Sunday, November 19, 2006

We're teaching, but are you learning?

I'm always asking questions without really providing any answers, and here's yet another one: a child's acquistion of language is not rapid - he or she spends 18 months only listening, then another couple of years mastering the sounds required, then another 6 to 8 years building a respectable vocabulary. Wouldn't it better for any adult wishing to learn a new language to do the same, rather than joining a language class straight away? Why not set a goal to learn 10 words a day for a year, listen to the radio every day for one hour or more, and start reading children's books in your chosen language? When you eventually did start your lessons, you would already have a "feel" for the language, your ears would be tuned in, and your success more assured, even if you are unlucky enough to get a crap teacher like me!

Personally, I don't really like being treated like a walking dictionary. What job satisfaction do I get from telling people how to say a word in English? If my learners already had a reasonable vocabulary, I could then help them to get their structure right. My own language learning experience backs this up, although we all learn differently. I hated going to class, and hated even more doing grammar exercises from the book I had bought. But I liked watching TV, and I liked reading my daughter's books, and I liked chatting to people I met. And you know what? The biggest compliment I know is when people say to me: "if I could speak English as well you speak French, I would be really happy". I must be doing something right, then...

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