Teach English in Anren Zhen - Chengdu Shi

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I began learning the Japanese language when I was in middle school, around age twelve. Many of my peers thought it strange to decide to choose to learn a foreign language as a hobby; most of my peers at that age were interested in typical pre-teen things: going to the mall, visiting friends, going to local football and basketball games. Looking back, I think my choice to learn Japanese was not motivated by boredom, but, rather, by exposure. The same can be said of my interest to teach English as a foreign language. My hometown is stereotypical for the state I live in: the population is small, as well as the diversity of people and customs. There is apple pie, Independence Day celebrations, and a sense of Mid-Western hospitality and ideology. That being the case, one could say it is rare to learn of foreign residents in the area, let alone learn that they are learning how to speak English from someone in the community. Even more of a surprise is learning that my hometown is a part of the Sister Cities program, and has not one, but two sister cities, one being Tamura City in the Touhouku region of Japan. My exposure to the world of ESL and taking on the personal task of learning a foreign language is credited to Mary Maglott, my childhood best friend’s grandmother. Mrs. Maglott teaches ESL to a wide array of students, most of them being East Asian. On most afternoons after school, I could be found at my Mrs. Maglott’s house, playing with my friend and his brother, our curiosities peaking every so often as we watched students arrive for their daily or weekly English lesson. At the time, most of Mrs. Maglott’s students were Japanese women, who came to the U.S. with their families for short periods of time; maybe five years, at most. Usually, their husbands took assignments that required them to travel abroad, working with local companies that were subsidies of or contracted by a parent company in Japan. Such was the case for these women. As we grew up, my friend and I spent time with many of the Japanese students and their families, hosting ESL parties in which socialization in English was, if not required, necessary. Realizing that it was difficult at times for many of these students to properly or effectively convey their thoughts in English, my friend and I took it upon ourselves to being learning Japanese. Making an attempt to speak to someone in their native language, I found, creates a sense of comfort and builds communal relationships between all parties involved; it also encourages language learners to continue studying and improving their language skills. Also, being able to bridge gaps in communication using two languages helps to reinforce language skills learned, as well as present new skills, vocabulary, and grammar. My friend and I continued to study and practice Japanese through high school and into college. At times, we only had each other to practice Japanese with, which is helpful, but does not provide the same experience as practicing with native speakers. Mrs. Maglott hosted students from Tamura City High School via Sister Cities several times while I was in high school, which gave my friend and I a chance to practice the Japanese we learned, hone our skills, and acquire new skills and lexical items. We also had a chance to interact with foreign exchange students from Taiwan and South Korea during high school, picking up a few vocabulary items in Mandarin Chinese and Korean, as well as conversing with these students in English, building their confidence using and learning the language. I entered the International Studies program at Otterbein University, later transferring to The Ohio State University to study Japanese and East Asian history. Being a student at The Ohio State University was an international gold mine: the school hosts one of the largest international student populations, a majority of the students being from East Asia or India. The opportunity to practice Japanese with actual native speakers, as well as others learning the language, was crucial in my language development. Having never been in a formal language class, other than when I took three years of French in high school, I was amazed and curious about how each language professor taught their classes and what methods they favored. While a majority of the professors are native Japanese speakers, there are an equal number of non-native speakers in Teaching Assistant positions, taking graduate courses in teaching Japanese. I also discovered that learning a foreign language can provide an array of experience and job opportunities outside of teaching. Having studied foreign languages both formally and informally, I learned a great deal about not only how to speak a language, but how to study a language effectively and put into practice effectively. I quickly learned and ascribed to the “use-it-or-lose-it” ideology, finding ways to consistently keep in contact with the language I am studying. Being exposed to colloquial language taught me a great deal about social interactions and the type of language appropriate for a given interaction. Colloquial language also caused me to think more about how I use my own language, thinking about differences in translation based upon usage and culture, and the fact that language can not be exactly translated word for word from one to the other; thus, spurring thoughts on the term, “interpretation,” and its application to language. Learning a foreign language opened a literal world of possibilities and experiences that I may have never otherwise considered. Through foreign language study, I have gained invaluable interpersonal skills, cultivated cultural sensitivity towards others, and a patience and willingness to listen to and understand non-native English speakers (I actually work in a hotel that consistently hosts foreign guests and employs associates who’s first language is not English). Studying a foreign language also caused me to think about how language is taught, learned, and what kind of activities work and do not work for language retention; understanding motivation, my own and that of others, to learn a foreign language also aids in understanding how the learning process will be for a language student, and highlights possible strengths and weaknesses in overall learning. Language has molded and shaped the person that I am today and the kind of person I aspire to be in the future.