“Your class has a reputation for being ‘easy’…”

(You say that like it’s a bad thing…)

More people (including other language teachers!) trying to stuff the acquisition of new languages into the same mold that fits fact-based disciplines, like — well, like everything else. I can understand clueless monolingual administrators who hated their own hours in high school Spanish doing that. Their experience with language was probably very painful indeed (although it was likely a case of “lots of pain, little gain”.)

But language teachers?

We are training an unconscious, automatically-applied skill: the ability to immediately and without conscious thought assign meaning to a stream of disturbed air (aka “sounds”) or a series of marks (aka “writing”) or to disturb the air in a certain pattern using our tongue and mouths (aka “speaking”) or make marks (aka “writing”) to express meaning. Without thinking about it. We’re not cajoling students into memorizing the dates each American colony was founded, or the constant for acceleration due to gravity, or the principles of microeconomics. Those things require conscious thought.

We are helping students expand a natural human ability they already possess to include another variant or code (aka “a language”).

How can anyone get by how amazing this is? No one except a Rainman can automatically tell the quantity of objects in a pile without counting them, yet even the least intellectually gifted around the world speak their native languages fluently (many in multiple languages) every day, all without thinking about it. And without having put any effort into becoming that fluent.

Any teacher who makes that hard is really trying to.


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