As always in a RnR English article, all the ‘difficult’ words in this article art underlined, you can click on them to see an explanation of the word – like this.
There is also the Rock n’ Roll Grammar part at the end of the article.
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In today’s interview, I speak to Luigi Colantonio (the gentleman in the middle of the picture), a retired teacher from Naples that lives in Palermo, about why he is learning English.
Luigi’s son has lived in London for many years, so he is keen to keep improving his English. A few years ago, he used the site www.conversationexchange.com to contact an English gentleman called Ernest (last on the right in the picture) to start a language exchange and they became friends.
In this interview, Luigi tells us about how he maintains his English level, his relationship with Ernest and gives some really good advice about how to improve your English – HAPPY READING!
Hi Luigi! Thanks for taking the time to talk to me. The first question is the standard first questions from an English teacher:
Why do you want to improve your English?
English is the only language useful everywhere in the world, so some knowledge of spoken English is the first thing to bring with you on your trip! Also I have a special reason as my son lives in London and I go there frequently.
Yes it is certainly useful to put in your suitcase! 😉 I know that you use the website conversation exchange, a very useful website to improve English and it’s FREE! Where did you hear about the site?
I was looking for conversation partner so I Googled it and I found many sites, but Conversation Exchange was the best for me (you can read a detailed review of the website HERE).
Well done! Many people still don’t know about the site, it shows that ‘Dr. Google’ has the answers for everything if you look for them! 🙂
Did you find the site easy to use?
Yes – very, very easy.
Great! That shows that there is no excuse for not trying the site! I know that you met an English gentleman called Ernest on the site and went to see him in England. Tell us something about your relationship with Ernest and your trip to the UK to meet him.
We have been friends for about 8 years now. Initially we were just in contact via email and Skype, but then we went to meet Ernest and his wife Joan in 2012. We were at my son’s home in London and decided to go all together to Derby (where Ernest lives) after a call to Ernest. He was happy to hear about trip and gave us some suggestions about the hotel. In the photo there is my wife Maria, Ernest’s wife Joan and of course Ernest and me. I gave Ernest a typical Italian present: a small Bialetti coffee-maker and Neapolitan coffee.
After some years he told me that he had never used the Bialetti and that he uses it as an ornament! I decided to go to meet Ernest because he is a good and interesting person and I was keen to meet him in person after we speaking so much online.
Why did you decide to contact to Ernest? What was it that you liked about his profile?
I do not remember which one of us wrote the first message, but I liked his age as this site are crowded by young people and it is hard to find elder people like us.
Well done! When I advise my student’s to use the site, I always tell them to look for people with similar interests and similar age, as it is obviously more probable that you’ll get on well.
Was Earnest the first person you contacted on the site?
No I had contacted two other people before Ernest, one from San Diego and the other from England. I only exchanged a few emails with the woman from San Diego, as I didn’t have a fast internet connection back then so I couldn’t use Skype – it was the same for the English lady. In both situation, we wrote about impersonal stuff so it wasn’t long lasting contact.
I have met various people on the site too, there will always be people that you don’t have a ‘feeling’ with, but it’s important not to get discouraged and continue looking until you find the right person – exactly what you did with Ernest!
Do you think your relationship with Ernest has helped you to improve your English?
Yes but only during the first period. Afterwards I was much more interested in writing and speaking to Ernest and the learning of language wasn’t no more important anymore because the relationship was now a friendship.
That’s great to hear that the friendship is more important – that’s the real reason we learn new languages! Also, even if you didn’t speak to Ernest just to improve your English, you were practising by speaking with him which is really important to maintain your level and improve!
Would you recommend the site to young people that want to learn / improve English, or people that want to move to the UK?
If the site was so useful for elder people like me and Ernest, it would be even more useful for young people. They have the chance to meet people directly from English speaking countries. I think it could be useful also for Italians already living in the UK, as Italians often hang out only with other Italians and this is not a good thing if you live abroad.
Yes, I agree! It’s also not very easy to meet local people, I have had the same difficulty here in Italy. I work in an English environment, so my colleagues are all English, so it can be difficult to meet local people. This is why conversation exchange is so useful, as it gives you the chance to make friends with people that come from the city.
As your son lives in London, you are familiar with the situation of young Italians moving to the UK. What advice would you give to young people that are planning on moving?
The main problem in London is finding a place to live in. Housing rent is very, very expensive and sharing the house with other people is normal in London, but this is not a sustainable way of life as everyone wants to live alone at some point. I think that in other cities would be cheaper.
I completely agree again! When my students ask me where the best place to live in London is, I normally tell them that the best place is outside of London. In fact, in my next article, I interview a young engineer who decided to move to Newcastle instead of London!
So apart from using conversation exchange and your conversations with Ernest, what other things do you do to maintain your English level?
Usually I like to see English movies with English subtitles but, sometimes, it’s hard to find a plain language, but it is written in perfect English.
Although now we have the podcasts from Rock n’ Roll English, an amusing and effective tool for English listening practice!
Haha.. thanks! I will pay you later for saying that! 😉
In case you don’t know, Luigi is talking about my podcast Rock n’ Roll English which you can listen to HERE.
Films can be useful, but I often advise my students against watching them, because as you say, it is difficult to find films in plain language. They are also very long, so it can be difficult to concentrate for so long. I normally advise students to watch TV series without subtitles, as the episodes are only about 30 minutes and with no subtitles really helps with the listening, but as you mention, obviously the Rock n’ Roll English podcast is the best solution! 😉
Finally, because you leave us, what advice would you give to young people learning English?
Practise as much as possible. When I stay in London I try to speak with people everywhere. I ask information about streets, buses, in the supermarket I pretend to look for some food and usually people like to be helpful even with suggestions about recipes. The best supermarkets for this strategy are the expensive chains like Sainsbury’s that have well-spoken customers. I like to read English books. The last one I read was called ‘Call the Midwife’, a tearful story of people living in the Docklands of East London in the 1950s.
Also, you must have a reason to maintain your English level – an English speaking friend is the best reason there is.
Great advice! I especially like your strategy of going to the expensive supermarkets – very clever! 😉 Reading is also a great way, as it helps you to remember the correct grammar forms automatically without studying all the boring rules.
Also great advice regarding the motivation to maintain and improve your English, scientific studies say that motivation is the most important factor in learning a language.
Anyway, thank you very much for your time Luigi. Good luck for the future and say hi to Ernest for us!
When I asked Luigi if Ernest was the first person he contacted on the site, he said:
“No, I had contacted 2 other people before Ernest”.
This is great use of the Past Perfect, which we use to speak about 2 actions in the past, but the action that comes BEFORE the other action is used in the past perfect and has ‘had’ before it.
In this example, only one other action is mentioned (contacting 2 people) but the other action (contacting Ernest) is understood from the context.
You will often find the words BEFORE or AFTER in Past Perfect sentences, as they help to connect the 2 sentences.
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