People often tell me that they value these articles, delivered three times a week via email to nearly eleven thousand students of Italian from around the world.
I suppose the ones who think I’m a bore unsubscribe, which is fine.
If you’re not a fan, you’ll find a link to remove your email from our mailing list at the bottom of each article.
Click it, then click on the ‘unsubscribe from this list’ blob, and your inbox will be one email less full each Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
But anyway, I worry that email recipients, whether happy or otherwise, will think that the articles are all there is to the club.
The articles do three important things:
- Above all, to keep you interested and, hopefully, to make learning Italian a little less lonely
- To highlight new material as it’s added to the site
- And to sell online lessons and ebooks, revenues from which keep my colleagues in work and pay the club’s bills
But what the emails DON’T usually do is to point club members at ALL THE OTHER GREAT STUFF on the club website.
Apparently the ‘clubhouse’ has one thousand four hundred and eighty-four pages of content PLUS about a thousand of these articles AND three-four hundred .html exercises which aren’t included in the 1484 total because they use a different sort of technology.
So, a couple of thousand pages at least. Think of several thick books.
Assuming that this material was divided more or less equally between the SIX LEVELS of the Council of Europe Common Framework (from A1/elementary to C2/proficiency) then that would be something like three hundred and seventy-five pages of material for each of the six levels.
It’s not, though.
Actually there’s loads more material for the first few levels, where everyone starts and where most of the grammar and vocabulary is learnt.
And much less at the higher levels, at which students should anyway be much more autonomous and so capable of using ‘real’ sources, such as newspapers and TV.
So, if all you’re doing is reading these articles and/or buying the occasional ebook – much appreciated as that is – you might be missing out!!
How, then, to find all these wonderful free materials to improve your Italian?
Begin by visiting the club website: https://onlineitalianclub.com/.
It should work fine on a tablet or smartphone but, should you have technical problems, write to me. The address is at the bottom of each page, or reply to any email you receive.
OK, next look for ‘Six Levels!‘ in the menu, which on my computer is at the top of the page in a black font (mobile devices may show it elsewhere or differently.)
That’ll take you to a page with links to material organised according to the six levels of the C.E.F.R., along with a primitive level test and an artice about how to understand your level.
Suppose you already know your level, or have worked it out using either the test or the helpful article?
Then click on the link for that level.
Let’s try the first one, A1 – Beginner/Elementary
Once on that page, scroll down, and down, and down to see all the things that I think are suitable for students at this level.
It’s organised by type:
A1 – Beginner/Elementary Italian Lessons
By ‘lessons’ I mean that I’ve collected grammar explanations and exercises on a particular grammar topic together in one place. These are roughly sequential, so if you don’t have any better way to navigate the site, start with these…
A1 – Beginner/Elementary Italian Listening Practice
This is what it says it is. Material to help you improve your listening comprehension skills. Some of the audios have exercises, some have transcripts, some both.
Want a piece of advice? Inexperienced learners focus on grammar and ignore skills like listening and reading. Personally, I’d do the opposite.
A1 – Beginner/Elementary Italian Grammar Explanations
Think of these as your ‘go to’ point for whatever grammar is vexing you right now.
But these are only the A1 topics, as commonly found in A1-level coursebooks and courses.
If there’s something you need that’s not here, go back to the main menu and click on ‘Grammar’, which lists ALL the grammar topics from all six levels in alphabetical order.
A1 – Beginner/Elementary Italian Exercises
These are the club’s interactive exercises. Some are really helpful, others less so.
A1 – Beginner/Elementary Italian Vocabulary
The vocabulary section is often the weakest material we have. Some of it hasn’t been checked or rewritten for years. Be warned!
So that’s A1. The other levels are organised in the same way.
Or you could access the same material in an entirely different way.
At the top of each page on the website, you should see icons (little pictures) with these titles:
Click on them to go directly to our alphabetical lists of materials.
So if, for example, you were looking for something about the ‘future’, you’d be able to find whatever we have, after ‘e’ and before ‘g’, in the ‘Grammar’ or even the ‘Listening’ index.
And that’s more or less that.
For Duolingo fans out there, you are legion I know, I’d point out one key difference between their site and ours, apart from the number of zeros in their user statistics and the fact that they have venture capital, while the club is just me and a laptop at my kitchen table.
At DL you have to proceed in a certain sequence. In teaching terms, you could describe this as a ‘linear’ syllabus, composed mostly of grammar and vocabulary topics.
So you have to finish this before going on to that.
Our ‘Grammar lessons’ (see above) are also organised this way, though there’s no restriction on which you can do first.
Do them backwards, if you wish, though the sequence is the typical one used in Italian teaching – learn this first then that because it’s easier that way.
Or don’t, it’s up to you.
The vocabulary topics are also, to a lesser degree, organised this way – really fundamental things like ‘numbers’ and ‘family’ come early on, less-frequent or more complex areas come later.
The club, then, is a less-controlled learning environment than the Duolingo app or site. That may be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on your preferences.
One thing we have that they don’t is a lot more ‘extensive’ material, that is to say ‘texts’.
DL exercises are much more based on ‘discreet items’: words, phrases and sentences.
We have that too, for example in exercises about tenses, articles, and so on.
But I place greater emphasis on more ‘global’ comprehension – understanding what you read or hear in terms of the general content of the text or dialogue, rather than just the specific meaning at sentence level.
As an illustration of this, imagine understanding perfectly:
“I’ve never been to Italy”
while failing to hear or understand a subsequent sentence such as:
“Other than, you know, that one time you and I passed through on the train going down to Brindisi to get the ferry over to Corfu. Remember?”
The second sentence qualifies the first. It’s also more complex and confusing.
But ‘complete’ understanding means hearing both, and connecting them.
The way language is used in real life, which is what most of us are preparing for when we study, is more complex than ‘discreet item’ type exercises may allow.
OK, this is all getting a bit technical, though I can assure you it’s endlessly fascinating for anyone running a language-learning website or working as a language teacher!
Personally, I’d always advise seeking out the best language learning materials from wherever you can get them.
And then abandoning them as soon as they become less relevant, which they will do as you learn and as your level and capabilities improve.
Last chance at the half-price ‘Book of the Week’!
‘Un furto ad arte‘ is suitable for anyone at intermediate level or above.
Around eighty club members have already bought a copy (grazie, ragazzi!)
For the other ten thousand or so of you, beh, what is there to say?
Are you learning Italian, or want to?
Can you think of a better way to spend £3.99 (less than $5 US) to get you one step closer to the point at which you’ll be reading and understanding the language confidently?
Final, final reminder – the half-price offer ends on Sunday night, after which the price of Un furto ad arte will revert to the usual £7.99.
(What? You can already read Italian at intermediate level? Then why not have a stab at learning French? Un délit artificiel)