Foreign Language ExperienceForeign language experience is the heartbeat behind intimately knowing another culture. We can use textbooks, technology and other advanced tools to study another culture. However, all of this never makes sense or come together until we learn about the backbone, the bones, the architectural intricacies of any culture. Enter language.
Technically, I know three languages: english
and German. However, I am only fluent in english
. The other two are works in progress. I intend to become a TEFL teacher to students in Germany because I have a fascination with the German language. Not only will I be teaching German students english
, but I myself will be a “student” aiming to become fluent in German. I’ve been to Germany twice and both times I felt like my experience was hampered due to the lack of a solid foreign language experience. The first time I went, I was an ignorant tourist. My second time was more pleasant because I took three semester-long German courses back-to-back-to-back prior to going. The language lent insight into all things German. Also, my other German friend whom I went to visit on my second trip was, and still is, a fount of information because she corrects my German pronunciation, vocabulary and sentence structure, and gives me firsthand experience about her culture and the reasons behind it.
I’ve had more success with spanish
because I live in New York
City—home to a large spanish
population—and also because I learned spanish
as a second language in school from elementary to high school. As I went through these past 19 units of the TEFL course, I recall doing Engaging-type phases filled with icebreakers, intensive language study and activating spanish
with dialogue. I also find myself using spanish
at work, as I am an Admission Counselor for a large university in New York
Speaking, reading, listening and writing are so vital for the foreign language experience. My success with spanish
culminated in a visit to España last February. For once, I was fully immersed in a foreign culture. There were no fears about language barriers or worries that I wouldn’t really experience life there. My time in España was fruitful because I interacted using all of my senses. I spoke spanish
because it was necessary to communicate with the locals. I read and wrote spanish
as my friends and I tried to figure out where to eat, see sites, etc. Finally, I used my hearing to listen to the spanish
language and create the same lilts in intonation and pronunciation. I didn’t feel like an ignorant tourist. I felt like a local who had been away for some time and came back. That is the essence of a true foreign language experience.
In an online New York
Times article, Anthony Jackson, vice president for education at Asia Society, states that language “is the palette from which we draw all the colors of our life, and people who speak multiple languages have a larger palette and richer set of colors to draw from than those who are monolingual.” I cannot agree with this more. This is the message that I, as a future TEFL teacher, want to pass on to my future students. Engaging in the foreign language experience is not a technical issue but a life-enhancing issue. The pronunciation drills, the engaging phases, the role-plays and everything else are building blocks for richer knowledge beyond the mere tangible.
Jackson continues to say, “Students who grow up with english
as their native language should not be denied the opportunity to see issues from different perspectives, hear arguments with a different timbre and articulate ideas using different strategies of communication.” This goes back to what I mentioned earlier about how the foreign language experience gives us insight into another culture, another way of life, another reason for doing the same thing we do. As a native english
speaker, this hits home. The opposite rings just as true for students who are non-native english
speakers learning english
or another language. In the end, english
is not the universal language. Rather, language is the universal language. We’re all saying the same thing. Our vocabulary just happens to be different.
Weblink of the article mentioned above titled “Language is More than Speaking”