It’s been a week, almost to the hour, that Roomie left, and we got our lives back.
It seems like longer, actually, as there’s been so much going on. I’m writing this perched on a bed in Cornwall (England), with sun streaming through the window, more about which later.
But first, catching up on the jobs mountain (busy club members who haven’t read Oliver Burkeman’s ‘Four Thousand Weeks’ might want to take a look), I asked the team at NativeSpeakerTeachers.com for an update on their February ‘Free Trial Lesson Offer’, which I promoted here.
How many people took up the offer of a FREE one-to-one online language lesson with a native speaker language teacher, I wanted to know. How many of them actually did the lesson? And, cut to the chase, how many of those went on to buy lessons?
Teaching Manager Lucia came back with some numbers:
- 107 booked trials
- 55 FREE lessons were done (mostly Italian, but 2 French and 4 Spanish)
- 21 purchased further lessons lessons (of which French 1)
Well, I thought, that was disappointing, -ish.
I know they had the capacity (teachers + budget) to do 150 free trials, and have done during previous offers.
But that said, there’s been a big drop in interest in anything ‘online’ since the pandemic ‘ended’ and the world opened up again. Conversely, our Italian school in Bologna is reassuringly busy, buzzing with happy language learners. So it’s swings and roundabouts – when online is booming, offline is dead, and vice versa.
E poi, the % of people who did the free trial, then bought something, is GREAT! Approaching 40%, which shows that people were happy with the trial experience, and that Lucia has been doing a good job selecting and briefing her teaching team.
One thing jumped out though, as team member Stefi pointed out, hitting ‘Reply to all’ in our email exchange:
“Wow, lots of people still have to do the lesson! Or they booked and then changed their mind?”
Lucia came back with:
“Have no idea, they do not reply to our emails… we wrote to them 3 times (27 of them). Some answered once but then disappeared (15 of them) Some will have a lesson shortly (3 of them)”
It isn’t uncommon that language learners get cold feet when it comes to interacting with a native speaker, even if it’s free. In fact, it’s probably much more common when it’s free. Paying for something generally makes it more likely you’ll give it a try. No one likes to look a fool for buying something and not using it.
But half? Half of everyone who showed an interest and ‘bought’ the FREE lesson from the NativeSpeakerTeachers.com shop? That’s not GREAT at all.
As Lucia implied, email is an unreliable means of communication, though better than all the alternatives. The ebooks store, EasyReaders.org, also gets the occasional ‘Where’s my ebook?’ lament. The explanation is almost always one of:
- The email with the download link went into spam and the person didn’t look there
- The person actually received the email with the download link but didn’t read it carefully enough to notice the word Download…
- The recipient didn’t even open the email with the download link, thinking it was a receipt
- They deleted the email, then poured acid on its grave, in terror of being defrauded! Forgetting that they’d just bought something online that would be delivered via email
Oh, and there’s a new one in town, though this only applies to ebooks, not to lessons.
Paypal, which is just one of the payment processors we use, so as to steal a march on its competitors, plasters its brightly-colored logo all over the shop website, even on the product information pages, along with the message that if click here, right now, you can have the ebook without the boring cart part.
No problem, I thought, I don’t care who we pay commissions to, as long as we get the rest of the payment sooner or later. And yet, turns out that by offering buyers the chance to ‘skip the cart’, by using the details that are already saved with Paypal for their purchase, rather than entering them again on our website, people don’t get their ebooks!
Why? Simple. Because they forget that the email they used for their Paypal account, when they signed up for it twenty years ago, is their husband’s, or their mother’s, or doesn’t even exist anymore, or it exists but they never check it, because now they have Gmail or Apple or Microsoft or whatever.
And Paypal sends the ebook shop’s system that ‘legacy’ address, to which it (automatically) emails the download link. Leaving me to clean up the mess when the unhappy buyers write in the middle of the night, or on a Sunday morning. Thanks PP!
Oh well, I promised the team I’d mention the missing FREE trial people. If you ‘bought’ a FREE lesson in March, but didn’t hear anything, check your spam. If you got Lucia’s emails but wimped out for whatever reason, then I respectfully suggest you ‘man up’, as the modern expression has it. Or find another hobby – language learning is not for those lacking courage.
So anyway, amazingly, the sun is STILL shining in Cornwall, which must be some sort of a record. Over an hour!
The bed I’m sitting on as I type this is on the north coast, facing the Atlantic ocean (actually, it’s behind me, but you get the general idea.) Think miles-long golden beaches, ocean waves suitable for surfing, and generally crappy weather.
In the summer, the beaches are covered in near-naked tots, splashing in rock pools, hurling themselves into rip currents, and generally having a wild time, despite the temperature hovering around or below 20 Centigrade (68 Fahrenheit). Italian parents who let their kids do that would be locked up!
But it’s not summer, so yesterday we drove over to the other, more-sheltered coast to visit The Lost Gardens of Heligan (“200 acres of garden history, mystery and romance”). It’s not cheap, but if you like looking at plants, walking up and down steep hills, and browsing crap in gift shops, then it should probably be on your bucket list. They have nice, adventure-type activities for kids, too – a rope bridge, things to climb on. And animals. Roomie would have loved it.
But of course, it rained. And the wind got up, so we were glad to get back to the hire car
N.b. the roads to this place are positively medieval! Google Maps took us up one particularly narrow lane, smeared with mud, grass growing down the middle, high hedges on either side, with few passing places. If the road ahead is clear (for the ten yards at least, until the next hairpin bend) drive as fast as possible, my father lectured. That way you’ll cover more distance before having to stop for an oncoming car and reverse all the way back, around the bends, to the nearest passing place. Nervous drivers check their insurance policy!
The plan was to head for lunch at what I was told was the most highly regarded chippy (fried fish and potatoes) in Cornwall, located in nearby touristy fishing village, Mevagissey.
