Wednesday’s article, entitled ‘Building your listening skills‘, generated this interesting comment:
But … but isn’t Easy Italian News “audio with English subtitles” effectively?
which I think I wrote was a waste of time, which opinion I stand by, until death do us part.
My reply (just published now, sorry for the delay) was:
No, it’s Italian audio with an ITALIAN transcript. There’s no English on the website, so if you’re seeing text in English, Rich, that’s your browser settings, translating automatically. If that’s the case, you’d be well advised to fix it, sharpish! Start by viewing the website in a different browser, or on an entirely different device. You should see only Italian!
Oops! This has happened before, that people have written to say that the English translation they see is 1.) really bad; 2.) wrong; or 3.) unhelpful from a learning point of view.
I will reiterate what I wrote to Rich: if you’re seeing English translations of the ‘for learners’ texts on any of our websites, then the ‘problem’ is at your end, and personally I do regard it as a problem. You have machine-translation enabled on your browser or on your entire device, I can’t say which because it’s something I would never do.
You won’t be helped by Google rendering our ‘written by native Italian speaker’ texts into its own particular version of correct English, though I can see it might be useful were you to be trying to read, say, the terms and conditions on an Italian website before booking a holiday, or something like that.
If you want to learn a foreign language, SWITCH OFF the automatic translations!
Some pages on the club website have plenty of English text, for example the grammar explanations, which are written for people who read articles like this one, who I assume to have a low (or zero) level in Italian – I can explian things quickly in English, and it helps learners to have a brief, English-language guide to the ins and outs of Italian grammar. Here’s an example of that.
But the exercises, the listening transcripts and so on are NOT TRANSLATED, or at least not by us. Why not? Because it’s totally normal that you won’t understand everything, and really desirable that you get used to figuring out whatever you can on your own. Ideally without the help of a dictionary…
There’s one other exception to us not translating our materials into English, and that’s the small-ish number of Italian-English parallel text ebooks that we sell, which offer the original Italian text and a line-by-line English translation. There’s a free one here, if you’re interested, but personally I don’t rate these as one of the better ways to improve your reading skills. We sell them because some people like translating everything, and because we’re, in the end, a business, with bills to pay.
While we’re on the topic of odd comments from users of our websites, there was a review that came in, yesterday I think it was, complaining that a French-English parallel text ebook (also free) was way, way to short and so, according to the reviewer, our standard parallel text/easy reader price of £7.99 could not possibly be justified:
I downloaded the PDF books, The Surprise and The Restaurant for free.
I was later contacted by Easy Readers to provide a review.
The content is very short and simple and can be read in less than half an hour.
The Surprise contains 8 half pages of French text with corresponding English translation, which equals 4 pages of French.
The story is simple and witty and is aimed at A1 students, so it accomplishes its purpose very well.
However, the normal price of £7.99 is way too high for this slight document. It works out at £2 per page of French text. Other books on the market aimed at A1 students have 10 times the content at this price.
However, as a free resource for a complete beginner this is an excellent product of its type and I therefore recommend it.
Well, people are free to think whatever they like, but we certainly don’t get rich selling a few dozen copies of a £7.99 ebook, and a three-star review seems rather mean in the circumstances, hence my rather huffy response:
Higher levels are MUCH longer, Alan, as can clearly be seen from the free sample chapters offered for ALL of our titles on our Catalog page, and yet the price is identical. We’re not charging by the word – if we were, the more complex ones would come out at dozens of times cheaper, which would be strange, don’t you think?
If you read these in thirty minutes, you are clearly not a beginner/elementary-level student. For those who are just starting out with French (you quote the English titles but have reviewed the French version), they probably offer a week or so of study material, at perhaps a chapter a day.
You’re clearly not aware that it’s industry standard to make A1 (elementary/beginner) – level ebooks much, much shorter, and each subsequent level correspondingly longer and more complex, until at C1/C2 level the complexity and length more approximate ‘authentic’ texts. A visit to any ‘real’ bookshop and a quick scan of ‘easy reader’ titles produced by publishers such as Oxford/Cambridge University Press and Black Cat Cideb will confirm that for you.
By the way, it’s much, much harder for writers to produce the very short, very simple texts…. Which is why I wrote The Restaurant myself. We often publish new advanced-level material, because it’s easy and fun to write. Producing texts which are accessible to the lowest level learners takes a rarer mindset and masses of teaching/learning experience.
If you’re not a beginner, then, please don’t be surprised that the FREE ‘easy reader’ ebooks I’ve linked to today are, um, very short and very simple. That’s the whole point. If you can read them in a matter of minutes, then you are clearly capable of so much more, so why on earth would you want to waste time reading anything longer? You need to go up a level, or levels.
Our Catalog page has free samples of everything. The free samples contain the first chapter, which includes the index, which shows precisely how many pages the paid-for version is.
Check the level is about right for you (not to0 easy, not too hard). If a chapter a day seems manageable, then it’s probably about right. And paying 1/8 of £7.99 for a day’s original study material, to suplement the mass of free stuff we offer on the club website, and in the ‘easy news’ bulletins, doesn’t seem excessive. I’d certainly be more than happy to pay it, which is why I set the price at the level it is. And, as I mentioned, we only sell a few dozen copies of each title, sometimes none at all for years on end, so it’s no gold mine.
A third and final comment, which people could perhaps learn from, was from a lady who was keen to give Italian TV a go, and well done to her, but couldn’t find any. So perhaps less well-done, then, considering that the club website has an Other Resources page, which does link to the RAI TV website, and many other resources that are useful for learning Italian but aren’t ours.
I’m always happy to answer questions from users of our material, and spend time on a daily basis advising people on what they should or shouldn’t be doing. I reply to all, or most, of the emails I receive, so don’t be shy if you have a problem that needs fixing.
HOWEVER, language-learning is a long and complex process, and one which, if you’re doing it right, extends over many months or probably many years. Which means that the sooner you start working things out for yourself (some people would argue that that’s the very definition of ‘learning’) the better, don’t you think?
Try things, evaluate the results, try other things, ditto, until you’ve gradually put together a portfolio of learning activities that are taking you where you want to go.
Every now and again, test yourself to see where you’ve got to. And don’t be afraid to trashcan things that once worked well but no longer seem appropriate.