Thursday, July 03, 2014

educational disservice in language study

everybody ready for a personal refletction on a lost educational opportunity?


ok, so i took french all through middle school and high school. i was a passable speaker and a pretty good reader.

but when i was in college, i realized that while i had some good beginnings, what i did not have was a solid gasp of grammar. so i thought taking some french in college would be just the thing. i looked at catalog listings and syllabi and came up with a nice solid second-year grammar course that i thought would make me a stronger speaker and a decent writer.

you can be sloppy in your spoken french because so many verb forms sound alike from tense to tense.

and you can gather a LOT of clues in reading by sorting context.

so i went to ask to take this second-year grammar course that was just perfect for my needs and they said i'd have to test out of first year french, so i took the placement tests. i warned them, though, that i was going to look a LOT better on paper than my actual skills.

you know, because i had good comprehension and weak grammar and if they weren't taking a writing sample or asking me to make more than small talk, they weren't going to see my glaring deficiencies.

you see where this is going?

i ended up in a senior level conversational course where i was that one kid nobody wants in their group. i was completely over my head. the teacher felt i had a poor grasp of grammar.

and i was too ashamed to stand up and say TOLJA.

i knew how good i was, and how good i wasn't. i KNEW i belonged in a second-year grammar course and that's what i tried to get into.

i could still use a second year grammar course. i feel the sting of it every time i want to speak french, which, because of where i live, is pretty often.

the moral of the story is that an enthusiastic learner will often be able to tell you what they need. if you are a teacher, you should listen.


Kristin @ Going Country said...

I suspect good teachers already do listen. And not-good teachers never listen to anyone. Though that may be an unfair generalization.

I was very good at Spanish in high school. so I tested out of the language requirement in college. And like an idiot (i.e. a typical 18-year-old) I was all, "Hooray! One less semester for me!" instead of doing the smart thing and taking the rest of the Spanish courses so I could be fluent for life instead of a half-assed speaker with a good accent but an increasingly dwindling vocabulary as I forget everything from high school.

I was not an enthusiastic learner. Lazy is better description.

Zhoen said...

It's amazing how often the best answer in any situation is, "listen."


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