No, not THAT sort of exclusive club, silly!
I was listening to a marketing podcast yesterday evening, and the interviewer made some remark to the guest along the lines that normal people these days (so you and I) get served by algorithms such as voice mail or A.I. (artificial intelligence) systems rather than by actual people.
This might actually be better.
Think home-banking, which I’d say is way preferable to actually having to go to the bank, then waiting in a line.
Or, given that I’m suppose to write about language-learning, Duolingo.
Eight billion people are learning Italian on their system, they say.
They expect the planet’s other two billion would-be-Italian-speakers to catch on next week.
Home-banking is impersonal, compared to chatting with the cashier, but who cares? It’s much more efficient, and is effectively free.
Duo has community interaction designed in, which is impressive and all credit to them. And it’s also free, unless you actually go out of your way to pay for some extra or other.
In fact, with the exception of phone and internet companies here in Italy, which are utterly and demonstrably awful when it comes to dealing with any sort of service issue whatsoever, the world is bursting with products and services that make our lives easier and more stimulating and which are both better and cheaper than what used to be available.
The podcast presenter went on to say that, these days, only the rich, or at least the well-off, can afford to actually have a PERSON deal with their problem for them.
If you need to get from London to Bologna, then Ryanair has a reasonably-priced solution.
But, other than the traditional ‘Hello’ from the flight attendant as you board, don’t expect to interact with anyone from the company along the way.
You’ll choose your flight, book your tickets and make the payment on their website or app.
You’ll print your own boarding card.
You’ll carry your own bag (if you can afford to take a bag – personally, I put on enough pairs of underpants for the entire trip, then take off the outer layers when I arrive and put them in the drawer in my hotel room.)
Were I rich, I could hire a private plane, or fly first class on BA, at which point I could reasonably expect to have an attractive flight attendant serve me ‘free’ drinks and chat for a few seconds.
(And wouldn’t have to wear six pairs of underwear.)
But I wouldn’t get there any quicker.
That’s not true for every service, of course.
With language-learning, for example, it’s fairly evident that taking a class or a one-to-one, with a real teacher, will give you more experience dealing with and responding to ‘live’ Italian than, say, an app.
It costs more, but it’s not only for the rich.
It is, however, EXCLUSIVE.
Of those eight billion people using the app, how many have actually taken the logical next step to speak Italian in real time with other humans?
How many are leafing through an Italian newspaper over their breakfast toast and coffee?
Or listening to Rai Uno while they walk their dogs?
Startlingly few, I’d estimate.
I don’t actually KNOW this, but by looking at the competition I can get a reasonable idea.
I’d say there aren’t more than a few tens of thousands of people around the world doing one-to-one online Italian lessons (which is presumably why DL doesn’t bother with them – venture capital isn’t dumb.)
And the average print run for an easy Italian reader?
You could go ask Black Cat, but given that I never see any marketing (and if they don’t bother to pester me to promote their stuff, then they’re probably not bothering at all), there can’t be much money in it.
So say a few thousand copies a year worldwide?
As Led Zeppelin put it in their cheerily mysogynistic classic ‘Dazed and Confused‘:
“Lots of people talking, few of them know…”
Which brings me to the point.
A grand total of fifty-nine people have so far purchased our newest ebook, Dante, gatto vagante.
Add me, Francesca the writer, Stefi the editor, and Natalia, who did the audio, that makes sixty-two of us, spread fairly evenly around the world.
The writer’s in Spain, the audio was done in London and most readers are in the USA, Australia or Britain.
Now THAT’s an exclusive club!
Much more so than private jet owners, of whom there must be a few tens of thousands.
Wanna join us?
Membership isn’t even that costly, as Dante is on offer until Sunday.
Free sample chapter (.pdf) | Full version, just £5.99 | Catalog
Here we go again…
Thursday’s FREE EasyItalianNews.com was read by Stefi (my wife) rather than Tom (my son), as the lad’s off on a trip to Rome with his school.
Three nights to stay up late playing cards with his mates! And perhaps take in the Vatican to say ‘Ciao’ to the pope.
Anyway, a different voice is always good.
Do you have problems waking up, too?
Wednesday I got told off for stereotyping older people in my poem (scroll to the bottom if you missed it.)
You guys are obviously all unfashionable, incapable, poor, ignored, liable to get chewed up by technology, etc.
