• Foreign Language Experience

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    I come from a country, which is with high cultural values and great diversity. There are different languages spoken and different customs and traditions followed all over India. When I was in school, which was English medium school, we had Marathi and Hindi as our second language, Hindi was introduced from grade 3 and Marathi from grade 4, both these languages have almost similar script but there is a difference in the way we speak the language thus the difference in these two languages. It was easy for me to learn to read and write Hindi. It was very difficult for me to learn Marathi, my struggle worsened as my mother too was not able to help me as being from south of India she had never heard or spoke Marathi .It was compulsory in school to score same amount of marks in all the languages to in order to move to next grade. Therefore, I had a tutor who could teach me Marathi personally, my teacher would teach me at home .There is one thing that helped to learn the language faster and correctly and that was she asked me to listen to the Marathi news at national channel and try to use those words as much as I can to anyone who can speak Marathi .I tried that and tried my level best to talk first in broken words and then small sentences with my maid. My hold on the language grew better and better as days passed and this is all because of my thoughtful teacher.

    As parents and educators in today’s multi-cultural society, we realize that a foreign language component in the education of our children is essential. This type of instruction can directly influence children’s attitudes toward future learning opportunities and it can lead to a fuller understanding and appreciation of cultures of other than their own. Reasearch has shown that children who have studied foreign elementary school show greater cognitive development and tend to score higher standard studying.

    So in any foreign language experience course the teacher must be able or must see to it that the children are able to recognize and reproduce the sounds of the language, to respond to and offer greetings ,to recognize and be able to say numbers in different ranges according to level, to carry out directive statements from the teacher in the target language ,to learn orally identify vocabulary words from such topics as colours ,animals , food, family, community workers ,everyday objects. To sing songs, play games and engage in a wide variety of activities and the last but not the least to explore cultural similarities and differences via discussions of customs, traditions family unit, etc.

    A teacher to make a great experience for a student must consider the following things:

    Are all children involved in the program?

    Are parents and other members of the community?

    Are all the goals clearly stated, realistic?

    Do the children use the foreign language inside and outside of school?

    Is there a student foreign language performance assessment based on the goals?

    The teachers themselves must be fluent and trained for teaching foreign language to young students.

    Thus, a well-trained teacher and a positive approach provided to students by teachers will give an expanded view of the world to learn a foreign language.

  • Foreign Language Experience

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    I’m a functioning illiterate!

    I have such a nice smile, or so I’ve been told many times. Therefore it’s only natural that I end up in the land of smiles. It seems that to be able to smile, be humble, have a good heart, as well as being able to politely point out objects and not people can get you by in most any land. Granted there will be times when you will be taken advantage of, but that’s just a cost, a price one must pay in being a functioning illiterate.

    Having traveled to Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Senegal, France, Germany, Mexico, Singapore, as well as some small islands where English is not the primary language, I have a bit of experience in getting around. But it was during my six weeks in Japan (Tokyo), where I came to the realization that I’m truly a functioning illiterate. I don’t know the language. I can’t read any of the Japanese characters yet alone pronounce any of them, so by definition according to Japanese standards I’m illiterate. I did learn to say hello, good morning, good evening, and excuse me, and if I remember correctly I was able to count to ten. I have since forgotten how to count to ten in Japanese. (I highly recommend learning to count to ten in whatever language is required as one can always state a number regardless of the size by saying each one individually in lieu of writing it down or punching up on the calculator.) Further, by knowing a couple of words, it does show a little bit of an attempt to speak the language, which is all any native speaker really expects from a tourist/foreigner/farang just make an attempt.

    Therein lays the problem, making the attempt. I have had the misfortune if you will, of being around many English speakers in my travels. The problem with this has been I have not made the valiant effort of learning the local language. Sure, if one is put in an area where there is only one language spoken, eventually out of necessity said person will have learned to speak as well as communicate in said language. Wow, if only that were true for me. I am astounded at how many people want to speak English to me or just ignore me all together thus eliminating any need for communication. Granted, I’m not the most vocal/interactive person and tend to just observe my surroundings. Nonetheless, those I interact with feel compelled to speak English to me and are very happy to say and attempt as much or as little English that they know. The benefit has been I can pretty much understand what a person is trying to say in broken English better than native speakers. I don’t think it helps me to communicate to them, but I can certainly understand them even if they don’t understand me.

