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Archive for September, 2011

Life Lessons for Language Learners

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011

I was recently training a group of world language teachers on language acquisition and methodologies when an interesting topic arose: How can teachers integrate life lessons into daily language instruction?
After an interesting conversation with the group of teachers that day, I returned home and reflected on the language theories I had just taught. I realized that the ways we teach language are actually intertwined with the way we conduct our lives as social beings, regardless of what language we speak. The process in itself is a life lesson.
Let me explain. There are three ways (called strands) in which we teach a language. They are interpretation, interpersonal and presentational.
Interpretation
Interpreting language and situations is what we do as humans from the time we’re born. Before we can speak, we communicate with facial expressions, body language and sounds. We then interpret people’s responses as good, bad or indifferent. As we learn to speak the language, even though we hear the words the same as everyone else, we may interpret what is being said differently. So, in essence communication is dependent on the interpretation of the message. It is the same when we are listening to someone speak another language; we must interpret the meaning, not just the words.
Interpersonal
Interpersonal activities consist of the interactions that occur between individuals or groups. Again, we begin this activity (verbal and nonverbal) at an early age: with our families, at school and with friends. We continue these interactions for the rest of our lives. As second language learners, it’s imperative to use the new language with others as much as possible, to really understand how to communicate well and be interpersonal in the target language. Interpersonal skills are important for all aspects of our lives, regardless of what language you speak.
Presentational
Presentational activities assume there is an audience to whom you are presenting. This happens all the time in our daily lives; whether you are asking your boss for a raise, writing a blog post, sending an email or text, giving a toast, or actually presenting to a group. These are all life skills that are considered presentational. When learning another language, we need to be proficient in this ability as well. Taking into consideration that there is or may be an “audience” for your message is an important aspect of how we use our language. It’s also an important facet of life.

Learning a new language is good practice for learning life lessons. The skills that you learn can be carried over to all aspects of your life. Not only do you gain a new ability (speaking another language), but you also hone your life skills.
It was an interesting revelation to see how entwined life skills and lessons are with language learning. I never really considered it before. But now I’ll be certain to let the teachers know that they are integrating life lessons everyday that they teach.