Good morning people! This blog was a bit dormant lately but now is school is out there are no more excuses for me not to write. And the problem is not that we have run out of ideas. Quite the contrary, the ideas keep coming at all times. Nevertheless, I wasn’t able to find the time, the motivation or the inspiration to put them down. Let’s see if I can correct that now!
Today I am going to write about a topic that I have been thinking for some time now, probably for years. I am non native speaker of English. I learnt English in Greece and I have lived in an English speaking country for a short summer in 1998. (Manchester, I miss you). I have had a number or teachers from different countries, from the USA, from Canada, my personal favourite, a petite, super energetic Ms Tina from Australia, a couple of teachers from the UK. That is to say I have had a number of influences as far as accents are concerned. Many years ago, when I was a young, insecure teacher I was a bit self-conscious of my own accent. But now I have been emancipated and I feel confident about it. Well, you know, reading can do this to people…
What concerns me lately is not how I speak but what I say. Let me explain. All of us believe we have interesting personalities and naturally want to show these when we speak another language. It is actually a recurring problem when you teach adults: the fact that they have all these ideas they want to share and all they can say are a few elementary phrases. It’s pure frustration. And my question is this: IS there a time when our native language personalities come out when we speak a foreign language? I have been learning English for 31 years and sometimes I feel I am not as fluent as I would like. Words don’t come easy, especially the informal words, the idioms, the slang of the language, the jokes. Maybe because living where I live (in the middle of a valley, with minimum interaction with native speakers) my communication with foreign people are mostly written.
But I don’t think it is personal matter only. I observed a huge difference in a teacher I know recently. She is a very experienced teacher, a well-read person, someone who keeps reading and developing. She is also a very lively person, with a sense of humour, someone you enjoy being with. She is a teacher trainer and usually she gives her presentations in English. For some reason she gave one of her latest presentations in Greek and it was like watching a metamorphosis going on. In Greek she was a much deeper person, with many layers, referring to common experiences and memories. I’m not sure if I can even begin to relay the experience but suddenly I realized that her English, no matter how fluent and grammatically correct was a bit sterile. And I immediately felt the same for myself.
As I’m writing this I realize that there are many implications for our teaching. How do you teach these elements of the language? I am also pretty sure that if I lived in an English speaking country for some time, these elements would come more naturally to me. But how do I simulate this situation in class? Is it really possible? I would be more than delighted to read your opinions about this! Tell me also, do you feel the same when you speak a foreign language? And are there differences between languages? For me I can safely say that my “Spanish speaking” personality is closer to my “English speaking” personality.
Looking forward to your contributions!