Yesterday was my first day back, teaching English classes, week eleven of our English school’s thirty-week academic year.
It being Tuesday, my two-hour evening class was the B1/B2 (intermediate/upper-intermediate) level.
That group is three adults in their forties. Educated, professional people who never quite got to grips with English at school, or subsequently, but seem determined to do so now.
My approach is to build confidence, provide plenty of opportunities to speak and interact, correction of typical mistakes, and a light touch with the grammar that didn’t help much the last time they studied it.
I taught one of these students last year, too, when his class was designated A2/B1 (pre-intermediate/intermediate). I expect I’ve mentioned him before.
Last year we did just five weeks ‘in presenza’, I remember, before moving online for the second lockdown – twenty-five long weeks on Zoom!
And one of the things I stressed to the students then, at the beginning of the five weeks, so more than a year ago, was the importance of reading and listening.
This particular guy was already doing it, he told me then, having been so advised by my predecessor (who retired during lockdown, leaving me as the only English teacher left standing and willing to risk Covid.)
He was watching ‘The Crown’, he said. With Italian subtitles. So he could understand what was going on.
I pointed out that this approach would likely not help his listening much, and explained why.
Most club members will already know my views on this, but if you don’t, check out the below article that I found recently on our ‘Best of’ page’ while looking for something else:
Understanding is not the point
(You can ignore the references to 2019’s Autumn Sale…)
“I’ve been following your advice” this same student told me yesterday evening, “and watching TV series in English!”
“With subtitles?” I enquired.
The guy’s got through seven episodes of ‘Breaking Bad’ with no subtitles, and was feeling rather pleased with himself!
I asked how he was finding it, expecting to hear the usual ‘I didn’t understand anything!’
But no, it was going OK, he said. He was getting enough to follow the story, at least, and so was happy enough to continue.
Music to my ears.
The CEFR level system describes three broad bands – basic, independent and proficient (read about it in this article ‘Italian Levels: What’s my level in Italian?‘ or, better still, use the CEFR’s very useful self-assessment checklist, here.)
My student last year would have been on the cusp between A2 (the upper part of ‘basic’) and B1 (the lower part of ‘independent’. He needed a bit of a push, basically, to start actually USING the English he had in his head. To become ‘independent’.
Now he’s probably at the end of B1 (the lower of the two ‘independent’ bands) and heading, confidently towards B2, so a stronger ‘independent’. He’s still far from proficient, but he holds his own, and better than the other fellow in the class who’s newer, so still not that able to use what he knows.
Regular listening and reading will speed my student on his way, now he’s in the habit of doing it. In fact, it should keep him improving even when he no longer spends his Tuesday evenings at our school.
Input + habit = learning
I’m not going to get tired of repeating this (I have ebooks to sell…), though I recognise that club members may get fed up with hearing it.
For Alberto, though, ‘Job done!’ My input actually made a difference, at least to one person, so a rare satisfaction in this messed up world!
Tuesday’s edition of ‘easy’ Italian news is waiting for you to read and listen to, if you haven’t already done so.
There’ll be another bulletin emailed out to subscribers (subscribing is free) tomorrow, Thursday.
And another on Saturday.
Then next week, too, on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. And the week after. And the week after that!
We recently shifted EasyItalianNews.com into its own legal entity, so I don’t personally get sued if our amateur Italian-teacher journalists malign someone or plagarise a ‘real’ newspaper with their own staff of lawyers.
Part of that process was opening a bank account for it, which was an arduous and stressful process.
But right after we’d completed it, the bank decided to close the account again – definitively, with no explanation given and no appeal allowed.
Our accountant explained that she thought the reason would have been because EasyItalianNews.com is ‘weird’, because we ‘don’t sell anything’.
The bank’s Anti-Money-Laundering staff (or more likely, a computer algorithm…) wouldn’t have liked that, she suggested. Perhaps we’re a front for billions of dollars of Colombian cocaine money, or something?
“Funded by donations? What sort of business model is that?”
OnlineItalianClub.com | EasyItalianNews.com | EasyReaders.org (ebooks) | NativeSpeakerTeachers.com (1-1 lessons)
Danielle Fleming says
I agree with the idea that you listen to programs and films in the language and even took on italian television.( Although the stations needed reloading regularly so I don’t really use that now).
I have watched a few series including ” ” “montelbano” and ” Maffia only kill in the Summer” both excellent. Both based in Scilly. I’m not sure but is there an element if Sicilian in it. The speed they speak floors me. Apart from that and I’m still searching, normal Italian television is terrible and sexist. Any suggestions would be gratefully received. On you tube would be an option.
The other problem is watching Italian programs with a partner who doesn’t understand Italian and needs subtitles. I haven’t found a way round that as its easy to read them too.!!
Alison Ledgerwood says
I absolutely understand what you say about watching a programme in a foreign language you are trying to learn with subtitles in your own language, which is counterproductive and confusing, but what do you think about watching Italian programmes with Italian subtitles? I have rather got into the habit of watching programmes even in English (my mother tongue) with subtitles, because I don’t always catch things and sometimes the accents are strong or the actors don’t speak very clearly. There have been a lot of viewers complaining about people mumbling on UK television.
I watch a lot more German television than Italian because I can get German subtitles, but whilst I can watch Rai Play in the UK via a VPN, there are no Italian subtitles and I find it often too much of a strain – at least for drama, whereas documentaries are better. Maybe I should get my hearing tested but I do find it frustrating that I can’t get Italian subtitles. Apart from Netflix, where you can get subtitles for Italian films, is there anywhere else I should be looking for Italian programmes?.
Anyway, thanks for all you do. I have my conversation with Francesca in about half an hour. The first one in a couple of weeks and, despite listening and reading some Italian most days, I haven’t actually spoken in ages. Time for a coffee I think – Italian of course!