Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Do You Speak Another Language?

My class consists of 20 students, of which only 1 speaks English only in his household, and even he began his life in a bilingual environment. The other 18 speak at least one, if not two other languages in their homes, and go to school in English, although they don’t live in an English speaking country. Due to my unique teaching position, I have had some readers ask for tips on teaching English Language Learners. Here’s this week’s Tuesday TESOL Teaching Tip:

TESOL Teaching Tip #25 - Learn a language yourself. By learning a language, you understand what your esl or ell students are going through. Find out more about this at my blog - Raki's Rad Resources.

ELL Teaching Tip #25: Learn Another Language

A few weeks ago, we talked about the difference between being able to sympathize with your students and being able to empathize with them in regards to culture shock.  Experiencing a culture outside of your own is something you can never understand from reading about it or hearing about it, it is something you must experience first hand. 
Being bilingual is another concept that you can never understand Milk Carton - Arabic Writingfrom reading about it or hearing about it.  I know that most of us do not have enough time to learn another language to the point of becoming fully bilingual, but I still suggest to anyone teaching English Language Learners to try and learn at least some of another language.  The more you learn, the more you will understand how your students feel, and the most you will be able to appreciate the positives and negatives of being bilingual.
Yogurt Container - Arabic WritingFor the past year, since I moved to Morocco, I have been working on learning Arabic and French.  Even though I have been learning for a year, I am far from bilingual (especially since I spend the majority of my time in English and not Arabic or French).  However, I have learned enough Arabic and French to:
1.  be able to communicate my basic needs, and often simple thoughts
2.  know that there is so much I’d like to say in, but I don’t have the words to express myself yet
3.  have the word I am looking for pop into my head in Arabic or French before English
4.  get frustrated by how slow I am learning
5.  get excited by having 3 different ways to explain one item or event
6.  tune out my teacher and others who are speaking to me because I’m only understanding about one word out of ten.

In order to better understand how your students feel when they are learning English in your room, I highly suggest learning another language.  Buy a Rosetta Stone program, take classes, find a tutor, but take the time to see how it truly feels to be a language learner.  I promise you will look at your English Language Learners in a whole new way.
I’d love to hear from you – Please leave me a comment and let us know - Have you learned another language?  Are you bilingual?  How does it impact how you teach in the classroom?

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Find more TESOL Teaching Tips here, and come back every Tuesday for a new tip!