France the French way


Learning a Language by Skype

Posted: 2018-04-11

“Could I please have the menu.” I asked

“Ya prosto poydu za toboy.” replied the waiter in the restaurant.

“I’d like to order this dish here please”

“No vam eto ne ponravitsya, yego morozhenoye” he replied.

I think we’ve all been in the situation where we are in a foreign country and we struggle to communicate with the locals. If you’re in a restaurant you actually never really know what you’re going to end up with up.

Point and hope! That’s the way many tourists order their meal!

I have been fortunate that over the years my ability at speaking French has helped in many countries. Portugal was a surprise for me finding that the older Portugese often speak French, and of course in Morocco it’s one of two languages that are in everyday use.

John by Lake Como. John sulla riva del lago di Como.

John by Lake Como. John sulla riva del lago di Como.

I have regularly taken tour groups especially through France and Italy. On my 2017 Northern Italy tour I was staying at a beautiful hotel just out of Lucca, where I have stayed many times. This hotel has a charming young manager who speaks perfect English. I mentioned to him that we only ever speak English and how rude that I never attempted some Italian with him. I mentioned to him that in June 2018 when I return to his hotel with a group, that we will only speak Italian!

So I returned back home to New Zealand and wondered how I would learn the language in a relatively short space of time! I thought the best for me would be to have one-on-one tuition. So I started to google!

The best thing about my search for a language teacher was that I stumbled on a company called Verbalplanet. It became apparent from this site that I could choose a private tutor in any language in the world I desired. I had an unlimited choice. So I searched for an Italian teacher.

Andrea teaching me from Rome. Lui mi insegna da Roma.

Andrea teaching me from Rome. Lui mi insegna da Roma.

I made my choice of a 32 year old young man living in Rome, and before I knew it I was logged on and had my lessons booked and paid for via PayPal. Since November I have been meeting my teacher Andrea twice a week on Skype at 8pm my time – 8am his time.

I’ve been at language classes before. Once I learnt Japanese and then French. Always, I was in a class with many people with a teacher standing at the front of the classroom. Now as I call my teacher on Skype I just have him to myself – teacher and student. There is no hiding, no dozing in the back row of the classroom. If you haven’t done your homework it’s rather obvious. If you mis-pronounce a word he sorts it out. If you are “in pain” trying to remember a word he gently helps you and re-directs the sentences without interfering.

Learning on Skype is so easy!

Learning on Skype is so easy!

To begin with I found it difficult as I didn’t know any Italian. I love speaking and telling stories, so found it very difficult not being able to express myself to him. But over the months that have followed I have enjoyed spending time with my teacher talking about everything and anything, whilst learning at the same time. He shares his mother’s favourite recipes, and talks about how to make an Amatriciana pasta, or I explain everything about the game of cricket! We’ve talked about the lives of famous personalities like Napoleon Bonaparte and Vincent Van Gogh, the differences in our societies, and of his family gatherings and long lunches. We just talk. I just learn.

Now after four months I realise that I can talk in Italian, in a fashion! It doesn’t seem like I’m learning, as it’s just good fun, and I’m lucky to have such a charming young man helping me develop my language skills. I’ve still got a long way to go to master this language, but I couldn’t think of a more pleasant way to learn. Speaking to my teacher in Rome transports me to that city, so it is always a highlight to head to Italy twice a week!

So now I know that when I return to the lovely hotel in Lucca we only need to speak Italian – and that pleases me lots.

Remember there are many ways to learn a language, but for me, this is the best way without actually being there. Give it a try!