Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Getting Started

Once more into the breach - I leap into blogdom again. The operating principle is to use the blog as a teaching tool for my online ESL class for EFI. I was at the point where I have to try something new or cancel the class.

But blogging English is not just about learning (or teaching) English as a Second (or other) language. It is also about the language itself and the apparent fascination it holds for me. If the blog is only about ESL and the class, then I will only get frustrated when none or few participate. My students no doubt have their own feelings and frustrations about English. They can vent them here, either as original posts or as comments.

I will blog resources, links, lessony stuff - write some posts in language more accessible for beginner readers. On the hand, they can also work on stretching their reading skills.

So how long have I been "at English"? Does being born to it count? If so, then it is a lifelong matter. Perhaps even a generational one as my father was an English major (dual BA/BS English/Math), a thwarted writer and word oriented soul in a family of math and science types. Books were appreciated and everybody read copiously, but math and science were the only serious occupations worthy of being professions. My father lost or never found the writer's taste for risk taking with writing and language (his flair for outrageous puns excepted) was a marvelous editor with the keenest eye for the best word possible. In high school and college, language, literature, and humanities were the easiest classes, but my heart was in (or thought it should be in) math, with sciences also in the running.

After a hiatus from college while living overseas, I returned to university at the American University in Cairo. There were no majors to match up with what I had been studying at USL (now UL-Lafayette) in Louisiana, so I became an English major for a while. An upper division course in the history of literary criticism and theory really turned me off. I did not return to majoring in English for 25 years.

Learning other languages sharpens the sense of language - and appreciation of its mystery. No matter how much research and theory trots down the road, no matter how many MRI scans showing where in the brain what happens, we still don't really understand it or how it works. Language functions do not even happen in the same parts of the brain or in the same way for every language. No two learners learn languages the same way. The same learner does not learn different languages the same way. Metacognition and neurocognitive linguistics raise as many - if not more - questions as they answer. I've collected a bunch of links on language learning that I'll post another time.

So class, I ask you now: what are your English stories? Your language paths?

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