Cafetalk Featured Tutor Interview

Arturo

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Arturo Tutor Interview

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Q. Hi Arturo! Would you kindly give a brief self-introduction to the Cafetalk community?

A. Hi everyone!
My name is Arturo and I am an Italian language enthusiast, linguist and language teacher.
Languages are my passion, my job and my hobby!

Q. Tell us a bit about where you’re from! You were born and raised in Italy. Can you tell us a bit about your hometown?

A. I come from a wonderful place located in Calabria, Southern Italy. Take a look at these pictures. Here we have sea, mountains, hot weather and delicious food! What else do you need? ;-)

Author : Eugenio Magurno, Diamante, Italy
Author : PhotoLab XL(https://www.flickr.com/photos/photolabxl/)
Author : Antonino Zampaglione, Diamante (CS), Italy

Actually, I've come back here to my hometown after spending quite a long time moving around Italy and abroad. Let me name a few places, among others: I took my degree in Venice, studied as an exchange student in Paris and had a wonderful time in Tokyo right after my graduation. I also worked as a flight attendant for a short time. This all gave me the opportunity to get in touch with many different languages and cultures from all around the world.

Q. You are also fluent in Japanese! Can you tell us when and how you started studying Japanese?

A. Well, I was still in grade school when – by pure chance – I found a piece of paper which had some kanji written on it. That discovery really blew my mind. I decided that I would learn how to read and write those strange characters. I was very determined but I was just a kid and there was no Internet back then, so I had no choice but to create my own kanji-like characters from scratch :D

A couple of years later, I managed to get hold of a grammar book, a dictionary and a textbook of Japanese and I started teaching myself the language when I was still in junior high.
I didn't really learn how to speak Japanese back then, but I got to know what it sounded and looked like. Then, the time came to decide what to study at university and Japanese was the natural choice.

It must be noted that I never really stopped studying the language by myself, even while I was following the Japanese course at university.

Q. You also speak a bunch of other languages! It’s truly amazing! What’s your personal trick to retaining so many languages in your repertoire?

A. Even though it might sound a cliché, my personal trick to language learning is passion!

Before being a language learner and a language teacher, I consider myself a linguist, that is to say, someone that studies the mechanisms, the sounds, the vocabulary and the history of languages.
I am really passionate about linguistics! It's both my hobby and my job at the same time!

For those of you who want a more in-depth answer, I can suggest you this interesting trick.
Try to avoid thinking of languages as a set of rules that must be learnt and applied.
Instead, try to see language learning as a treasure hunt, which takes place simultaneously on three layers:

  1. the sound level: enjoy discovering what sounds and melodies are used in the language you are learning, and how they are different from those you use in your mother tongue
  2. the meaning level: discover how the language you are learning can use words to express concepts that don't exist in your first language, and vice versa
  3. the bigger picture level (usually referred to as “grammar”, a word I prefer to avoid using): each language has its own unique way of combining sounds and words together and it's up to you to discover it!

To sum up: don't wait to be taught, discover it yourself instead!

Q. When you are not teaching on Cafetalk, what are you usually up to? Do you have any special hobbies or interests?

A. I am a bass player in a cover band: the Hard Beards! We play rock and metal to release stress and refuel our energy!

Q. A lot of students are probably curious about the atmosphere in your lessons. What can a student imagine a lesson with you to be like? What’s your “lesson style”? And You seem to be a very experienced and passionate teacher. Do you use any special teaching methods or materials in your classes?

A. I did a lot of research into how languages are acquired. It turns up that most times students find it difficult to learn a language (at school or through self-study) because the method being used aims at teaching facts about the language instead of teaching the language itself.
Just think about it: in most traditional classes, you are usually required to learn by heart conjugation tables, grammar rules, exceptions to the rules, word lists and so on... On the other hand, you never seem to use the language to communicate with your teacher, with your classmates or with some native speakers of the language.
To use a metaphor, it's like expecting to learn how to dance by means of learning the theory of how you should move your body to follow the rhythm, without actually trying to dance even once. It sounds impossible, right?

This is why in my classes I use a combination of two special methods called TPR (Total Physical Response) and TPRS (Teaching Proficiency through Reading and Storytelling).
Both methods aim at the same thing: the teacher and the student actively use the target language, either to narrate some funny short story and talk about it (with TPRS) or to command and perform some physical action (with TPR). The target language is thus acquired by the students as a byproduct of them interacting with their teacher.

TPRS is best illustrated by this video, where you can see an American classroom being introduced to Russian for the first time. The pupils don't look bored, scared or overwhelmed!
The atmosphere you can breathe during my lessons is likewise relaxed and enjoyable! You are not required to find any “right answer” as in most language classes in traditional schools. To say the truth, you are even allowed to reply back in Japanese if you are short of words in Italian.

The amazing thing is that you will find yourself understanding what I tell you and replying back to me in Italian, without you even noticing how that happened!

Q. Many students may be studying Italian from scratch. Being an incredible polyglot yourself, do you have some encouraging words for students afraid of learning a language from scratch at an adult age?

A. Of course I do! Don't buy into the idea that we lose the ability of learning new languages when we grow up. Luckily, this theory is no longer held true by most prominent linguists.

Let me put it the simply: children get better results than adults at learning languages simply because they get much more exposure to authentic language. Children are talked to in the native tongue of their parents all day long. On top of that, they are not taught rules or complicated stuff: they hear sentences that have a meaning related to scenario where they are uttered. As a result, children manage to figure out even the most subtle nuances of language only by looking at what happens around them.

We, as adults, can replicate the same results if we use the right techniques. This is where TPR and TPRS come into play: in my lessons I let you use Italian from Day 1, without any formal training. I can guarantee you will be shocked by the results.

Moreover, most concepts that I will teach you can be used for self-studying any language of your choice.

Q. Can you tell us more about these techniques you use?

A. Sure! Please take a look at my blog, kallama.jp( https://kallama.jp )
Here you can found some really interesting pills about Italian and many languages from all around the world, as well as more information about TPR, TPRS and language acquisition in general.

Q. Are any of your lessons especially popular? Do you recommend any of your lessons in particular?

A. To resume what I stated above, the key to language learning is exposure.
Therefore, I created an intensive course of daily lessons for Japanese nationals who need to learn Italian efficiently and in a relatively short time. After a few months, you will reach results that you never dreamed possible.
Please feel free to book your free orientation lesson!

Q. Finally, would you like to leave a message for your current and future students?

A. In spite of the fact that learning a new language has always been considered a difficult task in Japan, I can assure you that it's much simpler than you've ever thought!

Enjoy the process, use the right method and have fun: languages are a treasure to discover!

///

Arturo


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