First, a quick reply to Dave, who left a comment on Monday’s post. I hope that my response will be of general interest.
And after that, a reminder about this week’s Free Trial Lesson offer!
Scroll down if you just want info. about how to book a Free Trial Online Italian Lesson!
So, Dave commented:
Ciao Daniel. This comment isn’t related to the free trial offer but I couldn’t find an area for general comments, Last year I bought a package of your short stories. I have found them very useful for reading purposes but extremely frustrating for developing my listening skills. The pace of speech is far too fast for a learner like me. I can get that speed on television for free. Could you provide a slow speed option as Yabla does or failing that, get the narrator to speak at a similar speed to the one used in your ‘Easy Italian News’. May I also suggest that you charge a reasonable subscription fee for your ‘Easy Italian News’. I am hesitant to make a donation as I fear that you won’t receive sufficient donations and will drop this option; however I would gladly pay a reasonable fee for this excellent product.
A bit of a red rag to a bull, really.
But I know Dave was being constructive and positive, and I appreciate it (or try to…)
That said, there are some points worthy of replying to in detail.
Last year I bought a package of your short stories. I have found them very useful for reading purposes but extremely frustrating for developing my listening skills. The pace of speech is far too fast for a learner like me. I can get that speed on television for free.
He doesn’t say which level, but it’s clear that Dave’s reading skills are ALREADY much weaker than his listening skills, which isn’t uncommon.
That’s why I’m always banging on about listening more. If you’re just starting with Italian, or haven’t been making the progress you hoped, prioritise listening! As a strategy for learning, it really is a no-brainer.
Anyway, the pace of the audios for our easy readers (and free listening material on the club website) is generally appropriate to the level of the material, if not to that of every outlier who may have hitherto neglected skills practice.
How do I know? Because I’m a language teacher (and a language learner).
And because I’ve been doing this, and training others to do it, for thirty years. Your handyman knows how to bang in a nail, right? A cook doesn’t forget to salt the pasta water.
Our materials are produced by language teachers, in a language school, surrounded by language students. We’re not perfect, but we get it right, there or thereabouts, most of the time. That’s our job.
Often an audio for beginners will be normal speed, but the task will be commensurately easier to compensate for that.
Sometimes the task, if there is one, will be harder – but the listening text will be more deliberate, perhaps with key elements repeated.
It’s NOT industry practice to ‘slow’ down audio for learners, for the obvious reason that if you’re trying to help someone prepare to understand ‘normal’ speech it would be counterproductive.
But some sites, run by techies who are good with techy things, do offer such an option. That’s doubtless reassuring to beginners who don’t know better, but certainly unhelpful to anyone who grows to depend on being able to hit the ‘slo-mo’ button.
I’ve written before about Italians having a little button on the back of their necks.
Reach around behind them to press it and their speech will slow down by 80%, which makes it easier for you to follow what they’re on about (though they’ll sound rather drunk).
Careful though! You’ll risk making your interlocutor rather irate.
Given that day-to-day speech in Italy is delivered at ‘normal’ speed (in English too), Italian native speakers (and teachers) quite rightly feel that learners like Dave should be making the effort to train themselves for such situations from the word go, rather than relying on the button and risking making people mad.
‘Graded’ material such as our easy readers, the free listening material on the club website, and the free thrice-weekly bulletins on EasyItalianNews.com, is designed to be appropriate for learners so as to help them with that ‘training’ process.
That can happen in different ways – with EasyItalianNews.com, for example, we don’t expect the young people who write the articles to be Italian teachers, and so don’t assume that they’ll know how to ‘grade’ their language.
Neither do we ask them to do so.
But the provision of a transcript (which is NOT usually available on the TV, Dave…) should help a lot.
And the tapescript is FORMATTED, intentionally, so as to break sentences up into noun phrases, verb phrases and so on, and therefore support the listening process.
Tom, the EasyItalianNews.com newsreader, is asked to speak clearly and deliberately (in real life he speaks like any teenager…) but not specifically to ‘slow down’.
Indeed, sometimes his reading is quite rapid. It’s the overall design of the material that should make it suitable for learners, or otherwise.
And as regards the easy readers, well decide for yourself!
Click on this link and you’ll see five pages of them, in approximate level order.
Pick one from page 1, one from page 3 and one from page 5 and download the FREE sample chapters (click on the product image and look for the .pdf link or find the ‘free sample chapter links’ quickly and easily on the Catalog page).
You should now have material at, say A1, A2/B1 and maybe B2 levels.
