6 Ways Teaching English as a Foreign Language Enriches Life by Victoria Landa

18/01/2017 - 16:10

This week we are very happy to share a post by a new guest blogger on the BELTA blog – Victoria Landa. Victoria reminds us of why we love being English teachers. Can you think of any more ways teaching English makes our lives richer? We would love to hear from you in the comments!

Victoria Landa is the Program Coordinator at LV Linguistics, a Belgian company providing professional English language training. She is a Canadian, a language aficionada, and is passionate about business and teaching. You can read more from LV Linguistics’ blog at www.lvlinguistics.be/blog.

From a very early age, I was bitten by the travel bug. Raised in Canada, I dreamed of escaping what I had come to know so well. Today, I appreciate the charm of The Great White North; 10 years ago, I was fighting for a new experience. Everything seemed so familiar to me. The donut shops, the Tim Hortons on every corner, the sweat pants, and monstrous SUVs. I yearned for novelty.

So, right after University, I flew across the world to Japan where I taught my native tongue to English lovers. I discovered that teaching to others a communication skill, from which they would reap benefits for the rest of their lives, was incredibly fulfilling.

Teaching English enriches life in very subtle ways. Here are the ways in which it contributed to mine.

1.Teaching brings value to other individuals

What is our purpose in life if not to help others? Writer, Ralph Waldo Emerson, believed that “the purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.”

Through the act of teaching, one can add immense value to another human being.

Amongst various cultures, there is a consistent emphasis on the importance of learning languages. Numerous proverbs refer to the additional value that a man has by being multilingual. (If you or your students need a little motivation to study languages, you can find scrumptious quotations here.)

Now, consider that ESL instructors ultimately support man’s quest for knowledge. They help to develop language skills so that learners can explore the world, find opportunities, and become even more successful in life! Language teachers are guides to unlocking hearts and advisors in communication that lays bricks for achievement. English, specifically, has the potential to stimulate intercultural collaboration and develop global empires.

Isn’t it wonderful to be a part of that?

2. For the duration of a lesson, you take on the role of a leader

English students, whether they are the most powerful CEO of a national powerhouse or a senior scientist in the R&D department of a pharmaceutical company, for the duration of the lesson, look to their instructor for strong leadership. They rely on their teacher’s expertise, not only in the English language but also in life. It is this experience that allows a teacher to help students use language appropriately so that they can achieve their unique goals.

“Your role as a leader is even more important than you might imagine. You have the power to help people become winners.” ― Ken Blanchard

Photo taken from http://flickr.com/eltpics by @NotyetLanguage, used under a CC Attribution Non-Commercial license, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/3.0/

3. You learn to listen …really listen

Learners of a language, at least in the beginning, do not have an array of vocabulary that they can use to express themselves. Conversing with them takes time. There are a lot of pauses, stumbles, and frequent misuses of expressions. An instructor must have a lot of patience and resist natural urges to immediately correct or supplement a student’s speech. When a student talks, an instructor’s main duty is to listen, ask relevant questions to clarify, and paraphrase – all important components of active listening.

Conversing with language learners effectively is like teaching them how to fish rather than serving a platter of ready-made seared salmon with buttered asparagus. The instructor’s goal is to build up the self-sufficiency of his students, not speak for them.

Many learners of English have told me that their major challenge has been their confidence level; their fear of making mistakes while speaking. By truly listening, an instructor is giving the message to students that what they have to say is important – even if the sentence is not put together in the most grammatically correct manner. That gives students a wonderful boost to their confidence and helps to diminish their fear of speaking another language in their regular interactions.

4. You get the inside scoop on private cultural elements

When you listen, you learn. That is the beauty of teaching a language. When you ask students open-ended questions about family, work, and their passions, you can learn wonders not only about them, as individuals, but about their communities and cultures. It was from my students that I learned about the best Okonomiyaki stand and dessert place in the city. More complexly, they were the ones that explained to me the dynamics of a Japanese marriage and the concept of duty that employees feel towards their employer. They taught me the faux pas related to professional interactions and I, to this day, make a conscious effort to accept business cards with both hands, as it is customary in Japan.

5. You meet motivated, kind, accomplished people who inspire in return

People who choose to pursue knowledge are fascinating individuals. They are people who have a passion for life and who see no end to the potential for personal development. They understand the importance of evolution and the concept that everything in life progresses. As a result, they want to keep up with the program and make sure that they have the skills necessary to lead fulfilling lives. I have provided language training to CEOs, managers, nurses, teachers, and a myriad of other professionals. Every one of them was intelligent, curious, and passionate about life. Their motivation, in turn, motivated me! In Japan, I taught a 76-year old retired business man, who had visited over 100 countries throughout his career. That inspired me so much that it ended up being one of my personal goals. As of now, I’m 30% there.

6. You have control over your own destiny

Now, who doesn’t love the sound of that? The fact that there is such a demand for English all over the world means that the skills of an English instructor are completely mobile. This means having the power to accept work and even uproot your life within a very short timeframe. If you are an explorer and are turned off at the idea of a long-term marriage with an establishment, teaching could be an ideal solution.

These are the 6 ways in which teaching English as a foreign language has enriched my life. If you are currently an EFL instructor or have been in the past, please share what you love about the experience and what it has brought to your life.

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