The right decisions at the right time

IMG_20181219_211225_543My regular readers might have noticed that I’ve been blogging a bit less recently. Also, I’ve been reading ELT blogs less than I would like to and that’s what I feel a bit guilty about. However, it’s not because I’ve lost interest in ELT but because my attention has temporarily been diverted from it. Two things have taken most of my time this year – 1) completing my four-semester course in the field of prevention of drug abuse at schools and 2) fitness and healthy lifestyle.

Don’t stop reading, my fellow English teachers. Both of the above-mentioned have more to do with my original profession than it may appear at first sight. The course has substantially widened my horizons in the field of psychology and therapy. It has changed me as a person and my view on social work in general.

While throughout the course I focused on my and other people’s psyche (the soul, mind, spirit, or invisible animating entity which occupies the physical body, if you will), my private life has revolved around fitness and healthy dieting (yes, it requires a lot of your attention and mental energy). Since June 2018, I have lost about 17 kilos (almost 38 pounds). This means that I virtually have a new body. I weigh less than I did when I graduated from high school. Inevitably, this has affected my personal as well as professional life a lot. Since I lost most of the weight over the summer holidays, my colleagues and many students could not but notice the change when I turned up at school in September.

Believe it or not, having a new body may, under certain circumstances, mean that you become a totally new person – to yourself and other people as well. From a practical point of view, life certainly becomes easier and more satisfying in many ways. This is related to the fact that your confidence increases tremendously. However, there is a dark side to it too. Since most people are obsessed with being slim these days, paradoxically, losing weight suddenly appears to be the biggest achievement of your life ever.

Some people see me as a role model now, which is good. I’ve got used to being constantly asked what on earth I have done and how the hell I have achieved such a substantial weight loss. The only problem is that I don’t have a secret recipe. I normally say that I’ve got into sports (mainly jogging and yoga). But it’s obviously not the whole story. What I think is that I simply made the right decision at the right time and then stuck to it. That’s it.

This, I think, applies to any change that happens in our life. If we are to lead a happy life, we need to make the right decisions at the right time and then stick to them for long enough for the desired change to evolve to its full potential. This is my motto for the upcoming year too. Wish me luck. 🙂

Happy new year!

The gift of translation

In one of the recent lessons, I decided to combine my favourite literature genre (inspirational quotes) with a not so popular method of learning/teaching a foreign language (translation).

IMG_20171227_185052First things first. Last year, I got this wonderful hand-made present from a friend of mine – a jar full of inspirational quotes. In the jar, there were precisely 364 colourful slips of paper – one quote for each day of 2018. Since most of them were in English, I thought it would be cool to bring them to school toward the end of this year and share them with my students.

As far as quotes are concerned, I described one way of using them in English lessons here. In this particular case, the teacher works with one quote only and gradually builds the whole lesson around it.

This time, however, I focused on quantity (we used as many quotes as there were students in the class). Also, in this particular lesson, I primarily wanted to check my students’ ability to deal with the translation of a literary genre. I guess that other than that there were no other linguistic aims.

So, each student picked a quote from the jar. I gave them some time to read it silently and let it sink in. Then a random student read their quote out loud. I waited a few moments. Then I picked a different student and asked them to translate the quote into Czech. I encouraged them to divert from the literal translation if necessary. I reminded them of Google Translate and what it sometimes does. The student who had translated their peer’s quote then read theirs, etc. This was a good strategy because it made the students pay attention more than if they had just had to focus on their slip of paper. Sometimes, the quote had to be read several times, often in small chunks, to make it possible for the other student to translate it. This inconvenience was partially caused by the fact that the interpreter couldn’t see the text.

All in all, despite being an English teacher, I was totally impressed by my students’ ability to produce beautiful Czech utterances. Honestly, I was a bit surprised too because we don’t practice L2 > L1 translation a lot in class. Also, since students constantly immerse themselves in English (movies, music, computer games), I sort of supposed they had partially lost their ability to produce decent Czech. 🙂 I was wrong. They only struggled with a couple of individual English words, which was quite natural given that some of the language was way above the B1 level, but overall, they did very well.

This gives me some hope. The German Department at our school takes part in various translation competitions which we, the English Department, usually avoid. We justify this arguing that we teach communicatively, so our students don’t get enough exposure to translation techniques. But again, we may be wrong. Perhaps it’s not just about extensive translation practice but merely about the students’ knowledge of L2 and L1 combined with life experience.