Let’s Learn Some Language

A student sidles up to me to show me how to write ‘hello’ in characters. Another student shows me how he has copied a word in Arabic from the original written by his mother. Since starting to introduce language activities in the classroom, I have noticed that students are much more forthcoming with their mother tongues, especially when they see that I am genuinely interested in hearing them. On several occasions, students have shared pieces of their culture or mother tongue without being prompted, much to my delight.

As this happens, I’ve found myself facing situations where monolingual students feel left out. Activities are always inclusive, where students are encouraged to learn from their peers, or an online translator, but I have felt that at times those who only speak English feel disadvantaged. Earlier in my inquiry, I had been focusing on bolstering confidence for ELLs. I find it interesting that the tables have been turned for me in this sense.

In the end, my objective is to lead by example as an avid language learner. As seen in “Adult Learners’ Perceptions of the Incorporation of their L1 in Foreign Language Teaching and Learning” by Kimberly Anne Brooks-Lewis, leading by example when it comes to learning languages can be a powerful tool. For those students who might feel insecure about the fact that they speak only one language, I hope that they might look to me as an example. If I am able to convey a sense of curiosity and positivity, then students might start to think that it is possible to learn another language if one has the right attitude.

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