For me, like everyone else I guess, my history with other languages started at a very young age and it was hit and miss all the way up to my first foray into language teaching.
I was always very much fascinated with Japanese and their culture. I used to watch a lot of films and video games in Japanese but never felt the urge to actually learn the language. I was also very keen on French films, which I still consider today to be the best around.
When I got to secondary school in England, this was my first experience studying a foreign language. We only really had the option of studying French and I studied that for two years in London, and a further year in Ireland. I later dropped French for other subjects in the Sciences and Business. I’m not sure why I did that. I guess looking back now, I felt frustrated at not getting anywhere with French. It’s a real shame because obviously now I would have liked to have continued studying French.
I can remember my very first lessons for both my time in London and in Ireland. I wonder if you had the same experience. It was when the teacher came in and spoke fluently in French with a general disregard to our shocked faces. We were made to feel very vulnerable. I wonder why the teachers did that. Was it just to show off? Was it to get us excited about the language? The same experience happened on CELTA as well. I really enjoyed French. I really enjoyed learning the vocabulary, and working with a partner. Having said that, my experience in school is very different to how I operate as a teacher. I guess the language experience in secondary schools is very different nowadays.
Another experience, or lack thereof, with language is that I was given the opportunity to learn Irish, but when my teacher offered this to me she made the mistake in saying, “Do you want to learn Irish or do you want to do your homework during class (for the next five years).” Naturally, I chose to do homework while my friends did Irish for five years. You don’t give a 13-year-old child that option. While this is frustrating to think about now, at least my evenings were relatively free. I understand why the teacher suggested that because she must have been mortified when she saw an absolute beginner walking into her class in first year without a lick of Irish. I suppose the others in my class were at A2 level or were advanced beginners. I would have liked for her to have taken a chance on me. If I were to rewrite this chapter in my life, I would have said to her, look, give me some resources, books that I can use, check on me from time to time, but I won’t be involved too much in the class, not to hold you back in any sort of way or fashion. I will pick Irish up one day, but I am well aware that the grammar and pronunciation is particularly tricky.
So it was really just French. There was a very big gap between when I dropped French, and the time I decided to be a language teacher. I didn’t really dabble in any languages between then at all. That transition from having very little language knowledge to training as a teacher was very difficult for me. I didn’t understand grammar and phonetics, I was envious of my peers who had a number of languages under their belt, and I felt utterly pathetic in my knowledge with languages. I talk little bit more about my CELTA experiences here.
Having spent this time looking back at my history with languages, an enormous regret lingers. However, I’m trying to correct that. Today, I’m currently studying German and I have been working with Spanish a little bit on and off. Hopefully, in the future I’ll pick up a few more languages once my foundations with German are a bit more solid.