Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Bilingual English Teacher's Family - Left Out and Neglected?

Can Your Family Members Speak Another Language?

As yet another summer vacation season closes with the passing of the Labor Day holiday weekend, I'm again prodded by a segment of the speech President Barak Obama gave during his campaign. As English as a foreign language teachers or foreign language teaching professionals, we need to be even more conscious of the bilingualism - or lack thereof, of our own families. Too often I meet seemingly "passionate" English as a foreign language teachers at seminars and conferences whose own family members cannot even say a basic greeting in English.

Oh, they say they'd like to be able to speak English, so what happened?

Remember as teachers, we shouldn't neglect our family members. If there are so many advantages and benefits to speaking a foreign language, then why don't we make more of an effort to pass along those same benefits and advantages to our loved ones?

"Oh, my husband / wife / children don't respond well to my efforts to "teach" them", you say?


They simply represent a type of foreign language learner with perhaps a different type of motivation. What if they were paying learners in one of your classes? Ah, I'll bet we'd see the other shoe drop then! Especially so if your job or your pride were on the line. Which, by the way, it should be.

At least, if truly need be, you can put in a class or with another teacher so they can avail themselves of the option of speaking a foreign tongue. After all, when you travel who do you travel with, your classroom learners or your family? Don't you think they'd benefit from being able to enjoy a trip to, say, Mexico, Ecuador or Panama, with some Spanish under their belt? I don't allways want to charge around Quito or Acapulco with my wife (whom I taught English to BEFORE I married her, by the way) while she shops. Although it might be one form of safeguard, come to think of it.

Then too, one of my daughters is learning Spanish at the university. No, I'm not teaching her, but I'll be delighted to hone and polish her Spanish skills with a summer, semester or two abroad. The beach in Cancun is an excellent Spanish language classroom. Then follow it up with more total immersion as you wend your way through the delights and intricacies of dealing with everyday life in a foreign language. Hey, it worked for me in learning French and Spanish during different decades. It worked for my wife too when tackling English along with me and my cattle prod. Undoubtedly, it'll work for you and your family too when combined with additional methodologies.

Think about it: are YOU an English teacher whose family can't speak any English? Are you a Spanish, French, or other foreign language teacher whose family is still typically "mono-lingual"? Do you think that just might reflect negatively on you? If you're such a good teacher, why can't you teach them? So, what are you and they, going to do about it?

In case you missed President Barak Obama's speech I referred to earlier, here it is.

Prof. Larry M. Lynch is an EFL Teacher Trainer, Intellectual Development Specialist, author and speaker. He has written ESP, foreign language learning, English language teaching texts and hundreds of articles used in more than 100 countries. Get your FREE E-book, “If you Want to Teach English Abroad, Here's What You Need to Know" by requesting the title at: Need a blogger or copywriter to promote your school, institution, service or business or an experienced writer and vibrant SEO content for your website, blog or newsletter? Then E-mail me for further information.

3 comments: said...

Hi Larry,

Not sure it's a good idea to keep being a teacher in the professional sense at home. There's that hierarchy between a teacher and a student, plus learner space issues that don't translate too well at home.

While I loved being taught a language by my father, it was limited to a certain phase. At some point it was enough.

With my husband, who lately has been brushing up his school English, I've managed to work around the classic face-to-face teaching that we found difficult: We "live" in English when we're in the States, and otherwise he works through tasks on his own, making audio/video recordings that I'll later check and create new tasks based on.

Leslie said...

I absolutely agree with you. My children have both studied French in school and were quite impressed with our abilities to make our way around France in the native lingo when my husband and I took them for a visit. It prompted them to be more daring too. My son laughs about asking for a boite de l'eau! They have also witnessed me studying Spanish at my dining room table with one of my former students. Now my son has chosen to study Spanish as one of his electives at school. Why stop at one language, indeed? Furthermore, the language learning in the home makes the whole world more accessible, especially in an internet world. It simply enriches your outlook. And, lastly, I firmly believe that language learning provides a constant reminder to teachers about the difficulties our own students encounter. It's humbling and invaluable.

Classroommng1 said...

English is an universal language and speaking English has its own benefits! I know of a great website which promotes classroom management. This site helps teachers to understand the amazingly simple methods of gaining class control, building relationships with difficult pupils and de-escalation strategies.