Yesterday evening I taught my Tuesday night English class, level B1/B2, which means that the students are intermediate-ish and that, during the course of the academic year – assuming they stick with it and that I make appropriate choices for them – they’ll be transitioning towards upper-intermediate.
That process involves strengthening and practising what they already know, all the while ‘deepening’ (‘approfondire’ in Italian – a useful term!) their knowledge of the language. So more vocabulary, more complex grammar forms, and so on.
Basically, though, this year is all about exposure to the language, and practice. One two-hour class a week isn’t much, but most of them watch TV series in English, read in English, perhaps use English in their jobs, which helps a lot.
Also, everyone learns in their own way, everyone has different ‘vuoti’ (gaps), everyone is at a different stage in their personal learning journey.
For that reason, teaching an intermediate-level class is a much less precise business than teaching beginners, where no one knows anything, everyone needs to learn the same things, and in more or less the same, logical order.
So, between the beginners (A1, there are almost none in Italy any longer) and intermediate/upper-intermediate (B1/B2) we had an A2/B1 class of adults (Wednesday nights). These were students who needed much the same approach as described above, but whose basics were much more limited.
A2 students can get by, sort of, sometimes, with a bit of luck, and if interacting with a helpful and patient listener. Whereas by the year after, at B1, they’re standing on their own two feet. And the year after that, at B2, they’re pretty solid. You get the idea.
Anyway, the A2 Wednesday evening class had just three students until Christmas, which felt like a bit of a waste of my time, as well as making for the second very long day in a row.
But I’m a teacher, and these three women, being below the average level in English of an Italian school-leaver, really appeared to need my help.
Then, over the holidays, one of them dropped out, promising to ‘come back in the spring’.
Beh, I huffed, there’ll be nothing to come back to. I’m not catching the bus home at nine-thirty p.m. in freezing fog every Wednesday for just two people. I’m generous, but not stupid!
The other two were keen to continue, though.
Unfortunately, as in any class, one of them was stronger than the other. Significantly stronger, actually.
The dropout lady had fitted in neatly between them, so forming a coherent group. But without her, the ‘disaccordo’ was fairly stark (which means ‘strong’ in Swedish, did you know? Like the family in Game of Thrones!)
I had to apologise to the weaker student, and felt bad about it. But to the stronger woman, I suggested that maybe, if she was interested and willing to try, she could join us on Tuesdays in the B1/B2 group, just to see how she got on.
What happens if you join a class and everyone else is better than you??
Very much, it depends on your attitude.
And I’d sussed this women out as ambitious, capable and self-assured. She has an important job in the local authority and is approaching retirement age, so masses of life experience, too.
Still, it could go either way.
Some people will go ‘in tilt‘, as Italians say, referring to what a pinball machine does if you’re too violent with it (tilting it to move a stuck ball, for example.) You get an error message ’tilt’, lose your accumulated points, and perhaps your game credits. People can go in tilt, too!
Others will know immediately, or with a bit of encouragement and support, that they’ve been handed an opportunity to up their game, which will in turn speed up their progress, so better prepare them for future real life language use, which is what they’re buying.
Hopefully, that’s how last night’s trial student felt.
She got to know the others in the class (the only other woman joined us on Skype, having tested positive, and while running a temperature of 37.5 celsius), she did lots of speaking practice, in pairs with another student and as a class, and she had the chance to review grammar which I’d taught the other, lower, class but which is difficult for all Italians, so we were revising in the next group up. Which must have been reassuring.
Her new classmates were ‘better’ than her, obviously. How she reacted to that was partially in my control (bringing her into the group in the first place, making her feel at home, the choice of lesson content, who I paired her with, etc.) but mostly down to her own personality, her previous learning experience, and so on.
How would you have reacted, suddenly finding yourself in the next group up?
People are different, and of course, if you’re a beginner, being out of your depth is likely to be a hindrance rather than a help. But that gets less true the more you know.
Being the weakest one in a group, need not necessarily be a bad thing. While being the class star, satisfying as it might feel, is not necessarily a good thing.
In life there are no ‘levels’.
Don’t forget this week’s half-price ‘eBook of the Week’, Cena con delitto, the first of perhaps thirteen this year.
Join us in the questura (police station). A husband and wife have witnessed a murder in a restaurant. Can the police commissioner find out the truth?
You’ll have to read it (or listen to it, why not?) to find out!
This one is level A1/2, which means elementary/pre-intermediate, so extremely short and simple.
Check out the free sample chapter (.pdf) to see how short, and the total length of the text. There’s also a link to the online audio.
Until Sunday night, Cena con delitto costs just £3.99, rather than the usual easy reader ebook price of £7.99.
- .pdf e-book (+ audio available free online)
- .mobi (Kindle-compatible) and .epub (other ebook readers) available on request at no extra charge – just add a note to the order form or email us
- 8 chapters to read and listen to
- Comprehension questions to check your understanding
- Italian/English glossary of ‘difficult’ terms for the level
- Suitable for students at any level
- Download your Free Sample Chapter (.pdf)
Or select something more appropriate to your current level from our Catalog!
How do I access my ebook?
When your order is ‘completed’ (immediately after payment, normally), a download link will be automatically emailed to you. It’s valid for 7 days and 3 download attempts so please save a copy of the .pdf ebook in a safe place. Other versions of the ebook (.mobi/Kindle-compatible, .epub) cannot be downloaded but will be emailed to people who request them.
Tuesday’s bulletin of ‘easy’ Italian news was published yesterday (it being Tuesday…)
Did you get a chance to read/listen to it? It’s free!
The final item in the bulletin was an appeal for donations, to help meet the costs of publishing this material, three times each week, all year round.
The response was very pleasing!
As do I.
I’d point out two things –
1.) If you listen to each 8-minute bulletin three times, and listen to the three bulletins each week, you’ll be getting upwards of fifty hours of Italian listening practice, with text support (so reading, too), each year. Your comprehension skills CANNOT HELP BUT IMPROVE.
2.) The purpose of the material, though, is to transition you to ‘real’, that is to say ‘authentic’ listening. TV or radio news bulletins, for instance. Use our ‘easy’ bulletins as training wheels, but as soon as you’re able to stay upright, move on to the real thing! You’ll still be learning – you’ll always be learning, as long as you keep engaging with the language – but you’ll be out there in the real world, doing it autonomously.
I started EasyItalianNews.com inspired by a similar site for migrants to Sweden, which I presume was funded by the Swedish state in the period following the crisis/opportunity there in 2015.
Hey, this is useful, I thought. I read and listened to it every day, for perhaps a year. And it soon occurred to me that we could do the same thing for Italian, and make it available to anyone who wants to profit from it, as the Swedes did with theirs.
So that’s the story.
N.b. At the bottom of that page you’ll find step-by-step instructions, with pictures!
Or subscribe (it’s free), benefit from the extra listening and reading practice, and perhaps donate in future, if/when you realise how much it’s helped you.