Why does a languages teacher want to change the world?
It was always going to be easy for me to learn and teach a couple of languages. I was born in Switzerland of British parents. I grew up in the cosmopolitan city of Manchester knowing and enjoying an international atmosphere and have also lived abroad. I had a natural aptitude for French, then added German which I also first heard as a young child and then later Italian, but what made me want to be able to offer a language like Chinese? Why am I interested in learning Spanish and Portuguese? Why teach English as a Foreign language? And why am I interested in teaching English per se and helping to improve literacy rates in the UK?
I've always found that I get a "kick" out of helping people. Nothing makes me feel more alive than teaching languages. It's that moment when you witness growth in a student's understanding and they say, "I get it!" or perhaps it's the eyes that say it all,..
So why not just teach French? During my initial teaching practices I discovered that there were not enough choices in the languages being offered in secondary schools. Many felt "forced" to do French when another language would've been a lot more applicable to them. So I made the most of opportunities to revise the Italian I'd learned during my A level years and to learn Mandarin whilst I was working for Oxford University Press. Before I left OUP to return to teaching, I also took advantage of the fact that I had been allocated a sales responsability for South America and learned how to understand and reply to business emails in Spanish and Portuguese.
Whilst English, French and German are the business languages of many countries, Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese are very widely spoken throughout the world. I would also like to add other languages to my portfolio, but as with the Spanish and Portuguese I have learned, I will not presume to teach languages other than English, French, German to GCSE, Italian to Key Stage 3 and Mandarin to Beginners, until I have reached a sufficient standard in them myself to be able to do so competently.
Now you see why I wanted to offer a variety of foreign languages; to increase choice for secondary students and to offer more applicable languages condsidering the most commonly spoken languages of the business world and of the world population as a whole.
So why learn to teach English as a foreign language then and why the enthusiasm for literacy? Firstly, learning English as a foreign language is different. Often learners are already in an English-speaking environment, so the pace of learning can be faster and more exciting! For students of English coming to the UK from other countries it can make the difference between having employment appropriate to their other skills (such as Engineering) and having to go from job to job not really getting anything like the opportunities they had imagined. For their children also, it can mean the difference between getting a good education or having a very difficult school life.
However, I'm not just interested in helping people from other countries. Research has shown that where there are low levels of literacy in the UK, there are also low standards of living. It is my belief that improved levels of literacy in the UK could lead to increased career opportunities for many British citizens and also lead to a decrease in the prison population where illiteracy levels are alarmingly high.
So you can see that language-learning is important not just for the individual, but for society as a whole. it is of course, very important for the individual too. Adequate first language learning, improvements in literacy and bi-lingualism are all known to have a knock-on effect for a student's overall learning capabilities and well-being as well as facilitating trade in the business world and ease of travel and understanding of other languages and cultures.
Travel around the world is getting easier and we often hear that we are becoming more of a "Global village." It is important therefore that we take time to learn from one another and that we make the most of the opportunities that this global-village phenomenom affords. Learning and teaching languages really could change the world. Drop me a line if you want to be part of it!