When learning a little turns out to be a lot

20160521_141237After a short period of trying to be with myself in the present moment (a need which often results from the turmoil I experience at the end of the school year), I’ve finally decided to allow some of my persistent thoughts to materialize into a quick post .

Here’s one of them I’d like to elaborate on:

My 8-year-old son went to a holiday English camp last week. I had signed him in because 1) he likes English lessons at school and 2) he’s not into sports and stuff so sports camps were obviously out of the question.

During the week, he left home at 8 and I picked him up at 4. In the morning, they spent some time in the classroom learning English, but they also went on trips, went swimming, treasure hunting, and did all the summertime activities kids enjoy so much. Based on what he says he had a great time.

They had two instructors – a Czech teacher of English (my colleague, by the way) and a young lady from the UK, who had come to the Czech Republic for the holiday to do some work experience she needs for her future job (in education, I suppose).

The advertisement my colleague had put up obviously stated the names of both instructors. When I read it for the first time, I wondered whether the English-sounding name would be seen as a bonus by potential customers. In other words, I wondered whether it would make more parents want their kids to participate in the course (in case you are a bit puzzled now, I’m talking about the native speaker syndrome).

But then I decided to leave other people’s thoughts to themselves and I started to scrutinize my own mindsets.

My son is only 8 years old, so he had had a very limited exposure to English at school. So I didn’t think that in 5 days he would suddenly become a brilliant user of English. However, I supposed that the fact that he’d come across a native speaker of a different language would certainly have a very strong impact on the way he views the world. This was my train of thought, and I dare say most of my expectations eventually proved right:

  1. He will realize that there are people out there who don’t speak a word of Czech so speaking English (or any foreign language, for that matter) is pretty handy.
  2. He will realize that there are people out there who don’t speak a word of Czech and it’s cool to teach them some bits and bobs.
  3. He will realize that there are people out there who don’t speak the English he normally learns at school. In fact, they seem to speak some incomprehensible language which people stubbornly claim is English.
  4. He’ll see that the Czech teacher of English and the English teacher of English can cooperate very nicely and effectively. He will hear the two speak with each other naturally and he’ll be able to see that they help each other and that they learn from each other (words, rhymes, games, habits etc.).
  5. He’ll see that translation is helpful but there are also other ways of getting the message across. And I’m talking about real communication here because they will spend a lot of time outside the classroom.

To conclude, I thought that even if my son learned very little in terms of how we usually view the dichotomy of little/a lot, he would probably end up enriched with new, valuable experience.

 

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About Hana Tichá

I'm an EFL teacher based in the Czech Republic. I've been teaching English to learners of all ages for more than 20 years. I love metaphors and inspiring discussions concerning teaching, learning and linguistics.
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