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How Learning a Foreign Language Makes You an ESL Student’s Best Friend

How Learning a Foreign Language Makes You an ESL Student’s Best Friend | ITTT | TEFL Blog

My first language was French –-the language of my Cajun-born mother. She wanted to pass on her cultural heritage and therefore spoke to her first-born child, me, only in French. However, once I was put into kindergarten and was unable to communicate or understand any of my teachers or classmates, my parents reverted to English because they feared to set me back in school.

This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Madeleine K. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.

Personal Experience

Despite understanding their fear, I did not appreciate my parent’s decision. I was very vocal about that fact, in true teenage fashion, especially when I had to spend hours studying for a French test or was reduced to tears while struggling to juggle 12 different verb tenses. But I persevered and now have a minor in French from my university. I graduated 3 years ago and yet I still remember those long hours agonizing over “exceptions to the rule” along with those moments of crystal clear understanding so piercing they left you exhausted but elated.

Those memories of both achievements and struggles came back stronger than ever as I went through my TEFL course. Learning about how to bring motivation to students, how to engage them in an activity, how to balance teacher-talk-time with student-talk-time, made me look back at my days as a foreign language student and examine how my teachers taught my classes. I can remember loving some teachers and getting frustrated with others and this TEFL course has given me the tools to see what worked and what didn’t for me as a student. I realized having the experience as a language student myself will give me first-hand knowledge of the frustrations, the stress, and the anxiety my students will be feeling.

four students standing in the garden

Also Read: Are online TEFL courses valid?

Different Learning Modes

For example, all students learn differently, but when it comes to a foreign language, I think you have to combine personality into the mix as well. In my French classes, I wasn’t the best at grammar, but I loved to talk. One part is my ability to learn as a student, the other half is my personality. I can remember that the professors I responded to the most, took this into account. They weren’t able to cater to me on an individual level, the class was too big for that, but I remember the activities were rotated so that everyone in the class responded to at least one and had their moment to shine.

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I would like to emulate that as an ESL teacher. I will try my best to create a safe environment for my students and create lesson plans that complement the variety of difficulties my students are facing. I know first-hand the horrible adrenaline rush you get when the teacher calls on you to speak out loud, the horrible nights when you’re struggling to understand a grammar rule when you help a foreigner on the street with directions and use your language skills outside of the classroom for the very first time. I will be their greatest sympathizer and their greatest ally thanks to my journey with learning a foreign language. Perhaps my parents didn’t make a mistake after all.

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