And so this is Christmas, and what have you done? Lennon has already asked this question, but it seems that the end of the calendar year invites or begs an analysis of what’s happened all along the year.
Every year I enjoy giving my students and some of the supporting cast a little present – a Santa Claus chocolate bar, etc. This year, for instance, my wife and I decided to give a customized bottle of pure grape juice from the Mitto Terroir wine producing regions in southern Brazil. As you know, we don’t drink alcohol, so it would be a little hypocritical to be giving alcohol (which, by the way, does not prevent us from regifting the odd bottle of wine some well-intentioned Nimrod has given us). Why should good wine go to waste, after all? Yes, I know…
But back to today’s topic: This morning’s first class was with Alice* in Wonderland. Hardworking senior manager at a leading law firm in São Paulo. Not such a hardworking student, though. Some 10 years ago, Alice* traveled to Chicago to study English for a few months – at that time she reached the intermediate level. 10 years later, she’s still intermediate. What’s happened?
After reaching the intermediate level, most language students reach a plateau, for some people it’s enough what they’ve already learned – but some are aware that they will soon forget what they’ve learned if they don’t continue to study, so they hire a teacher with a magic wand that makes them learn and grow. Not really!
So… Alice* walks in (15 minutes late – today she was early) and starts talking about the Finale of The Voice – USA edition – proud that she watched it in English with NO subtitles. Truth be said she didn’t understand more than 60% of the content but started telling me about the show, the winner, the songs, etc.
“Good practice”, I thought. Until, she’d have to pause and ask me in every sentence the English translation of words in Portuguese. “Teacher, how can you say AZARÃO, COMERCIAL, DESAPEGO, VINÍCULA, etc. After ducking the shower of vocabulary bullets, I told her, DARK HORSE, COMMERCIAL/AD, DETACHMENT, VINEYARD, – she repeated the word in the context. At the end of the class I’d ask her those words to see how much she remembered… the only one she remembered was black horse (sic). LOL.
Then, she talked about the cult on the Voice – and Matt “cheats” little children, yada, yada, yada. Actually, she meant “coach” and Matt “teaches” little children, but needs to work on the pronunciation.
Asked about her self-assessment, Alice* went on to say she didn’t give (sic) much progress but she will be much more compromised (sic) in 2050 (sic).
I told her she needs some structure in her course, every class must include a review of what’s been previously taught – be it grammar, vocabulary, etc, and learning must be seen as a house under construction it needs – foundations – walls – roof – from the ground up.
Of course, Alice* nodded in agreement but argued that she very rarely cancels the class (which is true, the very few times she had to cancel was because of a hangover, ask no more) and she enjoys this open talk free-style format.
But Alice concluded saying: “I have a good skills (sic)” – she meant to say excuse – (there goes pronunciation through the window again) – “I work too much”.
Next year, a new page in her learning journey will be opened, stay tuned for the next episodes.
*All students’ names have been changed to preserve teacher’s physical integrity