A vague memory from physics lessons at school forty years ago…
Batteries, which are now a hot topic again due to electric vehicles and the like, can, if you have more than one of them, be wired ‘in series’ or ‘in parallel’.
Which basically means (I think) that if your electric torch or portable music system runs on two 1.5 volt batteries, one behind the other, as in the handle of a torch/flashlight, then the output (the capacity to deliver power) will be 3 volts, though the actual wattage (the power delivered) remains that of each individual battery, rather than being doubled.
You’d be wanting the voltage appropriate to your bulb, amplifier, the loudspeakers, and, of course, the thickness of the wires that connect them.
Whereas if the batteries are wired together, side by side, and then their combined capacity is fed into the device, the available power (measured in watts?) is doubled, though the capacity to deliver it (the voltage) remains that of each individual battery. Thicker wires would be needed, probably.
I was searching for a learning metaphor here, and have probably got it all wrong with the batteries, but what I’m aiming at is how you structure your learning.
Do you do one thing first, then the next thing? So for example, study the grammar and vocabulary, then, at some future point, try to put into practice what you’ve learnt?
Logically, you’d have more ‘voltage’ that way, so you’d get through more conjugations, more tenses, more exercises, and when you finally got to speaking, listening, reading, and perhaps writing, you’d have more component parts to play with.
Or do you do different learning activities ‘in parallel’, so a little grammar and vocabulary, but also appropriate reading, listening, and speaking activities? Arguably, that means you’d be getting through a linear grammar/vocabulary series more slowly (lower voltage), but perhaps more easily (more power!) as the varioius things you do reinforce each other.
Modern language courses are structured this second way, as you’ll see if you take a look at any course book (by which I mean a book that is intended to be used in class, rather than for self study.) It will contain some combination of ‘input’, ‘skills’, and probably other elements, such as tips on how to learn better, and cultural knowledge.
My shaky metaphor might be applied more specifically, for example to improving your reading and listening skills (see the two post scripts below for messages from our sponsors…)
Do you, for example, read and listen ONLY to graded material, such as our ‘easy readers’, with the intention of at some point stopping with the baby stuff and consuming only ‘authentic’ materials, such as newspapers and radio?
Or do you try to include both ‘simplified’ and ‘authentic’ material in your study program, so taking in a broader spectrum of text styles and content, which might, hopefully, be more powerful in terms of learning opportunities?
For instance, as well as doing the free materials on the club website, listening to and reading our ‘easy’ Italian news bulletins, buying (and using) our ebooks, and squeezing in an actual class, or one-to-one lessons with a native speaker teacher, as well as all that, you find time to browse ‘authentic’ news articles, watch TV series in Italian, listen to podcasts and live radio, and so on.
“I’ll get to those other things later,” you tell me, “when I’ve mastered the basics.”
“And,” you add, “in any case, authentic materials are much too difficult for my current level. I wouldn’t understand anything!”
“Ah,” I might respond, “but what if you never get past the basics? So never discover whether other ways of learning might have been motivating for you, and so more useful?”
Learn ‘in series’ or ‘in parallel’?
In the end, it’s your call.
A trainee electrician presumably needs to learn which setup to use when, so as to supply the power that’s needed for the job. But also which not to use, to avoid electrocuting customers or burning out the wires.
So too should an inexperienced student learn what options are available to them, experiment with different approaches, and so discover those which may best suit them, and their objectives, which will probably evolve over time.
There’s more than one way to skin a cat!
Talking of which, do you have the Rai Play Sound (radio, podcast e audiolibri) and Rai News apps on your smartphone? They’re both free to download, and super-useful for dipping into and playing about with in idle moments, no matter what your level.
I don’t use either one much, as I spend more time on the equivalents for the other languages I’m learning – Swedish, French, Spanish, and to a lesser extent Turkish.
If you haven’t already guessed, I’m an ‘in parallel’ learner!
Here’s a final reminder about this week’s half-price ‘eBook of the Week’, Cena con delitto.
Join us in the questura (police station). A husband and wife have witnessed a murder in a restaurant. Can the police commissioner find out the truth?
It’s level A1/2, s0 elementary/pre-intermediate. Take a look at the free sample chapter (.pdf) before buying it, to verify that it’s not too easy or too difficult for your current level.
- .pdf e-book (+ audio available free online)
- .mobi (Kindle-compatible) and .epub (other ebook readers) available on request at no extra charge – just add a note to the order form or email us
- 8 chapters to read and listen to
- Comprehension questions to check your understanding
- Italian/English glossary of ‘difficult’ terms for the level
- Suitable for students at any level
- Download your Free Sample Chapter (.pdf)
How do I access my ebook?
When your order is ‘completed’ (immediately after payment, normally), a download link will be automatically emailed to you. It’s valid for 7 days and 3 download attempts so please save a copy of the .pdf ebook in a safe place. Other versions of the ebook (.mobi/Kindle-compatible, .epub) cannot be downloaded but will be emailed to people who request them.
Thursday’s bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news is waiting for you to read and listen to, for FREE!
Many thanks to everyone who has helped us out with a donation this week.