Open the .pdf files and look for the audio link at the top of Chapter 1.
Click on each one to sample them.
Listen to all 100 of our texts and you’ll spot some variation. Not every A1 is as easy or difficult as every other A1, for example.
But choose any three at three distinct levels, and it should be very clear that one is easier or harder than another.
And if your level is say B2, but you’re happier listening to A2?
Then you have some work to do, amico.
Dave’s other point was this:
May I also suggest that you charge a reasonable subscription fee for your ‘Easy Italian News’. I am hesitant to make a donation as I fear that you won’t receive sufficient donations and will drop this option; however I would gladly pay a reasonable fee for this excellent product.
Yes indeedy, charge a fee, why didn’t I think of that?
Oh I know!
It’s because nobody, in linea di massima, is willing to pay for something that they don’t (yet) appreciate the value of.
So the thinking is that I reinvest revenues from the sale of ebooks (above) and online lessons (it’s coming…) in creating something that anyone, anywhere can use for free.
And that people who appreciate it will put their hands in their pockets, so to speak, and help me out.
Making a loss over the first year or so is to be expected, but doesn’t make it not worth doing.
In fact, the opposite.
What would be the point of generating revenues, by flogging ebooks say, and then not doing anything with the cash?
Rolexes are vulgar, my wife says.
You’ll see I’ve listed the monthly totals, in each currency.
Brits are the most generous, it seems, while the ten million or so population of Australia sometimes out-donates three hundred million Americans (though several very sweet people in the U.S. sent $100 each…)
EasyItalianNews.com is costing the company that runs OnlineItalianClub.com between £500 and £1000 a month, which is fine for now.
2437 people have signed up (free!) to receive each edition via email (ten thousand of you haven’t, but I’ll keep on…)
If just 10% of those read and listen to each edition, then I think we’ll have had value for our investment.
Call me daft, but it’s more important to me to hear (or read) people saying that they find our material REALLY USEFUL and that their LISTENING IS IMPROVING than it is to have a swollen bank balance.
So, donate or don’t donate.
If the flow of money reduces to a trickle then I’ll take that as a sign that people don’t really value EasyItalianNews.com and act appropriately.
But I have every expectation that it will go the other way, and that our editor, writers and newsreader are safe in their jobs for a while yet.
Bene, I think that’s Dave covered.
Here’s the ‘recycled’ info. (same as in November) about this week’s Free Trial Lesson offer.
Too busy this week for a Free Trial Italian Lesson? No worries!
Geoff wrote overnight to ask me to bend the rules:
I’d really like to take you up on the offer of a free trial online Italian lesson with a view to doing some more afterwards if the trial lesson goes as well as I hope it will.
My problem is that I have a very busy couple of days coming up between now & Sunday.
And while ‘bending the rules’, or just out-right ignoring them, is very in vogue in Italy where I live – in this case it isn’t actually required.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to DO the free lesson this week, just book it. The offer ends on Sunday, so lessons booked after that will no longer be free. Book yours today, organise the lesson with the teacher for whenever is convenient.
I bet there are more of you thinking the same way as Geoff…
Many thanks to him, by the way, for alerting me that I hadn’t made things clear!
Oh my goodness! The offer ends on Sunday! But I couldn’t possibly fit in a free trial Italian lesson THIS week… Especially with the time zones and whatnot. Oh well… (resigned sigh)… I’ll just have to wait until the next free trial lesson offer in February and hope I’m less busy then.
So, just to be 100% clear – book the lesson this week (it takes about 10 seconds, details are below).
What happens next is that our teaching manager, Lucia, will contact you to ask you what your needs are and WHEN you’d like to take your lesson.
It certainly won’t be an issue for her if you need to put it off a week or two. She’ll keep a list of people who have ‘booked’ and match them up with online teachers as and when they are ready for that to happen.
Here are the ‘Free Trial Online Italian Lesson’ offer conditions:
- The offer is good from today, 11/02/19 to Sunday, 17/02/19
- But you don’t actually have to TAKE the lesson this week, just book it, while it’s FREE!
- We’ve got the capacity for around a hundred club members to do a trial lesson
- If demand exceeds that, we’ll organise the lessons in the order they are booked
- This offer is for NEW STUDENTS ONLY
- If you booked a free trial last time but didn’t take it – do try again!
- But if you’ve already done a free trial (Lucia has a list), this is not for you
- Once you’ve done your lesson, asssuming it was useful, Lucia will send you a 15% discount coupon, so you can continue learning online at a really great price!