    One of the most frustrating things to observe is someone that doesn’t speak the local language getting frustrated at the person they are speaking to in English, because the local person doesn’t fully understand what they are saying (after all everyone should know English). Along with being frustrated with the local person for not understanding, they (the local person) are then thought of as being stupid or less intelligent because they don’t understand English. Now, seeing this in a market or out on the streets is one thing, but to see such arrogance in the classroom is quite another. It’s a bit appalling to listen to new want to be teachers saying how surprised they are that the students knew this or that, something so trivial they themselves would be thoroughly insulted if such a comment were directed at them. Not knowing a language doesn’t make you stupid, not being able to communicate or unwilling to communicate in any fashion… well that is up to you to decide. Understanding that if you are teaching English in a foreign country and if you are not fluent in the local language, who’s the illiterate one?

    I mention this as a friendly reminder. You are teaching English, another means of communication. The fact a person doesn’t know English is by no means a measure of ones intelligence or ability. One’s ability to transfer this knowledge on to others is a gift. And the ability to do so in a fun and exciting manner is even more so a gift. The best way to enjoy a gift is to share that gift. As a TEFL teacher/instructor it is our responsibility to package that gift to make it as appealing to all we come in contact with as best we can. All we can do is put it out there as best we can. Taking this course opens the door for allowing you to share your gift with as many people as possible. And if we put it out there in such a manner that most will enjoy, hopefully at some point in the near future, there will be fewer and fewer functioning illiterates roaming this world.

    Everyone is the same but different, never forget. People like to have fun, and if they just happen to learn something in the process, even better. So, even if you teach your students how to write that Pulitzer prize winning novel in English or teach them just how to say hello, all that really matters is that the student’s needs were met to his/her satisfaction. While one can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink, remember, even half an orange is just as sweet.

    Marc Young

  • Foreign Language Experience

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    What a person gains from learning a foreign language can be quite amazing. I’m only able to speak from my own experiences, which have been extremely positive in almost every aspect. I have studied Spanish at a number of American schools, as well as at schools in Costa Rica, Spain, and Mexico. I have also studied independently and continue to do so as time allows. I have found that foreign language study is so much more than learning to communicate in a new way; it is an opportunity to learn about others and open your heart and mind to different cultures.

    I took my first Spanish classes at a junior college(1) in 1996 only because it was a requirement to transfer to a university. To my surprise, the classes were very stimulating for me; I actually enjoyed studying grammar and I found the Latino culture fascinating. I had professors that were native speakers from Spain, Ecuador, and Puerto Rico, so I not only had the opportunity to learn from a variety of teaching styles, I also learned about a variety of cultures within the Spanish speaking population. This foreign language experience inspired me to pursue Spanish further, so I signed up for a study abroad program in Costa Rica.

    In 1998 I traveled to Costa Rica and stayed with a host family who didn’t speak English. This forced me to speak Spanish, although at times it was difficult and frustrating because the language was still new to me. I had to find creative ways to communicate which sometimes worked and sometimes didn’t. I attended classes at a local school(2), but they were not always well structured. In fact, my teacher stopped coming at one point so we had a substitute for the remainder of the course. The class was small (about five students) so we received a lot of individual attention, but overall I learned the most from my host family. They made me feel like part of their family immediately and I still communicate with them to this day.

    In 2001 I traveled to Spain, where I was exposed to a very different culture from that of Costa Rica, as well as an accent I was not familiar with. Again I stayed with a host family, but I never felt like part of the family as I did in Costa Rica. I didn’t have as much interaction with locals in Spain; the people were not as friendly and seemed to be less open to conversation. On the other hand, the classes I took at the University of Salamanca(3) were excellent. The professors were serious (but fun), very knowledgeable, and had high expectations for their students. The classes were more structured and broken down into sections of grammar, practical use of language, and culture. I thought my foreign language experience in Spain was very well-rounded, but it was certainly less personal than my experience in Costa Rica.

