What do you call someone who speaks TWO languages?
What do you call someone who speaks THREE languages?
Q: What do you call someone who speaks ONE language?
|My Early Days as an ESL Teacher, 2009|
That’s me. A typical American. Raised on television, fast food, and fireworks.
I always figured that people from Brazil spoke Spanish.
I was a regular Yankee Doodle Dumbbell.
And there I was, on my first day of work, standing in front of a room full of strangers from all over the world, none of whom spoke English. My job was to make them all talk.
Speaking English has always been so easy for me. Piece of cake, right? If I had known that day that I was about to get myself into, I might not have gone through with it. I was halfway through college with limited knowledge, and I was about to wrestle with one of the most convoluted, irregular, exception-ridden languages in the world.
Where does one start?
Do you start with grammar and rules? Or vocabulary? What about writing and reading? And what good is all that without pronunciation!? It’s enough to make the teacher crazy, much less a student!
I know why we use the past perfect and can tell you if a verb is transitive or intransitive. I can identify stressed and unstressed syllables, and explain why we shouldn’t split infinitives, but boldly do it anyway.
I now know that Swiss people speak Swiss German, French, or Italian.
I know Brazilians speak Portuguese, not Spanish.
And I can even tell the difference between Chinese and Japanese people. Do you know how I do it? By smiling and asking them their names.
That’s how it starts.
|Aloha and Konnichiwa! Honolulu, Hawaii, 2011|