Aug 03

Language and Expression

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When I was nine my little sister was really learning to speak and walk and I undertook to do my impossible to get her to speak and walk… or at least die trying… from the day she was born I had spent as much time as I could with her… caring for her almost more than our mother even… later I would also teach her to dance and sing… and play many games…

We were living in France at the time… our father being French… and spoke more French than English going to French schools dealing and interacting with French people… except when I spoke with our mother… and besides speaking Swedish with our grandparents whenever we were with them… our mother always spoke English to us… although she also spoke French fluently…

Years and languages came and went until I found myself back in England getting ready for my A Levels and university… by then our parents had divorced, my first sister had moved to Switzerland when she married her Swiss husband… and only my brother and I were in England… our mother had stayed behind in France for a few more years as our little sister was still studying there…

She decided to come over to England for three months before returning to study in France… and I was surprised to find that she couldn’t speak English ! We had only spoken French to each other so far… and I had always imagined somewhere in a corner of my mind that we all spoke English… not being aware then that people are not born speakers… nor native speakers… we learn the language or languages we are taught wherever we are… and that was how, having spent my life with Italians, that I spoke Italian too…

I found myself somewhat estranged to my sister at first and pondered on what I could do to help… I started by speaking only English to her… to which she answered back in French… so I knew she understood… I then proceeded to have her watch television while I was away… and even got her a part-time job with a French friend so she wouldn’t be lost… and eventually put my teacher’s cap back on with her and had her read stories aloud in English to put her back on track and gain confidence and ease practising English…

Naturally it didn’t take long for her to go from reading to speaking… and in a couple of weeks she was actually speaking English… much to people’s surprise… breaking out into ‘Now you speak English !’ Everybody around us laughed out loud… now she also made a few new friends in the process… and some of them were not even born into an English speaking family… yet spoke English fluently…

Native speakers don’t exist… an Asian child adopted by a European family will learn his or her European language and most likely never learn his or her ‘own’… we all learn the language we need given the right impetus and opportunity… anybody can learn any language… even English… people now move around our old world and find themselves learning English and many other languages in the location and relocation…

Jesse CRAIGNOU (jesse.craignou@yahoo.fr)

PS : I regularly train and coach teachers through workshops and seminars… contact me if you think I can assist you…

Also CHECK THE COMPREHENSIVE TEACHER

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