A steady rain is falling in Bologna this morning.
Looking out of my kitchen window, it’s clear that it’s going to be one of those grey November days that just need to be endured and then forgotten.
When it rains on the Pianura Padana, it really rains!
So, not a good start to the week.
Apart from one thing… our bi-annual ‘Free Trial Italian Lesson’ offer!
Let’s talk about that, then, and ignore the rain.
You’re studying Italian, or I presume you wouldn’t be reading this.
You may or may not also be taking a class. Doing a class is good, but it’s not for everyone.
Italians are really into courses of various types and spend their evenings and/or weekends doing anything from English to martial arts.
There’s a vast spectrum of possibilities: languages, sports, music, philosophy, yoga, knitting, yoga and knitting together..
You name it, there’s a course for it.
For Italians, courses are THE way to meet new people and pass those idle hours when they’re not getting dressed up, eating or drinking something, or driving like maniacs to or from a course or a restaurant.
Because I actually teach this type of course (English – evenings and Saturday mornings), my own self-improvement options are limited.
I once considered signing myself up for a ‘patente nautica’ course (to prepare for the exam you need to do to get a licence to pilot a boat).
But the hours were awful – it was something like nine-thirty to eleven-thirty on a Tuesday evening, for a year!
In the end I did it online, which worked out well as I studied with my wife and we both got our licences. Though we’ve been arguing ever since, when we go out on a boat, about who’s in charge.
Anyway, were there a Swedish course available in Bologna (there isn’t, as far as I am aware), and were it at a time when I wasn’t teaching (improbable), I would definitely sign up for it!
As that’s not an option, I’m doing one-to-one lessons online instead.
The point about an indvidual lesson, whether online or otherwise, is that it’s just you and the teacher.
Which means that you get to speak and interact with her (or him) when, in a group class, you’d otherwise be sitting listening.
That’s more intensive, which you may like or hate. Some people prefer groups, others individual classes.
With my Swedish teacher, I value the fact that I can book a lesson when it’s convenient for me, rather than having to do it on a fixed day and at a fixed time.
There’s also the possibility to suggest what and how we should be studying (you can imagine that I have my own ideas about that.)
I’ve done nearly a year of self-study, so I know plenty, in theory.
So what I ask my teacher for is a focus on speaking practice and pronunciation.
A good teacher will know how, and how far, to adapt their approach to your specific needs and preferences.
Anyway, as I have recently learnt myself, signing up for an online lesson can be quite daunting, especially if it’s the first time.
And especially especially if, like me, you’ve never spoken to anyone ever before in the language you’re studying.
I confess. I actually did two trials – one was back in the spring, with a different company.
Honestly, I was put off – the teacher only spoke English and talked mostly about herself and her approach.
She didn’t ask me much, and made no attempt to actually teach me anything.
She clearly saw it more as a ‘getting to know you’ session, whereas I’d been hoping for a demonstration of what would be possible.
I wanted her to show me that she knew how to teach me, which she didn’t.
In any case, I was planning to spend out for some more lessons with the same lady, though I was taking my time about getting around to it.
Then the company sent me a follow up. It was the usual ‘Did you enjoy your class? Here’s how to book some more…’.
So, still feeling disappointed, I replied.
I explained that, actually, it wasn’t what I’d been hoping for and that, while I was still planning to pay for some lessons, perhaps they could suggest a different teacher who would better suit me?
That email disappeared into the ether, which sort of summed up the problem.
No one was listening.
So I quit.
I more or less stopped studying Swedish over the summer, and didn’t get back to it until a month or two ago when Lucia, our online teaching manager, and I started talking about doing this promotion.
She was putting together a reminder list of ‘dos and dont’s’ for our online teachers, based on the feedback she’d received from students over the years.
And we were chatting about her experiences as an online student (Arabic, Spanish, Japanese, I think) and mine.
And that sort of pushed me into giving it another go.
This time I had lower expectations.
I picked the company at the top of the Google ads, quickly signed up for a free trial (before I could change my mind), and spent the rest of the week feeling VERY NERVOUS…
The day and time arrived.
I’d warned my kids off draining our broadband connection with online video games and Netflix, and was all ready at the computer.
What can I tell you?
I thought I KNEW how to use Skype!
I used to teach English that way, after all.
But hey, Windows 10, apps, and stuff I don’t understand.
Everything was different from what I remembered!
So that was embarrassing. Still, that’s one reason to do a free trial – to get the technical glitches sorted out.
The thing with learning curves is that they’re, well, curved.
Because at the beginning you know less, then you start to learn things, slowly at first, but then faster. Until eventually you’re learning at the maxium pace you’re capable of.
I haven’t got to that bit yet, but the flat part of the curve was the trial lesson.
The teacher was younger that I’d expected, too.
But isn’t that the way of the world? Doctors, police officers, they’re all half my age these days.
All that said, the thirty minutes passed quickly.
And this time, once the lesson had ended, I went ahead and paid for five more.
I’m doing lesson three out of five this Wednesday, and plan to continue.
Have I improved?
I won’t say I feel more confident (because I don’t), but I am actually speaking, which I wasn’t before.
And, at least a basic level, I’m putting into practice what I’ve learned on my own this year.
There’s no question in my mind that this was a good thing to do…
But back to you, your Italian, and this week’s offer.
If you click either of those links, you’ll see that, this week only, the 1 lesson option is priced at ZERO.
If you’d like to try a thirty-minute online lesson with a native-speaker Italian teacher (carefully chosen and monitored by Lucia), just click on the one lesson option.
Use the ‘add to cart’ button to… add it to your cart.
And then proceed in the usual ecommerce way.
Assuming you’re not buying something else, no payment details will be asked for or taken.
Complete your order and you’ll get a confirmation email. At this end, I’ll get an ‘order received’ email.
If I’m not teaching at the moment, I’ll forward the email on to Lucia, our teaching manager, who will reply.
She’ll contact you by email and ask WHEN you want to do your lesson and, in general, WHAT your needs are, what your level is in Italian, and so on.
Lucia’s job is to assign you to one of our teachers. In part, she’ll make that decision based on when you want to study and when the teacher is available.
Some of them, for example, are willing to stay up really late so as to be able to teach ‘first thing in the morning, Australian time’.
She’s also your contact point if there’s anything you need.
If, for example, you don’t manage to organise a day/time with your teacher, Lucia will handle that for you.
Or perhaps you’d prefer someone younger, or older, or who speaks more or less English, or whatever?
By the way, given that this isn’t an automated process, do be patient.
Allow 24 hours or so for Lucia to contact you. I know she’s busy today and won’t get to her computer until the evening.
And consider the time differences, if we don’t reply to your emails immediately.
When it’s night-time here in Italy, people sleep.
OK, let’s do the ‘small print’ bit.
- The offer is good from today, 13/11/17 to Sunday, 19/11/17
- We’ve got the capacity for around a hundred of you to do a trial lesson
- If demand exceeds that, we’ll organise the lessons in the order they are booked
- This offer is for NEW STUDENTS ONLY, for obvious reasons
- If you booked a free trial last time but didn’t take it – do try again!
- But if you’ve already done a free trial (Lucia has a list), this is not for you
- Once you’ve done your lesson, Lucia will send you a 15% discount coupon to incentivise you to continue…
That’s more or less it.
Any questions, shoot me an email in the usual way (reply to any email you get from me or look for the address in the footer of the club website.)
“Così”, as Italians sometimes say when they have nothing more to add.
Just looked out of the kitchen window again – now it’s snowing! Can’t believe it…