Never be afraid to argue with your teacher (some of us talk such nonsense!)
This morning I had an interesting conversation with my online Swedish teacher, in Swedish mostly, which was good.
She wanted me to study a certain area of grammar, again.
It’s important, she said.
I’ve already studied that particular perversity at least twice, didn’t take it in either time, and had doubts that looking at it again would help.
Listen, I said. Do you have any money?
Why? She wanted to know. Then admitted that she didn’t have much.
It’s a metaphor, I told her.
IF you had any money, what would you do with it?
Put it in the bank?
Invest it in the stock market?
Buy a house?
Buy Bitcoins, maybe?
Let’s say you had enough cash to do a couple of these, but not ALL of them.
Which would you choose?
And being a (presumably) unsophisticated investor, how would you know you were making the right decision?
And would you, say, buy Bitcoins, just because I suggested it?
Time is money, they say.
I have maybe six hours a week to study a foreign language.
Perhaps I’ll spend some of that reading a news website each morning, and looking up new words.
I’ll invest a further hour or two doing speaking/listening practice with my online teacher.
And with the small change?
I’ll watch some Swedish TV. A detective series, something with lots of blood and not too many long monologues.
Yes I heard you, teacher.
This grammar is important.
And if I want to speak ‘well’, I’ll need to get to grips with it.
But speaking well isn’t my priority.
Understanding what I read and hear comes MUCH higher up my list.
As does being able to express my thoughts, accurately or otherwise.
Just having the confidence to talk about whatever I want, and make myself understood, would be great!
So that’s priority number one for me.
You think I make a lot of mistakes?
You’re doubtless correct. But at this point that’s not important to me.
Maybe it never will be.
You know what they say about dogs walking on their hind legs?
It’s not that they do it well, but that they can do it at all.
Ditto for me speaking a foreign language.
Staying upright and moving forward is the goal, not working on eventually becoming Fred Astaire.
OK, she conceeded. We don’t have to study grammar the whole time…
Pleased to hear it, I said, and thanks for the interesting conversation. See you next week!
Which brings my back to studying Italian.
And arguing with your teacher.
He or she may, in fact, know less about language-learning than you do.
So, if you’re taking online lessons, there’s absolutely no reason why you shouldn’t make your priorities and preferences clear.
Don’t be an ass about it, of course.
Teachers deserve respect, too. And perhaps, sometimes, they’re right.
But if something isn’t working for you, don’t just assume that the teacher knows best.
Drop whatever it is like a hot brick and try something else.
When you find something that works, do more of it.
And as with investing, it’s usually a good strategy to diversify your portfoglio!
Don’t put all your eggs in the one basket.
So, here’s a list of ‘investments’ you might want to try out:
- learn more words (which?)
- study grammar (what?)
- improve your reading skills (which?) / develop a reading habit (how?)
- improve your listening skills (which?) / develop a listening habit (i.e. TV)
- understand typical pronunciation features (which?)
- pronounce common words and sentences appropriately
- read aloud longer texts i.e. a presentation or a speech
- know how and when to use day-to day phrases in speech
- master more complex speech, for example talking about your likes and dislikes, and the reasons for them
- become capable of even more sophisticated speech; describing your work, talking about current issues
- basic writing i.e. exchanging chat messages
- more extensive writing – an email, a short text
- complex writing – a job application, business letter, draft web page, a brochure
- build your ‘cultural knowledge’ about the country, the people, how they think and what they talk about
- do any of the above more easily and/or more effectively
I’m sure there are things I’ve missed.
But anyway, what’s important to YOU when you’re studying Italian?
Maybe it’s grammar, which at least is a familiar problem.
The one thing everyone remembers about studying a language at school, after all, is the grammar.
Italian has hundreds of thousands of words.
All the nouns are either masculine or feminine and all the verbs are either regular or irregular.
If grammar’s your thing, you’re going to love it.
Or, you could skip the boring bits for now and pick something else from the list.
Life is, after all, rather short…
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