Before I went to Europe to teach English, and pillage languages from unsuspecting Europeans, I completed several months of graduate language study in the field of TESOL (Teach English to Speakers of Other Languages).
It took about half a semester for me to realize that the education system– specifically how we learn and teach languages in this country– is severely handicapped by a lack of perspective on langugaes.
They are not things that fold easily into the pages of a book, nor do they fit very nicely in a terrarium. (Although the latter would be the better option.)
A language is a living, breathing, eating thing, a sort of para-ecosystem that thrives or dies on the backs of the people or things that speak it.
With this in mind I set out to prove to myself and eventually (hopefully) the world that we don’t need glossy, dogma filled classrooms where we spend thousands of dollars training teachers to compare their academic wangs with their academic vocabularies so that they can go forth into a system that is broken but being held up by patchwork and duct-tape.
So I taught myself Japanese by following what I felt to be true about language learning. And after six months I made it to a B1 conversational level and an A2 reading level, then I decided to put my money where my mouth was. Sure I could learn a language, but could I teach others?
In France, I was able to work in a school setting that allowed me the freedom to try things that hadn’t been tried before on large scale groups. I was also able to network and offer private lessons to business school students, medical professionals and pre-school children.
There were lots of failures, of course. But that’s fine, because every failure leads to a better approach. And sometimes, success means different things to different people. I’m sure that even in the lessons that didn’t go well, one thing always came across– my passion for languages and the importance of why we should speak more than one.
So who am I speaking to?
If you’ve ever wanted to learn a language.
If you’ve ever sucked at learning a language.
If you’ve seen or felt firsthand how the majority of schools in this and many other countries has failed at teaching them.
If you believe in alternative approaches to learning.
If you think it’s silly to judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree.
Then I’m here for you.
Unless you’re a fish. If you’re a fish and you’re reading this, first off, kudos, really. You’re maybe the first fish to read English. Secondly, you should probably stop reading this and get back in the water before you die. Once you’re safe, send me an e-mail and I’ll get you a spot on Oprah.
For the rest of you, I hope to hear from you soon!