Summer musings of a soon-to-be language teacher

I last posted during my BEd ‘Community Field Experience’ (CFE) on the Northwest coast of Vancouver Island. When I found out I was to go to Zeballos, the first thing I remarked about the village name was that it is of Spanish origin (originally pronounced “ce-bae-yos”). Zeballos was visited by Spanish explorers in the 1700s, and, like many others places along the Pacific coast, retains a name of Spanish origin. Other such places in the region include Texada Island, Sonora Island and the Juan de Fuca Trail, in Canada, and the San Juan Islands (including Lopez Island), Guemes Island, Fidalgo Island, and Port Angeles in nearby Washington State.

IMG_7819 (2) 2 2A little canoeing after school in Zeballos? Why sure!

I recently completed the course work required to become a teacher and have only one practicum remaining. Until then, I am visiting family and finally have some time to think about the experiences that have filled the past 12 months, as well as read (for pleasure, not class), play my violin, spend time with my dog, visit with friends and catch up with others on video calls.

IMG_20160721_185329 (2) 2 2(Taking eight summer classes discouraged me from sitting at my computer to write a blog post.
There were too many beautiful summer distractions…)

I am excited that soon I will be teaching French and Spanish and look forward to generating interest and curiosity in languages. I expect that some students will challenge the relevance of learning French in western Canada. One student in my last practicum asked: “Why are we learning French when we live, like…4000km from Québec?” (not a bad question for a grade 8 student). Some of my grade 8’s asked (during French class) why I couldn’t just teach them the “cool” Spanish language instead. While certain languages may be considered “cooler” than others, there are endless reasons why learning French, Spanish or any other language is one of the best things for brains.

IMG_7885 2I made this display for the Grade 3/4/5/6 class during my CFE, where the indigenous language is
Nuu-chah-nulth. The word “iisaak” (ee-saak) from this complex language translates as respect, but goes much deeper than the English definition; it conveys an understanding of creation and makes communication between the
Nuu-chah-nulth people and animals such as the salmon and wolf possible.

Every language, whether a major world language or an indigenous one spoken by only a handful of elders, is important and each one is a unique set of keys to different ways of seeing the world and thinking about life, which in turn affects how we phrase sentences and answer questions. Indeed, many bilingual people say they feel like a different person depending on the language they are speaking. Research shows that becoming bilingual involves a rewiring of the brain and improves the executive system, as flipping between different languages is an excellent cognitive exercise. Being bilingual delays the symptoms of dementia by an average of five years (compared to those who are monolingual) and can offer protection after brain injury, such as strokes. Thank you science for evidence on health-related benefits to learning languages! 😀

I won’t be able to make high school learners bilingual with three hours of class a week, but sparking interest to keep building on foundations they can learn in high school is a satisfying start.

4 thoughts on “Summer musings of a soon-to-be language teacher

  1. Felicitaciones Ciera por todo lo logrado. Muy buenos los argumentos sobre el lenguaje y la redacción en general. Un saludo desde Perú!

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