How Teachers Benefit From a Second Language Learning Experience
Language acquisition is not an easy feat for anyone at any age, whether you are learning your first language as a baby or your fourth language as an adult. Learning foreign languages will always be difficult however, having a teacher that understands the challenge with first-hand knowledge, can make a huge difference to students.
This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Randi B. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
Ways of Acquiring Languages
1st language acquisitions are much easier to learn given the fact that it happens almost naturally. While it will surely take time, babies typically learn their first language organically from listening to those around them and being immersed in a language environment. There is also much less pressure in terms of first language acquisition given that young children typically have the confidence to make mistakes in their language because they do not yet understand the concept of failure or self-consciousness.
While 1st languages are typically easier to learn, additional languages are much more difficult depending on the motivation and timing surrounding the attempted acquisition. A second language is often easier to learn while you are young given that, like babies you are more likely to be open to making mistakes. It has also been proven that young learners are more likely to retain any information taught to them while their brains are still developing. As you age, it becomes more difficult to learn languages freely because our emotions take over. Adults are often much more reserved and afraid to make mistakes or fail and it has a huge impact on their ability to add to their language repertoire.
My personal experience with languages is one that I feel as though it will help me immensely while teaching my students. I was put in French immersion by my parents when I was 6 years old, and luckily for me, I loved it. Learning languages has always been a passion of mine and I was good at it. But I was also put in classrooms with many other students, some not as interested as myself. Many students resented the fact that their parents chose the school for them, and made their education experience more difficult. At my school, we were not formally taught English until fourth grade, and everything was taught in French. While this made learning French much easier because it was full immersion, some students fell behind in English if it was not worked on at home.
Being Canadian I was always told how much of an asset it would be to be fluent in French and the numerous opportunities it would open for me in terms of career, and while I have not yet used my French for a career, I am extremely grateful for my background in a formal language learning environment. After that experience, I knew I wanted to continue to learn different languages and began to teach myself Spanish and Portuguese. This learning experience was much different from learning French and certainly more challenging. It is very difficult to self-teach languages especially when it is a situation of multiple language acquisition. Using my French is much more natural because my brain spent 12 years thinking in French and translating back and forth between two languages. Adding additional languages was very challenging for me due to different pronunciations and getting mixed between French and Spanish, etc. However, after learning more and more of the language it all became easier.
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These experiences are extremely valuable to my teaching career because I feel as though I have a different perspective than someone who is monolingual. I have been in the same place as my students, and have shared the same frustrations. I have also seen the challenges that plagued my teachers and have a better understanding of the language teaching process.
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