There were few other visitors around, so parking was easy and cheap, though figuring out how to work the parking meter wasn’t (could be just me, I admit.) In the time it took me to get the damn thing to accept my pound coin and print something to display in the windscreen, I got thoroughly soaked.
My family, sheltering in the car until I returned to the vehicle to Pay and Display, remarked how wet I was! But never mind, they reassured me, we’ve a nice warm Fish and Chip Shop to come.
Despite it being March, and not yet Easter, the place was open! But only doing food ‘to go’, takeaways as we Brits call them.
So we wandered to the harbour, hoping for a bus stop or similar shelter to eat lunch in. There was nothing but colorful fishing boats, five meters below me, keeled over in the mud (the tide goes out dramatically around here).
Fortunately, there was a pub up the road, The Fountain Inn, which I assume earnt its decent Tripadvisor rating by providing dripping travelers with reasonably-priced food and beer, in cosy rooms, with a cheerful open fire. People were actually speaking to each other, too, which is unusual these days. My dad got to bitch about someone’s dog barking, for instance. It was very authentic.
An hour’s parking fee might have been more than enough for Plan A, but proved insufficient for Plan B, given that the pub was full of refugees from the chip shop. So, being the designated driver, I left the others sipping beer and cider in front of the fire and ventured out to poke another coin into the meter.
Did I get wet? As words cannot describe! Cornish rain has special added extra wetness, just to make your holiday memorable (the sun’s gone now, by the way).
I might as well have hurled myself into the sea, except for the fact that the harbour had just mud in it. All the water that should have been there was falling from the sky, in sheets.
Later, on the way back to the Atlantic coast, we skirted St Austell (which has a famous brewery, you can even buy their beer in Bologna) and passed a junior school on its outskirts. It was perched on a rainswept hillside where no sane person would want to be, very much like a prison camp, with a bed of daffodils at the entrance to cheer up visitors.
Which brought to mind my own school days, when I was invariably wet (from cycling miles in the rain to get there), and always bored. All those tedious, damp years, and what did I learn? I struggled to think of anything useful, except one thing:
“Rewrite in your own words”, we were cajoled. Aching fingers wrapped unhappily around pencils, we spent hours attempting to do just that, without knowing why, an activity as pointless and demotivating as most of the other tasks.
And yet… who would have guessed, that’s what I often do these days!
For instance, with the two reminders below. To keep Google happy, and in the hope you’ll read them (sun’s back) I write them once, then change a few words or phrases each time.
So that was useful, at least.
Did you read/listen to Thursday’s bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news?
It’s FREE, so what’s to lose?
Here’s a final reminder about this week’s new ‘easy reader’ ebook, Madama Butterfly, which until Sunday night is 25% discounted, so just £5.99 rather than the usual ‘easy reader’ ebook price of £7.99.
Check out the Free Sample Chapter (.pdf) before you buy a copy, to find out whether the level is suitable and that the format works on the device you intend to use it on.
We’re in Nagasaki, the famous Japanese port, in the early years of the twentieth century. Let’s have a drink with Pinkerton, a U.S. naval officer – today’s his wedding day! The bride-to-be, Cio Cio-San, is beautiful, just fifteen years old, and fragile as a butterfly. Should be a happy day for them both!
Begin with this ‘easy reader’ ebook before watching the actual opera, or simply use this original Italian reading/listening practice material to add a little variety to your study program.
- .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 (based on Puccini’s Act/Scene structure) to read and listen to
- Comprehension questions to check your understanding
- Italian/English glossary of ‘difficult’ terms for the level
- Suitable for students at pre-intermediate level or above
- Download your Free Sample Chapter (.pdf)
Buy Madama Butterfly, just £5.99 | FREE sample chapter (.pdf) | Opera ebooks | Catalog
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I do enjoy your articles! I hope you enjoy your Cornish interlude, despite the drawbacks.
Please satisfy my “‘satiable “ curiosity: who is Roomie? We’re you fostering her?
Email, Dorothy. If I were fostering, I wouldn’t want to say so in an article or comment.
Disclaimer – I was one of those who took a free lesson and, in spite of enjoying my 1/2 hour conversation with Giusy, not to mention Lucia’s excellent response to my “why do I need a teacher to help me with conversational Italian?”, is yet to buy anymore! In my defence, my local Italian teacher (bless her, she still has faith in the UK, despite the Brexit fiasco) is hoping to muster enough interest in an Italian Conversation Class [plug here for anyone looking for real classroom lessions in Southampton, UK, check out Francesca at https://italiancoursessouthampton.com], so I feel obliged to offer her my support. So, how do I find Italian Conversation? i’d love to say “it feels like I’m coming along in leaps and bounds”, but the truth is that I still feel like a “fish out of water” most of the time (this, coming from someone who got an Unclassified failure at O Level French, and probably deserved nothing better), but I guess I must get some things right. So I don’t focus on the results, but go back for more, hoping that one day something will stick.
By the way, consider yourself lucky to have found a pay and display that took real money – most of them insist on making payment via your mobile phone! Have you managed to speak any Cornish so far (hint – Kernow is a good start)? My favourite bit of dialect was a “dish o tea” (cup of tea, for those wondering), although that may be further up country on the North Coast to where you are at the moment. Don’t forget to try a Cornish Pastie “takeaway” whilst you’re down there, or even a Kelly’s Ice Cream (I believe they ran an advert partly using the Cornish language).
My parents are Cornish, so I’ve been coming here since I was a baby (before probably), and often since they moved back here from Devon, when I was a university student, nearly forty years ago! Pasties are a must-eat on every visit, you’re right, and will be today’s lunch. Rowes or Warrens? Warrens or Rowes? Ideally both, to compare.