been more than halved over the last months.
Yes, of course your teacher is right, and in general, time is a great healer. Actually doing the speaking and listening practice might not make a vast difference to your theoretical knowledge of the language (my Spanish is still close to zero) but can make a huge difference in your confidence and ability (and willingness) to communicate in the language. I can chat in Spanish with my Mexican teacher and understand a lot of what she says, which I regard as a very good return on fifty or so thirty-minute conversation lessons. Practice done with awareness of the desired outcome has magical effects!
I’d just emphasise that last line, quoting myself, basically: “Practice done with awareness of the desired outcome has magical effects!”
IF you know what you are trying to achieve, then everything gets a whole lot easier, and more effective to boot. So for example, if you buy some one-to-one Italian lesson credits in our Summer Sale (oops, I knew I wouldn’t be able to resist), then it behoves you to communicate as clearly as possible what you are trying to achieve, ideally not multiple different things all at once.
Students often say to me something like, um, I want to speak more fluently, and revise all the tenses, and make fewer mistakes, and, um… improve my listening, and learn to write formal letters and contracts for my job, and…
Which is, of course, utterly unhelpful. So I will ignore what they’ve told me, try to get them chatting and, by listening very carefully, try to figure out for myself what their needs are.
They may, for instance, speak just fine but have lousy listening skills, in which case I’d start by finding out what self-study/practice they do (if any) and encourage them to rebalance how they are spending their time (what they should be doing more/less of, and how), so as to facilitate future improvement. You get the idea, I’m sure. Teaching isn’t only about explaining grammar structures.
N.b. A decent language teacher should actively ASK you what your needs and priorities are. An experienced teacher will know immediately if your preferences are incompatible, or totally cancel each other out (i.e. do more speaking, revise all the grammar), and will either guide you to reconsider, and prioritise, or will do it for you.
Of course, not all teachers are competent or experienced. We all have to begin our careers somewhere, right? And there’s naturally going to be a learning curve. As students we have to hope that we’re not too far down towards the start of it…
But anyway, the important thing is to communicate, as in any relationship: I like this, that didn’t work for me, could we try…?
Moving on, there was an email from Michael, which sets out the way things are and should be as well as I could do myself, so saving a lot of typing!
Hello Daniel, just wanted to make a few observations about Online Italian club in its many forms.
I started learning Italian about 18 months ago using both online and real life resources. With the arrival of lockdown it was online only. I’ve subscribed to several sites and Patreon programs and unsubscribed from most of them. Yours is one of the few that has kept me on board.
Keeping up motivation and interest is probably the most difficult part of learning a new language. Your thrice weekly email is always engaging and helps with keeping me on track and engaged. It’s much better than some auto generated “content” from a Head of Subscriber Development.
I signed on for online lessons about 6 months ago, and have committed to more of these in your current sale. They are really helpful. Michela has tailored our work to my varying priorities. When the on/off CILS were suddenly back on we switched to that. Now that’s out of the way for a few months we are on to conversing about food and music, two of the gateways to Italian culture and life. I like pizzica music and Italian opera. Michela has steered me away from pizzica ( because it is mostly in dialect) and towards some current / Eurovision music for our next conversation. We’ll see how that goes, but right now it’s Tosca not Maneskin in my headphones.
Thinking about how we learn our native language, it isn’t done by declensions and tenses. It’s done by engagement and practice. Doing it at the beginning of one’s life is very different from at the later stages is certainly different in ways I don’t really know. My instinct is motivation and interest is central to any meaningful progress. Your thrice weekly emails, easy Italian news, the graded readers and online lessons are a terrific menu from which to choose a varying mix to keep engagement high.
Abbraccio a tutti.
Note the part about how Michael and his online teacher, the reasonably-experienced and popular Michela, discuss priorities and decide together what to work on. And that she hears his needs? And that he is open to her suggestions? Bravi a tutti due!
And this time, I’ll quote Michael, rather than myself as your takeaway from this article, assuming you’ve read this far:
“Thinking about how we learn our native language, it isn’t done by declensions and tenses. It’s done by engagement and practice.”
Gotta go speak Turkish for 45 minutes.
P.S. 2021 Summer Sale Now On!
Here’s a copy/paste of Monday’s article about the Summer Sale…
The Summer Sale starts today, which means you can save a fifth on online Italian lessons and ebooks for learning Italian, always assuming you remember to use coupon code, 2021-Summer-Sale-20%-Off (copy and paste it carefully!)
The next sale won’t be until the end of September, which is approximately thirteen weeks away. So if you’re one of our regular online students taking one-to-one lessons with a club teacher, make sure you stock up on lesson credits this week, while the Summer Sale is on.
That way, besides saving money, you’ll be able to spend the summer months usefully, building your Italian speaking skills, and self-confidence, with the help of one of our friendly and professional online teachers!
To get the 20% discount, don’t forget to carefully copy and paste coupon code – 2021-Summer-Sale-20%-Off – into your shopping cart (where it says ‘Coupon code’).
When you’ve done that, press the dark blue ‘Apply Coupon’ button, then finally scroll down to check that the discount has been applied to the cart total (do all this BEFORE you proceed to the payment stage!)
2021 Summer Sale!
- Use coupon code 2021-Summer-Sale-20%-Off to save 20% on everything!
- This promotion ends at midnight on Sunday 11th of July 2021
- There’s no minimum or maxium spend
- Use the above coupon as often as you wish while the offer lasts
- Coupon code 2021-Summer-Sale-20%-Off is valid for items which are already discounted, such as ebook multipacks or packs of online Italian lesson credits
- Payment options include Stripe/credit card, Amazon, Paypal, or bank transfer (only advisable if you have a UK bank account)