It must suck.
Beh, yesterday I was wandering around Bologna, where I live, and the city was full of kids on school trips, but also of stylish, healthy, well-dressed, confident, happy, rich-looking PENSIONERS from all over the world, eating and drinking at sunny tables in the streets, shoppping in exclusive shops and so on.
So there, hope that evens things up.
Today I’ll be stereotyping some other group, namely the chronically-sleepy, of which I am a life-long member.
Feedback is welcome of course.
Other than the campaigner for the third age that I mentioned, on Wednesday a lady wrote to suggest I didn’t give up my day job running OnlineItalianClub.com, which I assume she meant kindly.
Anyway, us poets need to grow thick skins, so do your worst.
It’s only fair, if we get to sit in the sun tapping verses out on our smartphones while others are locked in their offices.
There was a poem here. Now it’s here: https://onlinepoem.com/coffee-cools-at-a-predictable-rate/
Alan K says
I’m sorry, but I can’t remain silent when you type the one word that punches my language learning button more than any other.
Let the word go forth from this time and every place; if you want to learn a language, REALLY learn a language, STAY AS FAR AWAY FROM DUOLINGO AS YOU CAN POSSIBLY GET.
Do you just want to learn some basic words like Bonjour, Wasser, niño or niña via endless and oh my gods do I mean ENDLESS repetition of stupid, asinine expressions like “The elephant ate the sugar” or “the knife is in the boot”? And do you want to do this in a place with such a nausea-inducing sanctimonious sense of “mission”? (Despite being founded by a guy who promoted CAPTCHAs, things which have caused most computer users to want to throw a brick at their screens from time to time while simultaneously being completely useless at stopping spammers breaking through.)
Thumbs high, Duolingo is the place for you.
Do you want to ACTUALLY SPEAK a language?
Then run, RUN AS FAST AS YOU CAN. Duolingo will not only fail to deliver this, it will actively hold you back from being ABLE to do this.
Duolingo is about all translation, all the time. Except for a few in the early lessons which are “flash card” type questions where you have to specify what something is based on a photo, EVERY QUESTION drags you screaming back to your madrelingua, in this case, English. However you CANNOT speak Italian, German, French, whatever if you are thinking in English and translating to the target language. The person that you are talking to will have wandered off bored by about the third sentence. Unless you’re ordering in a French cafe, that is, where the waiter will play with you as a cat would play with a mouse. (“Did monsieur mean “l’eau”? I am sure that monsieur did not mean to say “l’owwww, oui?”.)
You need to be able to THINK, at least think basic concepts, in the target language with English playing no part and this is exactly the opposite of what Duolingo trains you to do.
Learn the language structures and basic vocabulary and yes, even grammar, from Assimil. And yes, I know what you think of grammar but I happen to disagree. You don’t need to become a linguist but basic grammar provides a framework, a context for sentence forms. If you have a context you are far more likely to be able to understand why something is said the way it is, and therefore far more likely to remember it. Except for il congiuntivo. This is why I get the screaming irrits when I see ” ‘mi piace’ means ‘I like’ ” in an Italian textbook because it encapsulates the very reason why English learners have such problems getting their head around the verb “Piacere”.
When you have a basic grounding if you want a little game to play to practice and expand your vocab, go to Clozemaster, NOT Duolingo. No, it’s not free (the base lessons are free but you get only a limited number of audio lessons per day in free mode) but it’s cheap and best of all, you can change the settings so that you do not see one single word of English in the questions. I have mine set up to show me the English translation AFTER I’ve answered something, and not a second before. And I only ever look at that if I feel that I need confirmation. The biggest weakness of Clozemaster is that it does not use female voice to express female concepts and a male voice to express male ones but hey, guess what? Last I checked, neither does Duolingo.
Third, and most important, be prepared to splash out on on line lessons to learn with an actual teacher. You can’t learn to speak a language from a book, even one with a great audio supplement like Assimil.
But treat Duolingo as if it had the plague. It is a bad learning method, made worse by the fact that it will give you an illusion of progress… until you need to actually say something original in the language that you’re studying.
I press “Reply”
to Alan K
DL’s our competitor
better to work though
weeks of exercises
with the Owl
than do nothing at all
It got me started
Gave me confidence
to go back to Turkish
And started me reading
thirty five years
after I’d last
that DL exists
there are better
opportunities out there