One of the dubious pleasures of running OnlineItalianClub.com and the company’s various other websites for language learners is that, when I wake of a morning, my first task is to deal with emails that have come in during the night.
Most of these are automated spam, which can just be deleted, though it takes a precious few minutes.
Then there are comments on articles and reviews of ebooks, which must each be manually moderated and approved, so as to prevent yet more automated spam.
I try to reply to comments, even briefly.
And I always write a short ‘Grazie!’ email to anyone leaving a review in one of our stores.
So few people bother to leave reviews (maybe about 1%) that it’s really appreciated when someone takes the time to help.
So far I’m really having a fun breakfast.
Any email that isn’t spam, a comment or a review, has been left until last – when the coffee has cleared my head a little.
These tend to be pleas for help: “The Soundcloud plugin doesn’t work on my iPhone!”, “Where are the free ebooks you promised me?” and so on.
A lot of our members are elderly, and so need and deserve support with new technologies.
And in any case, I invite people to write to me. Perhaps, secretly, I love it that my main free-time activity is customer service.
‘Please help’ emails answered, there are the occasional moans.
For example this morning’s:
Hello! Could you please tell me when my free lessons will be sent to me? I just recently signed up and haven’t received anything yet. (Although I have received a couple of ads.)
My own fault, I suppose.
The signup form on the club website does promise ‘three new Italian exercises each week’, and it has been a while since we had anything new (except ‘ads’).
That said, it does irritate me that people don’t bother to explore the club website before complaining.
It has about two thousand pages of free materials, exercises, listenings with transcripts, and so on.
No password or username is required, and it carries few third-party ads (none at all on the main part of the site.)
You can therefore use the material to study anonymously and for free. anytime you like.
If you can only motivate yourself to do so…
Which brings things back to me.
Three times a week (every day if we have a sale, like this week) my post-breakfast task is to write an article like this one, and publish it.
The topics vary, as you’ll have seen. It was fun writing about our Texas trip, for example, though it had little to do with Italian…
Doing the article, from start to finish, takes a couple of hours.
Sometimes I’m rewarded for my efforts with positive feeback, or emails from club members who have become friends.
Occasionally I manage to offend people, and so get a barrage of complaints. Americans are very sensitive to bad language, I discovered…
But mostly, just silence.
In a moment, back to the sale, but first, to answer the question in the title:
‘When will my free Italian lessons be sent to me?’
When I have something new, I’ll send it out (we’re currently between writers…)
But everything else I’ve published, since 2012, is here:
- Level test and six levels, beginner to advanced
- Alphabetical index of grammar topics, lessons and exercises (in case you want to find something)
- Lots of free listening exercises, with transcripts, organised alpabetically and by level
- Sixty situational dialogues, written and recorded for you by Italian native-speakers
- Verb conjugations
- Index of vocabulary topics, organised alphabetically and by level
Oh… So THAT’S where all the free exercises were hiding!
But perhaps you’re wondering how all this is paid for?
I do it as a hobby, but the writers and online teachers get paid cash money, and rightly so as they are professional Italian teachers who need to earn a living.
Which brings me to Duolingo, about which several of you have recently written to me, always extolling its virtues.
Someone (I forget who, but thanks) wrote in suggesting I check out their Swedish offerings, for my own studies in that language.
So I did, and damn good it is too.
I’m enjoying it immensely, and finding it very useful. Thanks so much for the tip, whoever you were.
I can’t comment on Duoloingo’s Italian course, but it’s likely to be even better than the Swedish course, given that Italian is a much ‘bigger’ language.
Duolingo doesn’t really need a recommendation from me, I’m sure, but for club members who haven’t taken a look, here’s the link: https://www.duolingo.com/.
Naturally though, given that they’re sort of a competitor, I was curious as to how they paid their hosting bills and staff.
Their site carries no ads, and it’s a free service, which is great!
But a Google search turned up news of a recent $40 million financing round.
And various stories about how they are desperately searching to ‘monetise’ their wonderful free content with ads and so on.
Clearly, even a giant like Duolingo has to hustle to pay the bills!
That said, as I’m liking their Swedish course so much, I’d be happy to pay for it.
Or just to pay for some extras, especially useful, fun extras.
But they don’t have that option, it seems.
People in their forums ask to donate, but there’s no ‘donate’ button….
It seems Duolingo has a ‘free fetish’.
Good for them I say!
But then I sigh in relief that it’s not an issue that we at OnlineItalianClub.com are afflicted by.
All the materials on the club site are offered for free.
They’re easy to find, open to everyone, and will stay free for as long as we can pay our hosting bills and I still have time to work on the site over breakfast.
But we also offer things that are NOT free, primarily online Italian lessons and ebooks.
Revenues from these two sources support everything else, as well as giving teachers and writers work (which young Italians desperately need!)
My job, apart from the fun customer service stuff, is to SELL those services.
Yes, I know. ‘Sell’ is a dirty word, but I’ve got used to it.
In part because there are bills to pay, but in part because it’s clear that many of you LIKE BUYING THINGS!
Which brings me to the point…
There are no Silicon Valley investors lining up outside club HQ, so this week, in the absence of a buy-out offer from Amazon or Google, we’re having our Autumn/Fall sale.
Pile ’em high, sell em cheap!
will get you 20% off ANYTHING in the club shop or our new store.
If you’re not taking individual Italian lessons online with one of our club teachers, well why not?
Duolingo won’t sell them to you, but I’ll try to:
Online Italian lessons (priced in Euros, which is the better deal)
And hey, surely you need something new to study?
Learning a language is hard enough work.
And if you couldn’t give yourself a little treat now and then, and with a clear conscience, that would be a shame, don’t you think?
Glad we agree on that.
Ebooks for learning Italian (priced in pounds, also the better deal.)
Find out more about the Autumn/Fall sale in Monday’s article, here.