July 25, 2007

Do they really understand me?

Posted in Uncategorized at 12: 34 pm by MK

Last night at dinner my friends posed the question, “If someone speaks zero English, how do you begin to teach them and how do you really know they are understanding what you are teaching?” E.B. put it best by saying, “If right now I was forced to move to Thailand without knowing anyone, how would I begin to learn Thai? How would I have any idea what someone, even a teacher, was saying?”

I’ve been reflecting on these questions and wondering how much my students are really learning and understanding. Are they simply responding with sounds to questions like, “How are you?” and “What day is today?” Do they really understand what they are learning to imitate? But if they don’t imitate at some point how do they learn? Is the imitation of sounds a first step to learning a new language? These are all fascinating questions as I think about my reading list and research for next semester.



  1. Elizabeth said,

    Maybe look at how children learn language. I am sure that they have no idea what “Hi” means when they first start saying it, they are just imitating. Or when I hear a new word, I can recite it, but still have to look up it’s meaning.

  2. retepsnave said,

    I just recently heard an interview with a musician who’d married an Argentinian woman…
    his comment, after living several years in Argentina and having to learn the language from scratch, was that you are forced to revert and ‘become an infant’ – in that your understanding drops to a child’s level and that your ability to communicate properly/grammatically etc. also drops dramatically. And he also commented how humbling it was, that it forces you to come to terms with unwittingly ‘making a fool out of yourself on a daily basis.’

  3. mariakristin said,

    So if learning a new language makes you revert back to a childlike state can you imagine what that does to a person’s ego? Perhaps the musician found it humbling because (and I’m making an assumption here) it was his choice to move to Argentina. However, if this new identity is forced upon you, will you feel humbled or frustrated?

  4. housegirrl said,

    I just found this site on edublogs–http://larryferlazzo.edublogs.org/–and it’s a resource for teachers of English as a second language! Perhaps it will be of use.

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