I’ve just been having an online Turkish lesson with my regular teacher, Ayşegül.
It’s her ‘name day’, she tells me, the first of November being the day that Italians celebrate anyone who isn’t named after one of the other three hundred and sixty-four saints.
I’ve just checked and found that mine is October 10th. Drat, missed it!
Anyway, before actually speaking via the Skype video calling app, AG and I ‘chatted’ for a while (typing messages in Skype), which is a very useful way for me to practice finding the strange characters on the Turkish keyboard – ğ, ü, ş, i/ı, ö & ç. And the spelling, of course, as I learnt the language originally by speaking it and listening.
After the lesson I make time to copy and paste the chat messages into a text file, then check any words I don’t know. The text file shows my progress with the language since I started taking lessons, over a year ago. The chats gradually get more sophisticated, which is pleasing. And reading back, it’s a bit like going though a diary, in the sense that what we were chatting about is a reminder of what was going on back then – problems with the business, health worries, Istanbul’s mayoral election, holidays, and so on.
When we get bored of sending each other silly messages, we video call and chat for the rest of the allocated time. Pleasantries at first, then ‘what have you been doing/what have I been doing topics’, then whatever else comes to mind.
After a bit, my brain gets tired and I begin to struggle to find the right words, or Swedish comes out instead, or I have to ask “How do you say (English word) in Turkish?’
But for a while, at least, everything goes smoothly. The weekly lessons have become a habit, so it’s much like meeting up with a friend or colleague that you don’t see every day – sociable but routine.
I’m not that into formal study (though I do write up the teacher’s notes and ponder anything new). I’m therefore happy with the ‘just conversation’ approach, though personally I’d say there is no ‘just’ about it.
Speaking and listening is excellent training for, well, speaking and listening, which is primarily what I want to do with the language, grammar be damned.
However, this type of online lesson is equally well-suited to the more-formal lessons that others often prefer. A lot of teachers (myself included) have their own material and so can organise a coherent series of lessons that will take you from point A to point B. I don’t want homework, but if I did, I’m sure AG could provide it.
The important thing is to have an idea of what it is that you need. Grammar, say. You want the teacher to answer all your questions about the ‘congiuntivo’.
And obviously it’s helpful if you let your online teacher know, in advance ideally, what your needs and expectations are.
“I’m tired today. Can we just talk?” / “At my evening class we’ve been doing the passato prossimo. Can you help me with my homework?”
Whatever. Bear in mind that the teacher may (or may not) have a better idea of what you need than you do. Communication is the key.
Anyway, given the upcoming FREE Online Italian Lesson Offer, which starts on MONDAY, I thought it might be helpful to put together some dos and dont’s for online students (and teachers…
Dos and Don’ts for Online Students (and teachers!)
- communicate your expectations/needs/preferences in advance of the lesson
- check the technology: Skype, your device’s microphone and speakers, etc.
- set up your device ten minutes or so in advance – check the Internet is OK
- (for teachers) ideally, have a backup device such as a smartphone or tablet
- read any notes you have from the previous lesson/conversation
- show an interest in the other person (not just the grammar)
- neglect the ‘social chat’. It’s just as important as the official content of the lesson
- expect too much the first time. Effective relationships take time to build
- cancel at the last moment. Treat your teacher/student with respect
- overun. The teacher/student may have another lesson or appointment right afterwards
- dominate the conversation (or not too much, anyway…)
- be uncooperative. Try, at least. If it’s not what you want, say so in time for the next lesson
Anyone who’s already doing online lessons, either as a student or as a teacher, is of course welcome to add to this list.
Leave a comment on this article (which means going to the website, clicking on it, scrolling down, and filling in the comment form.)
Here’s a final tip, which is valid for both students AND teachers. It’s for situations WHEN ALL ELSE HAS FAILED.
Imagine we’re ten minutes into a thirty-minute online lesson, and we’ve reached an impasse. Whatever was planned has failed, our hopes have not been met, the subject of the grammar lesson was too advanced, or seems to be already known, the conversation topic has flopped…
OMG! What to do now?
(Either teacher or student) INTERVIEW your partner, starting with really basic questions to establish confidence:
Dove abiti? Con chi? Hai fratelli o sorelle? Sono più grandi o più piccoli? Cosa fanno? Sono sposati? Hanno figli? Cosa fai nel tempo libero? Sei mai stato negli Stati uniti? Quando? Dove? Ti sei divertito? Cosa hai visto? Dove vai per la prossima vacanza? Quando? Con qui? E’ costosa? Con quale compagnia di aereo? Lavori? Ti piace il tuo lavoro? Lavori in un ufficio? Come arrivi, con la macchina? Quanto tempo serve? Ascolti il radio?
Excuse any mistakes in my Italian (I’m NOT an Italian teacher). I just jotted some stuff down to give you an idea of how it could work. The possibilities are more or less unlimited, once you get the hang of it.
And obviously, you also need to be listening and responding:
Che bello! Veramente? Che interessante! E’ giusto! Sono d’accordo. Hai ragione.
With reticent students, or if you ARE a reticent student, phrases to turn the question back on the speaker are very, very helpful:
E tu? Perché? Veramente?
For conversation lessons, I find it very useful (again, both for the teacher AND for the student) to think of a famous talk show host, such as Oprah Winfrey.
Her job was to GET THE GUESTS TO TALK.
She’s a star too, of course, but why bother having interesting guests with stories to tell unless you’re willing to give them the microphone and let them entertain the studio audience and viewers at home?
Language, at the end of the day, is for INTERACTING.
Think of yourself as Oprah, and anyone you’re interacting with as one of this week’s star guests. Treat them with respect, ask them interesting questions, and listen to their answers. You won’t go far wrong:
“Allora, Daniel. Hai un blog molto interessante e valido. Perché non raccontarci come l’hai iniziato e per quale motivo.”
“Beh, sicuramente. Era… quanti? più di cinque anni fa, ormai. Cercavo un modo di fare il marketing per la nostra scuola è pensavo che…”
1. Watch this space for details of the Free Trial Lesson Offer, which stars on Monday.
2. Mille grazie to everyone who donated to EasyItalianNews.com this month. I haven’t done the total yet, but all the help is much appreciated.
Donors’ names (except the ones that prefer to be anonymous) are here.
And the ‘donate page’ is here, if you’d been meaning to get around to it…