Learning a Foreign Language – Your Ticket to a Globalized World
“Tell me and I will forget. Show me and I may not remember. Involve me and I will understand.” For the past year that I have been a part of the School English staff, I seem to -even though unknowingly at first- have utilized this Native American proverb as a credo, a mission statement if you will. What I have tried to do with my students, inside the classroom and out, is involve them in activities which will help them better understand the English speaking state of mind. My students not only enjoy emulating real life conversational patters, but do so successfully. Most of our lessons consist of creating a virtual situation where they can use key phrases and dialogue patterns. When it comes to the upper-intermediate students, they work on authentic materials, such as literature excerpts, documentaries, TED speeches all of which enable them to both practice their listening and debating skills and also serve them as food for thought. In the words of the great Anatole France, one of the main tasks of a teacher is to awaken their students’ curiosity, to put a spark — not to overload them but to simply open them.
The beginners, most of which are at the tender ages of five or six, have been the biggest challenge of my tenure. I learned the two most important lessons a teacher can learn. Firstly, the teacher is supposed to grow into the role of an entertainer too, which was a challenge that brought me the greatest pleasure. The second lesson is the following: the curriculum might be of great importance to the classroom, but the vital element must – and should be – warmth, as the shortest route to a child’s heart.
I came to the realization that Russians are very diligent foreign language learners. They approach the task seriously and with a great deal of determination. There are those who get easily disappointed at minor hitches without realizing how much they accomplished and improved. I will use this opportunity to acknowledge all my students and congratulate them on being brave and performing at levels above mine and others’ expectations. Getting ordinary people to make unusual effort guarantees success without fail. As Moliere put it, the greater the obstacle, the more glory of overcoming it. Kudos!
In my modest opinion, children should learn foreign languages not just because they are preparing for an increasingly globalized world, but recent neurological studies show that the cognitive skills of bilinguals are far more advanced than those of monolinguals. In that respect, children will improve not only academically, but intellectually and culturally as well. School students have many chances of practicing their foreign language skills during excursions, internships, international summer camps and the like, and it is always a proud moment when students come to class after the holidays, eager to share stories of their successful use of English.
However, learning the language should not be reserved for the classroom only. Outside of it they have to get involved in activities that will be joyful and entertaining on one side, and educational on the other. What better way of learning the foreign language nuances than watching a comedy in the original motion picture, with the real voices of actors, in its entire splendor and not dubbed, as is the practice in Russia. Extensive reading of books of their own choice will benefit the student far more greatly than mere excerpts covered in textbooks. Not to mention the power of music.
Finally, I would like to wish everybody a successful school year, a pleasant educational journey. Stay curious, stay cheerful, stay outstanding.