Excuse me, do you speak English? | TEFL Jobs London

Excuse me, do you speak English?

By Donna Hutchinson,
Newly-qualified TEFL Teacher, @donnatamara

class sohoI spent 7 years at school learning French. By the time I’d finished my A-Levels, my French was pretty decent, I’d stretch to say advanced even. However, I left school 6 years ago and in those 6 years I have barely used my French. Recently though, I took a trip to the South of France, Aix-en-Provence, to be more precise and I was pretty confident that my advanced level French would come back to me within a couple of days. I was wrong.

Although I could understand much of what was going on, for the life of me I could not form a response. Sometimes, I understood not only the gist of a conversation, but exactly what was happening, and still my response would be in English. It was incredibly frustrating. To try and help myself, I even bought a book for the plane home written in French (Les Aventures de Tintin) and am happily reading it, but I still don’t feel as though it has got me any closer to being able to speak.

This experience made me think of my students, and I definitely think it will affect my teaching. Of course all our skills (reading, listening, writing and speaking) are linked, but they are also very disparate in their nature. I thought about my lessons and how I have sometimes felt frustrated when students are quiet in a speaking task even though I feel I’ve done enough to set it up. I thought, if I were to be in a French class now, I wouldn’t know what to say. I would understand, for sure, but putting it into action, like speaking or writing, I would need ample time to think, and much more of a confidence boost so as not to feel so self-conscious about being wrong.

Celta 001I haven’t been teaching that long, I only qualified this year, but perhaps one can get comfortable in the role of teacher and easily forget what it’s like to be a learner of a language. It is tough and it’s ok to make mistakes, but now I definitely have a little more awareness of what it feels like to be immersed in a world where something so easy in your own language becomes infinitely more difficult in another.

For me, I was just on holiday visiting friends, but for some students it is so much more important than that. It’s something I’m going to be careful not to lose awareness of.

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