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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:
Motivations for learning a foreign language vary. I myself wanted to understand spanish song lyrics which my brother had left behind when joining the army. I would strum his guitar, wondering what the song “La Cucaracha” meant. Life took a curve; I studied french. Two and a half years later, still unable to translate spanish sheet music, french remained a challenge. Conversational practice was nil; emotional reward was absent. french came in handy only years later, while making friends on trains in italy, greece, and Germany, for talking of weather, food, music. Music was another “language” which made life easier. I could hum Frank Sinatra songs like “Strangers in the Night”
and people would smile and we'd each sing in our own language. Music is great that way, not a foreign language at all. Next came Norwegian, to learn of family origins and Nordic roots. Motivations included speaking to Grandmother, who had sailed to the U.S. half a century earlier. During those five decades the language underwent change; the Norwegian I spoke had a different amount of Danish influences compared to her kind of Norwegian. In those short years, the language had evolved, and I'm not sure that she was pleased. Nevertheless, there have been rewards and successes related my efforts. This marks the forty-seventh year of corresponding with a relative in Norway, whose grandmother and mine were cousins. Perhaps one day we will meet. Following Father's death, I took on the responsibility of yearly letters to his Norwegian cousins, something akin to an unpaid correspondence job, writing about trees and snow and politics and younger generations. All these letters are like little paper boats sailing back to the fjords, the steep mountains, the apple trees and goats which Grandmother left a hundred years ago. Next in the sequence came a couple semesters of greek. The vocabulary
was exceptionally enjoyable; the word endings were varied and difficult. Class atmosphere was quiet, stern, test driven, and involved much memorization. I found more joy in experiencing greek vicariously, through a friend who wrote word origins for dictionary entries. What a thrill it is to learn the intricacies of word origins. Finally, there was a class called italian for Travelers, learning courtesy phrases for making friends, catching trains, ordering food, and finding bathrooms. The expectations were short term, and the experience was good. The most memorable language classes I had were a couple years of Norwegian. Activities were varied: we repeated prepared dialogues, wrote, used a language lab, sang songs, performed original skits, and visited the professor's home for singing Norwegian folk songs and eating goat cheese. Because of varied activities, everyone found motivation and encouragement. The class was upbeat yet serious; classmates were congenial. Missing from that class were sufficient clock hours to chat with proficient native language speakers. The language labs did not create
the energy or excitement which one derives from formulating speech with a real person, and a lack of conversational opportunities was the main downfall of the class. Formulating language, struggling to find the right words to communicate with a real person, that would have made the process more real. Of listening, speaking, reading, and writing, the easier modes for me are reading/writing. From years or writing letters to family members overseas grows contentment and confidence. I can write a serviceable letter, and I can translate the reply. The reward is real. Language learning can be successful if the student experiences some sort of reward. A link to an emotional reward is good, whether it's understanding song lyrics or hearing from a relative who writes in a different language. Joyful anticipation comes from the thought of emotional reward, and creates the energy needed to acquire vocabulary and grammar. From these experiences, I conclude that esl teachers can increase success by identifying emotional appeals for their particular students, by freely accepting mistakes, and by giving conversational practice. These three can help influence
class activities choice. To learn a second language opens new opportunities, makes the world friendlier, and adds enjoyment to life.
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