This is a repost from last spring:
Exploring the reasons behind the way things act (etiology) is a deep and magnificent process when applied to language acquisition. Have language teachers ever done this before? Have they ever explored the reasons why humans can speak, or would want to, in a language other than their first one?
Have they ever paddled around in the richness of it all before? Because we, yes, us, little old insane us in our insane buildings in these insane times (can anyone say Realidades?), are paddling around in the richness of the mud that spoken language in our classes is. Have language teachers ever, before now, thought of what they do as anything more than mental gymnastics for the intellectually privileged?
Have language teachers ever thought, until now, about how fun teaching a language can be? Have they ever laughed through an entire class and had that class be a rabbit hole into a second or third language for some surprised teenager who thought up to the point they walked into our classrooms that school was about thinking, not laughing?
The process we are in now is rich and full and provides our intellectual and emotional hands with thick rich mud to create in. It would need a poet like Gary Snyder or Dylan Thomas or that bad boy Art Rimbaud, some of those rich hands mud poets, to write about it. Why? It is because of the way we teach – swimming around in the rich mud of the language in the real way right there in our own classrooms.
We need rich mud to teach. Language is rich mud. It’s not paper thin, wafer thin, like they made it for the past 100 years, bless their hearts. And it’s not English either. If we use English in our classrooms then we aren’t swimming around in mud and we won’t know those joys.
Inclusion. Not exclusion. All the kids involved. A mud bath. A mud bath in the target language only. (English dries up the mud.)
Here is what the French say about conversation, which is what we do, even if our students have to use just one word answers to converse with us. Look at how rich this is, and how muddy in the best of ways:
“La conversation constitue un tissu langagier grâce auquel les membres d’une communauté non seulement communiquent quotidiennement, mais encore assurent leur appartenance au groupe. Par la conversation, l’individu construit sa face sociale…..”
“Conversation is made up of a linguistic tissue thanks to which the members of a community not only communicate on a daily basis, but also guarantee their membership in the group. Through conversation, the individual constructs his social place in the group…..”
Mud links water and plants and life together. Life grows in muck. Staying in the target language in class links people to the language in the real way, guaranteeing their place in the social group. When teachers speak about the joys that they experience when they teach in this muddy connected way, we see something we have not seen before in language education – people connected at the heart level by a language/tissue.
Do we know how it works? Can we see the process of language acquisition happen? No. It is beyond our reach. It is as clear as mud. And that’s a good thing. Again, we are not allowed to control certain things about life, and this is one of them. All we can do is deliver the CI and get over ourselves. And watch the water lilies grow, if we but speak to the kids in the TL.
What we are doing is so far from the data driven, pacing guide driven, grade driven yokes that are still around our necks, that those yokes will just slowly crack and break away in little pieces with each new attempt at a story we make, as long as our hearts are strong now when we are most tired, as we slough through the mud of April.