Feb 29, 2008


I bumped into an old acquaintance in Verona the other day and we started talking about English - suprise, surprise.
It turns out that she's now a journalist and she was telling me that some of her colleagues are in a real state because they are due to go to China to cover the Olympic Games and they can't speak English! How will they cope?
Since Italy was never even a candidate for the 2008 Olympics, the fact that a foreign language would be useful should come as no big surprise but nonetheless, less than four months before the event, here they are fretting and possible making plans for a 'crash course'. Of course, even if they do get round to doing a course they will never learn as much as they want, and dissatisfied with their meagre results, will give up rather than carry on only to re-live the same scene in four years' time: when the Olympics are being held in London.
I know the British are not exactly champions of language learning, so I'm aware this could sound like it's coming from the wrong pulpit, but why do so many people still seem to regard learning a language (primarily we're talking about English here) as an optional extra rather than the essential business?
Some (not few) intelligent adults seem appalled by the idea that learning English up to a decent level will take them years of part-time study. They need it in weeks!! And this despite the fact that as school-kids they learnt next to nothing in eight or ten years of English study.
Maybe it's because they see learning as drudgery and schools as unreliable.
They do have apoint there - and that is what we at SyM really set out to disprove.

Can learning be fun? Yes, but remember that it won't be sheer pleasure every single minute.
Can learning be effective? Yes, learning and improvement will surely come as a result of commitment.
Can learning be fast? Yes - but not as fast as lot of unrealistically hope for. Is seventy or a hundred hours a lot to reach a level that will get you by in most 'travel' contexts and be able to get to know people a bit? I certainly don't think so.
Can a school be fair and professional? Yes - and I modestly (or proudly) place ours among the many that are (it's a serious shame the market gets such a bad name as a result of unprofessional or unscrupulous operators).
Iain McInally 1 March 2008

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