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This is how our TEFL graduates feel they have gained from their course, and how they plan to put into action what they learned:
Learning a language is learning a language. As a child, we hear and listen and listen again before we dare utter our first word. We first babble and hope we are going to be understood, making sounds which only Mom can guess the meaning of because she sees the crying need more than understands a linguistic expression. Some few years later, the baby can teach english. I went through this process, except that it was with french. Now I say it in english. I had to go through a new process that is in realty the same process: learning a language. My first words of english weren't related to any emotional need or fear of being abandoned for two eternal seconds... I did choose my first words. I chose the language. I chose the reason why I learned it. When you decide to learn a second language, you have a feeling for it, you can tell if you like it or not: the sound of it, its musicality, its rhythm, the formation of its words, the construction of its
sentences... I like every aspect of english, I just can't help it! A child definitely works hard to learn its mother tongue, we can tell by looking at its expressions of great frustration when trying to say a word, but the difference is that when learning a second language, we go through the process of learning a language, but knowingly. We repeat the process, but consciously. We have tools. When I teach english, I teach something that I learned the same way as the person who teaches mathematics or physics. I cannot imagine an infant learn physics in its first faltering attempts at speech and teach it some years later. S/he will become an adult, study at university and become a specialist. Even though every person who studies at university goes more or less through the same training, every qualified student who becomes a teacher has a unique approach of the matter s/he has studied. The needs of knowledge of physics increase with time, so does english's. Languages are
alive. One generation can be enough to create a turning point. Any subject that is taught must regularly be updated. A teacher of any language, whether s/he is native or not, must be aware of the language evolution. As a non native english speaker, when I teach some vocabulary or some grammar rules, I normally can remember having learnt them, may be because I had a hard time to learn them, may be because they were fun, whatever particular situation makes it alive when I teach it. I was a teenager and I didn't speak very good english at the time, so I moved to an english speaking part of canada where I lived and studied for a few years. I once was taking a walk with an english speaking friend who was into helping me learn his language. He simply asked me if I smoked. I said yes, and added: "Tomorrow,
I will stop to smoke". He stopped, looked at me, and said: "What you said means: you walk, you stop, you pick a cigarette out of your pack, you light it up, and you smoke it! You must say : I will stop smoking" with a smile that I still can recall even after so many years. And he explained me the grammar rule. This is only one example. I just want to insist on the fact that there is no reason not to enjoy teaching english as much as I enjoyed learning it. I am not trying to say I know the english grammar better than a native, I am just saying that I can explain it fervently, even more than my own language's. I can feel the learners' needs and problems in english better than in french. Now, I have to talk about the weaknesses of a non native teacher. To be specific, let's take my case. I know I have to be much more aware of the way I speak, precisely because I am a non-native; I can
make some slight mistakes as english does not come naturally. I work as a translator and I can tell the most difficult category of words to translate as well from english to french as from french to english is prepositions. They are very subtle and can be problematic. I prefer to bear it in mind. Another point I would have to be aware of is the accent. Being a canadian, the english language has never been totally foreign to me. Yes, I have an accent, but it is not comparable to any french speaking person outside of canada. Anyway,
I see a problem so I see a solution. Of course, I will speak a lot, but I will let the students listen to other english accents from videos or tapes. I would like to say that, for me, an accent is like adding a spice to a dish, nothing to make the taste unmistakable. Problems of pronunciation have nothing to do with having an accent. Not less than syntax problems. It is a whole. A language is constituted with several structures from the smallest which is the sound to the largest which is the sense. There is no reason for any of them to be neglected. Voilà!
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