Learning Another Language


Something else that’s close to my heart is language learning, especially second language learning. After years in Asia teaching English as a second language I’ve come to believe rather strongly in the whole idea of immersion and experimentation.

Once, years ago, when I was AP, I was covering a year 2 class for the day when we had a number of sick classroom teachers. This particular class was known for being ‘difficult’ and had a range of interesting and strong characters in it. Since the teacher had left basically an empty desk, I decided to fill the morning session with lots of fun, interactive language activities, especially in Personal development and for the first 2 hours spoke only in Bahasa Indonesia to the class. They were amazing! After getting over the initial giggles and looks of disbelief, they settled into the class and began to mimic some things I had said. The big surprise was that within 30 minutes, this group was experimenting with sentence structure and requesting new vocabulary. Within 2 hours we were exchanging basic information in a meaningful way. We hadn’t had any grammatical instruction, only simple phrases and adapting vocabulary to fit. What a great morning!

After the recess break I started the next session in English. The students started using their Indonesian to reply. Clearly they were indicating that this was something they were enjoying. Soon we had morphed back into full-on Indonesian only. It was one of the best teaching days I had experienced and a great experience for myself and the students. The next day, however, was not so good, as the teacher came to me complaining loudly about her class speaking in nonsense that I had taught them and not responding to her in English. Needless to say, I relished interacting with the students throughout the day as they greeted me and exchanged simple pleasantries in Indonesian.

This article that I have attached below reminded me of that day and also reminded me of my own language development as an Indonesian speaker. I lived in an immersion environment in Indonesia by choice, speaking English only when absolutely necessary. It’s uncanny how tolerant local people are of your stumbling attempts in their language and how kind they are in correcting and assisting in pronunciation and grammar. My language skills developed in leaps and bounds ahead of what I had learnt in my years of University study.

Children in a bilingual home, I believe, should be brought up as bilingual, and more if they have the opportunity. Studies have shown that early language development is best for developing the necessary neural pathways for future language development. Also the evidence seems to point to the fact that once you learn an additional languages then subsequent languages are learnt more easily.

I would love to reference and acknowledge the author of the attached article properly, but it was sent to me as a clipping in an email. It is one man’s experience in learning languages. I apologise to the writer and will give proper acknowledgement once I have the full details of the article.

Mouth on the Go

(image courtesy of http://www.uniqueteachingresources.com))


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