TEFL – Day 1

TEFL Office

The last few days I have been very lazy: relaxing in coffee shops, finishing two novels and squeezing in my Nepali classes.  However, all good things must come to an end and my lazing around in Kathmandu ended today with the start of my TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) course.

There are 4 students in the class: an Irish guy who seems more of a party goer than a teacher, a young Swiss Girl who has already done some voluntary work in Cambodia and Nepal, a Nepali English Teacher who wants to enhance his skills and myself – not quite sure what I am doing here, but I think my deep down desire is to help someone as oppose to making corporate companies wealthy as I have been doing for the last however many years, so quite an interesting mix.  There are 3 TEFL teachers who will be training us over the next 4 weeks.

Foreign Language Exercise

The first task was a Foreign Language Walk.  I had to write down 80 English words, then go outside and ask a local for the Nepali word.  I was very nervous going up to a complete stranger, especially someone who is not a native English speaker.  I found a cafe with a smiley boy behind the counter and begged for his help.  It was actually a lot of fun once I broke the ice.  I attracted a small crowd and I had many Nepalese shouting out the answers. They were very patient at first and found my atrocious pronunciations funny.  Toward the 75th word, however they got a bit frustrated with me and one of the boys grabbed my notepad to write the remaining Nepali words.  It is a great way to learn some foreign words!!!!  The purpose of the exercise was to understand how it feels to learn a language, so I can take this knowledge into the classroom.

The next lesson was about Language Acquisition.  It was pretty fascinating, based on Noam Chomsky theory on how children acquire language.  I am not a psychologist, but I think this is the gist of it:

Language acquisition starts from birth when a mother is constantly talking to their baby even though they don’t understand anything.  The child is slowly processing all the words they hear (from family friends, peers, etc.) and eventually they start saying a few things.  A mother is very patient with their child and is always correcting their speech, for example:

Child: I gived the money to dad.

Mum: You gave the money to dad.

Child: I gived the money to dad.

Mum: You gave the money to dad.

Eventually the subconscious works out the rule and the child starts using the correct form, e.g. ‘gave’ and not ‘gived’.  Noam Chansky believed by the age of 8 a child had mastered their native language.

Some scholars think a foreign language cannot be learnt, but also needs to be acquired like your mother tongue.  This means throwing out all those grammar rules (woo hooo!!!) and putting students in a position where they are forced to use the foreign language.

At Class

After this we covered teaching tips in a new class.  For this exercise we each had a section of a document to read then we had to present our section to the class.  Why did I sign up for this course again? – I soooo hate presenting, but I somehow got through it.

It was quite an exhausting day, but putting my nerves aside I thoroughly enjoyed it!!!

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