miércoles, 1 de mayo de 2013

On "I want to learn English asap!"

      I sometimes come across this individual: the middle aged adult who for several reasons wants to enroll on an English course and wants to acquire the language the fast way. They approach us as if we, teachers, were the guardians of the Holy Grail of language learning. They say: "I want to learn English, I don´t have time for homework, I need it because I realized that it is important during my last trip abroad. Oh, and I don´t want to write, after all I just want to be able to talk." Fine, I take the challenge. I start building from what they bring to class I find it fascinating when they start remembering vocabulary and structures. Eventually, they have the chance to try their knowledge out in their next trip and they come to class with renewed energy after being able to successfully interact in English.
     Nevertheless I found myself questioning my own teaching lately. I have this student who goes on a trip next month. Ok, let´s put her knowledge at work. I asked my good friends of Hello Little World Teachers Skypers if anyone would be available for a short chat with one of my students. The great David Karnoscak accepted the invitation and there was Monica in front of the computer screen face to face with a native speaker! Of course I did the arrangements without her knowing about the interview, because had I asked if she would like to do it, guess what? She would refuse and ask to do it later when she´s better prepared. When the time came, she would be too nervous to do it. The conversation started and David was friendly, chose the correct words and reformulated the sentences to make things easier for Monica to understand, I often translated.  Sometimes I remained silent. I wrote down all the sentences my student didn´t know how to say and all the vocabulary she couldn´t produce. I filled two pages. We thanked Mr David for the wonderful chat and then the class started. I gave my student the English version of all the things she wanted to ask or was unsure about. She was reassured by the fact that she understood most of what David said.
      However the most important achievement was in a level you can´t see. The renewed confidence. The magic of communication took place and I felt proud to have facilitated it. That´s after all why I became a teacher twenty years ago.

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