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Reflecting on your language experiences
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
Posts: 2730
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 4:39 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Augustus wrote:
fluffyhamster wrote:
I'd assume they're asking you to relate how awful your French or Spanish or whatever language classes were when you were a schoolkid, and how much better Communicative Language Teaching or whatever your potential employer is pushing (the former of which you'll learn something about during the CELTA course) is compared to that.

Of course, if you('ve) actually manage(d) to learn a foreign language to a non-trivial level, whether by yourself or in classes somewhere, you could possibly tell them about that too, and what worked or seems to work for you, but try not to sound too much like e.g. a grammar freak (what with all the book recommendations in your other thread! Wink).


I'm concerned that I am criticising the method that I was taught by, I had a very bad experience with learning a language - rough school, bad teaching and a serious lack of interest in learning fancy languages....

Well, what's wrong with the slightly less varnished truth, especially when it's going to motivate you to search for better methods? It's not like you're applying for an actual job teaching and are bad-mouthing a previous employer before you've even got a foot in the next one's business - you are applying and paying good money for the privilege of establishing "best practice".

That being said, and as you obviously appreciate, one has to temper one's criticisms and not sound too negative or hostile. Keywords that will signal you don't have too much of an axe to grind are 'Unfortunately', 'a bit lacking', 'didn't learn that much' (versus enough, or *anything*), soft fluffy non-spiky stuff like that. Laughing Smile Wink Cool
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Augustus



Joined: 16 Oct 2012
Posts: 98

PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 12:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

lol "a bit lacking" we used to joke that our French teacher was really dead and just wouldn't lie down.... She used to wear tights over the longest leg hairs I ever saw!

This is what I have drafted so far .......

I began learning French aged 11 when I started secondary school. I was enormously excited to have the opportunity to be able communicate and was keen to absorb the differing understanding of the world, culture and environment.

Lessons took place three times a week for around 1 hour and 30 minutes and we learned by focusing on individual topics such as introducing oneself and moved steadily through school, family and home. This method would seem to lead it to difficultly in applying the differing topics across the board through being compartmentalised especially as we often learnt words in isolation for example by spelling tests. The teacher relied heavily on a textbook on which to base her teaching incorporating reading, writing and listening aspects which often felt very uninspired and I often wondered whether she could really speak French in any other context than the classroom. I often found classes to be unsatisfying in that I spent much of the time repeating simple conversations altering basic details such as numbers in relation to booking a hotel room or ordering coffee. Reading and writing involved completing worksheets where we replaced a word from a selection offered and as I was relatively successful in this I gained the impression that I was really using the language and getting quite good in fact. Unfortunately, our teacher was nearing retirement as she often mentioned and she struggled to maintain a degree of discipline in the classroom so few activities were completed.

At the end of year 7 we visited a seaside town in France for a four day period travelling via Calais on a coach. I was exciting to be going on holiday with all my school friends and was beside myself when I had the opportunity to use some of my very limited language skills with a native speaker.

After graduating university, I found employment as a Support Worker enabling people who have mental health difficulties and are D/deaf to live as normally as possible. Through this role and attending a level 1 course I have learned British Sign Language. The methodology has been one of “need to know” format in that I learnt the most commonly used phrases first and over time have gained greater depth and breadth of understanding. As I have developed language skills I have developed bonds with clients and come to have a greater understand of D/deaf culture, differing perceptions and even politics.
Overall, my experience of learning a language in the first instance was not particularly rewarding, the differences between these experiences would seem to be immersion. In learning British Sign Language I was consistently called upon to utilise my skills on a daily basis and every day I learned some new word or term. Currently as I am involved with the D/deaf community, I am learning new things all the time. I often found it difficult to switch between different topics – from mathematics or PE to French for a relatively short period, even conducting the class was done in English. I think the biggest improvement overall would have been to have begun far earlier in life, much learning of skills such as language is done before one is even in junior school. Greater encouragement and focus to learn the basics of the French language would have also stood me in good stead to build upon through the years and more room for cultural aspects of learning about French. French music, culture and food and a French child’s lifestyle would have been beneficial.

