Monday’s article 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid / 1 New Easy Reader Ebook got a very good response, which is worrying, and to an extent, rather frustrating.
View the comments to get an idea – “helpful and well explained”, “a bite-sized gem”, “really useful”.
While as always there were few comments, I got dozens of emails along the same lines, literally loads more than usual, from which I’ve selected a few exchanges to give you the flavour.
But before I get to that, yesterday I was trying to set up a bank account online, and had problems, and discovered there was NO WAY TO EMAIL OR PHONE for help.
And this morning I received an email about an ecommerce order I made last week, which I had been hoping would arrive soon. The email came from an email address starting with noreply@ and said, basically, ‘sorry we’ve had problems preparing your order, so it hasn’t been sent yet’.
Given that this unwelcome piece of news came from noreply@, there was no obvious way for me to respond with why? and when?
Yet last night, half ten or so, just after I’d finished eating (because I’d been teaching until 9.15 p.m.) I received this email from someone called George:
“Try before you buy: Free Sample Chapter (.pdf)” The link does not seem to work. It is for the e-books.
To which I immediately typed out this reply:
Tested, George, works fine. You’re the only one to ever mention this (in many years) so the problem is with your Apple device. Try downloading and unzipping the folder on a real computer. Apple products open zipped folders effortlessly, but if there are different file types within as in this case (.pdf ebook and associated audio files) they just give you an error message, as if the fault was ours. The problem is your tech.
I REPLIED! And only minutes after getting the email. With an explanation.
Get that from a bank or an online underwear vendor? You’d be so lucky!
Not that my reply was appreciated:
I take exception to “real computer”. If this is UK politness it is little to be desired. You could have told me “Tested, works fine. Leave it at that.
Uk exasperation, George, working for free at half ten.
And this morning, when I woke, rather stressed (by the banks, not George), at six a.m.
Its a you problem. Sent from my iPhone
Thanks George, just what I needed to start my day. So, Apple DELIBERATELY makes products that don’t handle standard IT stuff like download links and zipped files containing different file types (so as to encourage you to only buy things from their store), I go out of my way to explain to people what they have to do to get the free sample that they want (use something other than an iPhone, at least this once), and the end result is time wasted and general upset.
I am SERIOUSLY considering becoming noreply@, rather than daniel@.
Anyway, back to Monday’s article and the dozens of emails praising Francesca’s ‘typical mistakes’ stuff, every one of which received a personal reply from yours truly. Here’s a selection:
Ray wrote: Thank you. Very helpful. I find prepositions challenging. An Italian teacher once told me not too long after beginning my study of Italian (sette anni fa!) that there are no rules regarding prepositions; you just have to rely on memorization.
I replied: There are no ‘rules’ about anything, in my opinion, Ray, or at least no useful ones. But I disagree that the solution is memorization. I always suggest maximising input (reading/listening), which gives the brain the opportunity to learn the second language the way it did the first one. Without anyone explaining the ‘rules’.
He replied: …Venire” is always followed by “da”, while “essere” requires “di” I find to be a useful “rule”.
I replied: So there are a hundred thousand verbs, many of which are regular, but fine – learn another ten thousand similar ‘rules’ and you’ll be sorted!
He replied: Some people always have to get in the last word.
(I didn’t reply…)
Chantal wrote: Francesca , mandaci un piccolo articolo come questo ogni settimana! Mi piacerebbe, aiuterebbe moltissimo! Grazie.
I replied: Fifty-two articles a year, five hundred and twenty a decade, which then pile up on the website (we have thousands of pages of content that no one ever looks at). E poi, just how many mistakes do you think her students make, Chantal? A year’s worth of articles, with five pointers in each, would be 260… Thanks for the feedback, though!
Ann wrote: Your post today was interesting and useful. Francesca really is a star, although I rarely hear her speaking English in our conversation lessons. Occasionally we help each other out with difficult phrase. She has so many students I’m sure she encounters basic mistakes all the time. One which I was inclined to make too frequently was when saying “In” + a month. So now I stop to think every time to ensure I say “A settembre” etc. It doesn’t come naturally!
I replied: Yes, she’s a star, and teachers giving feedback on typical errors caused by, as you point out, ‘transfering’ from their native language is, in my opinion, very helpful. Unfortunately unless a teacher knows a student’s language well, as Francesca knows English, it’s hard to do! Oh well…
Karen wrote: Grazie mille Francesca!! I would love more like this! It is very helpful in learning italian.
I replied: That’s true, Karen, and in fact, for those taking actual lessons with a teacher, feedback on typical mistakes is an important part of the learning process.
Carole wrote: Loved the Mistakes to Avoid—can you do this more often?
I replied: Everyone liked it, Carole. I’ve had loads of emails. But from a teaching/learning point of view, there are big limitations, for example a writer/teacher would need a very analytical mind, need to know English very well, and so on. Plus, not all our members are native-English speakers, so make different mistakes when learning Italian. Also, there’s the issue whether people actually assimilate this type of feedback – my experience teaching English to Italians strongly suggest that they don’t! Finally, there are millions of possible mistakes – think of all the possible word/grammar combinations – personally I think people are better off spending their time learning to read/listen/speak better, rather than memorizing everything…
OK, let’s just sum up here.
You need Twitter or some other social network, where instead of extended articles like this one, you’ll be bottle-fed content that seems useful at first glance but…
Want to ACTUALLY learn to speak and understand a language?
Then besides ‘useful’, ‘helpful’ explanations, you have masses of work to do. Extended over a very long time.
Which means learning how to make progress building skills (speaking, listening, reading, even writing), not just studying ‘rules’, and maintaining your motivation while you do it.
Need to know what work to do, how to do it, and how to keep interested long enough for it to have an effect?
That’s what these articles are about.
And should you choose to email someone to ask why? or why not?, presumably expecting to receive, for free, a personalised reply from an experienced educator/learner, do please bear in mind that you will be interacting with a real person. And what that implies.
Next week we’re having our usual November ‘Free Trial Lesson Offer’.
Bearing in mind what I wrote above – that not all teachers are able to give such apposite feedback, or at least not until they know you well – if you haven’t tried taking online lessons (so as to interact in real time with an actual Italian), this is your chance to give it a go.
Personally, I would prioritize speaking and interacting, rather than grammar explanations (which can be of dubious quality and/or utility). A thirty-minute lesson is just right for having a good chat in the language you’re learning, as I did on Monday, in Swedish.
Can’t chat in Italian, as I now can in Swedish, after following my own advice and writing about my learning experiences here?
I rest my case.
Anyway, the offer will be ‘first-come, first-served’, and ‘new students only’.
Also, the number of free lessons will be limited as, like a lot of businesses, we’re finding it harder to recruit, post-pandemic.
More details of the FTLO on Monday 1st November.
Which is a public holiday in Italy. Banks will be closed, underwear vendors won’t be sending out overdue orders, but I’ll be emailing as usual!
P.P.S. Ebook Offer Reminder…
Don’t forget this week’s new A2-level, ‘easy reader’ ebook, Il ciclista, will you? This week it’s 25% off the usual price, so just £5.99 rather than our standard ‘easy reader’ price of £7.99.
A big-city journalist takes a much-needed break in a picturesque Umbrian village. On her first morning there she heads to the only bar for breakfast, and is suprised to find an older man asleep in his wheelchair…