Monday, 2 May 2011

My first bilingual lesson

Well I never thought I would ever end up teaching through another language in just three months of being overseas but today I finally got brave and gave it ago. The legacy of French speaking here means that in reality most of the TTC students understand French better than English. By the time they have got to senior 5 (the second year of the TTC) most of them understand English fairly well, but the new students in senior 4 seem to have absolutely no idea what I am talking about! So I thought seeing as I am here to teach methodology and not English (although I inevitably do end up doing a bit of that!) I will do whatever it takes to be understood. I hate not being understood and I know they must find it frustrating not to be able to understand.

The only way I can do it is to translate the key headings and instructions beforehand in French. I’m still not at the stage of being able to respond well ‘live’ to anything thrown at me in French, although I have got to the stage that when I hear a French conversation I can often understand about half of what is said, well sometimes a little less, it depends on the context! The students thought my French was hilarious but they did at least seem to find it helpful. Especially as I was preaching on at them about the importance of learning English, I thought that perhaps it was time to explain that I have a lot to learn as well!

It wasn’t as awful as I imagined, trying to teach in French, but it felt much scarier than teaching in the mother tongue. I think its the fact that you worry about making too many mistakes and getting all tongue tied. It doesn’t help that they laugh at you also, but they do that when I speak English anyway so perhaps it is just me and not my language...well the way I’m looking at all this language learning is that if my awfulness in Kinyarwanda and/or French makes people laugh then at least I have brightened up someone’s day. At the end of the day you only improve by taking a deep breath and giving it a go, no matter how silly you sound. There is a real culture here of never making a mistake. Mistakes are seen as the end of the world and therefore people are often reluctant to try things for fear of making a mistake and losing face, hence why some students tent to opt out of participating. While I know I’m unlikely to change this completely I would like to show them that mistakes are not the end of the world even if people do laugh at you!

No pain, no gain...she who dares wins...a glass of amarula cream will be drunk this eve to celebrate my linguistic bravery ;-)

1 comment:

  1. You are seeing the old fashioned way languages were taught in the UK. When I was a kid at school (in the 1960s) teachers made fund of our mistakes when learning foreign languages.

    This put so many Brits off learning languages.

    But once I started travelling on business, it became a case of trying to be understood. You can only get better using a language.

    I can remember giving my first big presentation to a large audience in French when we lived in France. My French engineer managed to mess up my slides (not by accident I suspect). But the company had no presentations in French until an Englishman (me) was put in charge of the office.

    It does get easier, and once you have mastered it, it is an incredible sense of achievement to be more or less fluent in another language.

    Don't forget that French is not their native language either, so after a while, your French may well be better than theirs.