In your diverse classrooms, what is one thing all of your students have in common? They are all trying to learn a language. If you are like me, you often start your course with asking your students why they want to learn English and usually they all answer something along the lines of "I want to communicate with people all over the world." or "I want to travel/get a better job/study abroad..." These answers are true but they don't really explain exactly what is motivating your students, how they feel about learning a language and what might be holding them back.
In my experience, learning a language is a lot more personal than learning other things. Learning anything changes our brains and how we understand the world but learning a language can change the way we see ourselves in the world, the way people interact and perceive us, and it can even alter our identities. It is often a political act in that languages are connected to cultures and even governments and what we learn can signal what side of a political debate we stand on and what side we shun. No wonder so many people have strong feelings about learning a language.
In order to teach a language effectively, it is important to explore the things that motivate students to learn as well as those things that we may feel trepidatious about. One way to do this is to explore the stories of other people who have gone before us and learned languages. Hearing about their experiences, challenges, strategies, misgivings, and thoughts can be inspiring. It can also help students to understand their own feelings better. They can find similarities and differences between how they are learning and feeling and how other people have felt.
Where to Find Stories of Language Learning
1. How I Learned English edited by Tom Miller
I was delighted to find this book on the shelves of my favorite used book store in Flagstaff, Arizona. It is a collection of 55 short essays by Latino language learners. Many of the contributors are famous authors, television personalities and musicians. Their stories touch on a wide range of topics that might be interesting to explore in your classes:
2. Love is in the Air
In this post I wrote about my own journey learning Spanish as well as other people's experiences learning Spanish and English. Each story is told as if the person is having a relationship with the language they are studying.
3. Videos about learning a langauge
4. Some Interesting TED talks about the Political/Cultural ramifications of language learning
How to Use these Resources in your Class
Hi, I'm Kia.
Teaching is my passion, I have been teaching for over 20 years in 4 different continents. One of the things I have learned over the years is that I am never done learning about teaching. Both teaching and learning should be fun and inspiring.
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