    More recently I traveled to Mexico to continue studying. This was a marvelous trip because I found the people to be hospitable, friendly, and fun. I again chose to stay with a host family rather than in a hotel or dorm in order to challenge myself and gain more practical use of the language. I took classes at a private language school in Guanajuato(4), where the teachers were extremely knowledgeable and helpful, and they would not allow English to be spoken in the higher level courses. I thought this was great because the classes were made up of students from all over the world and the only common language was Spanish. This particular program also offered optional cultural lessons about popular Mexican movies, literature, cooking, and dancing at no extra cost, which was a nice addition to the regular courses. I enjoyed the program in Mexico, and learning was fun because of the variety of themes and techniques that were used throughout the course.

    I continue studying Spanish on my own and I plan to study abroad again in the future. Each experience has opened my window to the world a little wider and I love the view! My foreign language experiences have not only been enjoyable, but enlightening. I would like to help guide others in having such positive experiences, which is my purpose for taking the TESOL certification course. I can only hope to do as good a job with my students as my teachers and professors have done with me.

    References:

    • Elementary Spanish- Tacoma Community College, Tacoma, Washington, USA. 1996-1997.
    • Mixed Level Spanish- Centro de Idioma, San Jose, Costa Rica. Summer 1998.
    • Intermediate Spanish- University of Salamanca, Spain. Summer 2001.
    • Advanced Spanish- Don Quijote Language School, Guanajuato, Mexico. December 1995.

    Kelly Jensen

  • Foreign Language Experience

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    As part of the TESOL course offered at TEFL International I received two Thai language lessons. Within the program the language lessons seem to have a double function, on which I will expand below. First I want to tell a bit about my own experience in learning and studying foreign languages.

    Since my childhood I have been exposed to a variety of languages. Being a national from a small country (The Netherlands) might have to do with this, as well as travels abroad with my family to most European countries during summer holidays. In school I studied Dutch, English, French, German, Latin and Greek, and in university my major was in Japanese. In the many language classes that I took various methods of teaching were used, some of which were distinctively more succesfull than others.

    The two classes of Thai language that are offered in the TESOL course were eye-opening in two different ways. The first strong point about the lessons was that it exposed the participants of the program to the Thai language. Not many students studied Thai before. Learning basic phrases such as sawasdee khap (“hello”), sabai dee mai khap (“how are you?”) and khun cheu arai khap (“what is your name”) is important in that it enables conversation with Thai people, how rudimentary it may remain. Many of the students plan to look for a job in Thailand and make a living here, so any Thai language that is thaught is a big welcome. Mastering Thai fluently will inevitably take a lot of effort and demand a huge investment of time and energy. The two classes of Thai language offered in the TESOL course are a good beginning to prepare students for what is waiting for them if they will continue studying Thai in a more intensive way.

    The second way in which the two classes of Thai language are important is perhaps even more eye-opening than the first. The methods that the teachers use to teach Thai is similar to the methods we are supposed to use in the TESOL course. In the Thai classes the engage-phase, study-phase and activate-phase were clearly recognizable. The teachers tried to elicit as many Thai words as possible from the students and thereby let us do the work.

    They stimulated us in putting effort in learning and understanding Thai right there and then and in actively participating in class. In that sense We were put in a similar position as the Thai students whom we want to teach English. The Thai language classes not only had the function of allowing us to learn basic Thai but also reversed the roles that we were in. By experiencing a role similar to the role that Thai students experience when studying English with the ESA method, we were thaught not only Thai, but also shown in what way we should be teaching Thai student English and what kind of teaching style works best.

    Finally, the Thai classes offered in the TESOL course are a little bit different from most grammar and phonology classes and in that sense a part of the program that is very much fun. They give the participants in the course the option to study some basic Thai phrases and allow for some conversation with Thai people. They show the participants in the course in which way a language that is completely unknown to most can succesfully be taught to students of this unknown language, in a similar way to which Thai students will be studying English. And most importantly, the atmosphere in the classes was good, and they are a very fun part of the course.

    This makes the Thai classes offered in the TESOL course an indispensable part of the program.


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