Back to normal after the Summer Sale, which ended during the night.
Thanks to everyone who participated.
If you bought online Italian lessons, you should have heard from Lucia, our teaching manager by now. (Or if not yet, then shortly!)
Ebook orders have all been processed (that’s my department). Ebook buyers know how to contact me if they need further help.
Other than that, I’m going to take a break. Wash the dishes, shave, make lunch for the kids and, of course, get back to my own study routine.
Which has been sadly neglected of late, due to the time constraints that processing three hundred plus ecommerce orders imposed.
I’ve not been reading the newspaper in the languages I’m studying, there’s been little time for the radio or the simplified news, and my Turkish comic book lies neglected on the coffee table (the second one – I finished the other before the sale began.)
One thing I HAVE been doing is listening to a podcast about learning Turkish.
They have something like a hundred and sixty episodes, so I figured I could review my mostly-forgotten grammar from twenty-five years ago and maybe learn something new.
And interesting, fun material it is, too.
It’s perfect for listening to on the bus to work and back, headphones on, hunched in my sweaty public-transport seat but actually far away, in Istanbul, in a room with the two presenters, having fun with Turkish suffixes and the like!
Listening to podcasts (which are mostly in English, perhaps 70%-30%) is EASIER than reading the newspaper.
I suppose I’m learning something as I perspire… if nothing else, the 20-30% that’s IN Turkish is listening practice that I might not otherwise be getting, or not on the bus, anyway.
So learning, yes.
But could I be learning more effectively, if I was doing something ‘harder’, more intensive, more focused, more appropriate to my needs?
Because I’ve been busy and tired, I settled on something that’s fun, and from which I’ve been learning.
But I’m probabably not learning as much as I could be, if I made other choices.
Learning is good.
Learning effectively is better.
The podcast presenters are great, I must emphasise.
They know the language inside out, and their enthusiasm for explaining the details is obvious, and contagious.
The podcasts come in four levels: Noobie, Beginner, Intermediate and Advanced.
Which isn’t unreasonable.
It’s teaching, it’s fun, and it’s free! What’s not to like?
But four levels, really?
From absolute beginners, near beginners, people who’ve done a course or two but can’t say a word, people who’ve mastered the basics but don’t understand natural speech, people (like me) who can get by and understand much of what they hear…
And that just covers A1, A2 and maybe B1 in the CEFR system- so maybe ‘Noobie’ and ‘Beginner’.
The ‘Intermediate’ material is often too hard for me, so probably isn’t reallly intermediate at all.
It mostly covers the rather less common grammatical nuances that I couldn’t be bothered with when I was a young buck having fun in Ankara back in the early nineties.
Yet in contrast I can often follow the ‘Advanced’ podcasts, more or less, as it’s the Turkish presenter talking in her own language about a topic that interests her that day.
Which is not dissimilar to listening to the radio, which I often do, or to my ex-wife, which I haven’t had to do for several decades.
Explaining grammar is a part of teaching but not all of it.
Not by any means.
Yes, following a grammar syllabus, from easy to hard, is a good start.
But that’s all it is, a beginning.
Getting the levels right means stepping away from grammar.
It means helping students build vocabulary, helping them learn to learn.
And providing practice, practice and more practice!
Hearing a dialogue once, then ten minutes of grammar explanations in English, then the dialogue again works, more or less.
But is it as effective as it could be?
To teach effectively, you need repetition, you need lots of context, you need the GRADUAL building of competencies, over time.
Anyone can learn.
And, in my opinion, anyone can teach.
But not everyone learns effectively – you can get BETTER at learning with practice.
Learning to ride a motorbike is easier if you already drive a car, and vice versa.
A second foreign language comes easier than the first.
“Anyone can teach”?
You teach your kids or grandkids to tie their shoelaces, you teach your colleagues to put paper in the photocopier, you teach your staff to read their emails (or else), you teach your cat to use the litter box.
I could go on.
But professional teaching should, at least in theory, function at a higher level.
I don’t need to learn every detail of how a car functions in order to drive one.
So too, most people would be delighted to reach a reasonable communicative level in the foreign language they’re studying (say B1/intermediate) – yet for that to occur, a comprehensive understanding of every aspect of the grammar is probably not required.
Learning effectively means avoiding distractions (Daniel) and doing the (sometimes hard) work that you need in order to make progress and keep doing so.
Teaching effectively means understanding what what is possible, what is desirable and what is REALISTIC for students at any given level.
You, the teacher, may understand every detail of the language, and that is truly inspirational.
But does it help you teach better?
Ultimately, does it help your students?
If you answered ‘yes’ to those two questions, go sit in the corner with a conical hat on.
Effective learners question their approach, evaluate their progress, and change track accordingly.
Effective teachers ditto.
It’s always a journey, understanding will always be partial, knowledge will always be incomplete.
The trick is to stay motivated and so remain engaged with the language, or with whatever else you’re learning.
Perfect is the enemy of good, they say.
OnlineItalianClub.com has six levels of free materials for learners.
Besides this, we strongly believe in the value of listening and reading practice, and in developing your ‘cultural knowledge’ of the language that you’re studying.
That means figuring out who’s who, what’s going on, what people are talking about. Otherwise, why bother?
For this reason, we created EasyItalianNews.com, which is also free.
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