Am I being too negative? I have included that she was old - she wasn't and I havent said that really she just couldn't be arsed as for whatever reason she ended up teaching in one of the first schools to enter "special measures."
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fluffyhamster



Joined: 13 Mar 2005
Posts: 2730
Location: UK > China > Japan > UK again

PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2012 11:18 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Your French classes sound a lot better than mine were (only my first year teacher actually bothered to teach - in years 2 to 5, I don't recall the teachers doing ANYTHING. I'm amazed they passed inspections...but maybe there weren't any!). Yours may have been a little rote, but that's better than nothing. I'm not sure it's even possible to be that communicative at this level, as the students won't really be up to the necessary speed for several years if not the entire duration of the schooling, no matter how much the teacher uses lashings of "Direct" classroomese and contextualizes the (still to-be-drilled) items. Anyway, at least your skills, however limited, came in on that coach trip to Calais. (NB: *I was exciting to be going on holiday > excited. This can be a perplexing [*perplexed] area for students).

Are you being explicit enough about 'suggest ways in which it (or they) could have been improved' bit, though? Sure, you go on to imply that considerations of vocab frequency help, and that actual immersion (preferably from a younger age) in real-world use is a great tutor, but what can the classroom-bound teacher, who may be working in a foreign country (and often teaching adults rather than children) and thus the only available immediate link to live English, do about all that and more? I can see your point about incorporating more cultural aspects though (not all agree that culture needs much explicit incorporating however, especially for already "imperialistic"-enough languages such as English. But I doubt if your trainers are opposed to English being taught in any shape or form at all LOL).

Your trainers may want to see a bit more tying together, and evidence of preparatory reading (i.e. the quoting of salient points and buzzwords from Harmer or whatever), but what you've written should be enough to get a small tick (as in "At least you've written something - which is fine as far as it goes. But that's why you're here, to learn from us, so don't worry too much, you pathetic trainee you!!" Twisted Evil Laughing Wink Very Happy ). You might want to shorten is slightly though, and I've spotted a few more potential errors (underlined and in bold, and numbered) in especially your last paragraph (there may be more in earlier paragraphs?):

Quote:
Overall, my experience of learning a language in the first instance was not particularly rewarding, [1] the differences between these experiences would seem to be immersion. In learning British Sign Language I was consistently called upon to utilise my skills on a daily basis and every day I learned some new word or term. Currently as I am involved with the D/deaf community, I am learning new things all the time. I often found it difficult to switch between different topics – from mathematics or PE to French for a relatively short period [2], even conducting the class was done in English [3]. I think the biggest improvement [4] overall would have been to have begun far earlier in life, [5] much learning of skills such as language is done before one is even in junior school. Greater encouragement and focus to learn the basics of the French language would have also stood me in good stead to build upon through the years and [6] more room for cultural aspects of learning about French. French music, culture and food and [7] a French child’s lifestyle would have been beneficial.


[1] seems a run-on sentence ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Run-on_sentence ). Using a semicolon rather than a comma would solve this.

[2] switches back to school, though it may not be immediately clear to the reader that the topics are those of classes, not of conversation with deaf clients.

[3] Should that be 'even when'? Specifically, 'even when the class was conducted in English' ('conducting' makes it sound a bit like you were the one doing that).

[4] Is 'improvement' the right word?

[5] seems another run-on. Either improve the punctuation, or use a word such as 'as' to logically link the things up.

[6] A verb or verb phrase seems to be missing here. Or you could rewrite the whole sentence and incorporate this last part (i.e. the part after the missing verb) earlier in the sentence. See also [7].

[7] > i) French music, culture, and food, and/along with/as well as a French child's lifestyle, would have been beneficial (to learn/incorporate).

At a minimum, lose the first of the highlighted 'and's and replace it with a comma:

ii) French music, culture, food(,) and a French child's lifestyle would have been beneficial.

(The reason I've bracketed the additional comma there in the second/minimum "simple uninterrupted list" suggestion is that the Serial/Oxford/Harvard comma would ultimately be a matter of personal choice: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Serial_comma ).
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Augustus



Joined: 16 Oct 2012
Posts: 98

PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:00 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you for all the help, again!

I went to an open evening and I so want to be on the course!!
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spiral78



Joined: 05 Apr 2004
Posts: 9484
Location: On a Short Leash

PostPosted: Tue Dec 11, 2012 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Good luck, Augustus. You've apparently really put in some work on this and I hope it will pay off for you!
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