Jamie Lee Mcfadden


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Do you really believe it is not important to know your students native language to teach them.

I see all these websites that says "No need to know a foreign language. Go abroad and teach English". This is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. Lets look at Russian against English prepositions very rarely line up. If a teacher does not realize this how are they going to understand how to help the student to understand? He will confuse the student. I see this being miss taught all the time and it hurts the students. http://goo.gl/9hn2R is an article I wrote about. I do not know why native English speakers feel every one should just learn English. By the way Patricia Ryan is great in this video.

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    Dec 29 2011: If you want to optimize learning/teaching, then you will care about each student's personal background, especially the language(s) they're most comfortable with.
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      Dec 31 2011: I completely agree with you on this. This is why I have been able to go out on my own. I have built a reputation on giving each student or group what they need, Also I am tole I am the only native teacher in this city that speaks Russian and they are really surprised when I start to speak Ukrainian to prove a point.
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    Jan 3 2012: Reading over the posts here, I say let's get to the heart of what is annoying you. You don't unsterstand why native English speakers refuse to learn any language other than English. The answer is simply because, for a variety of reasons, Engligh is the current lingua Franca. In other times it was Greek, Latin, and even more recently French.

    However, I think drilling deeper, you are trying to get to an understanding of why these "unilinguists" as I call them, seem to disdain, and outright refuse, to learn any language other than English.

    From my UK cradle I would cite pride in our very heritage,, but since I took the mantle of American citizenship several lifetimes ago, I can now state unequivocally that in the US the attitude is because of an attempt to unify such disparate ethnic groups. The US is a vast collective of so many different cultures and the one unifying factor is that while they have all brought various holidays, foods, technologies, and ideals with them, each group at some point gave up their native tongue for American English. That is, until recently, with the overwhelming entry of hispanohablantes into the US, but that sudden cultural shift has caused a great uprising in natnalistic temper. But that's for another post.

    The simple answer is this: the reason why teachers of English don't feel they have to learn the native language of their students is because they don't have to. This is not to judge if that is right or wrong, it is simply the fact.

    Personally, I think that's terribly small minded, as I wish everybody spoke at least three languages . . . As I do. (English, Spanish, and gibberish - when I get terribly flustered!)
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      Jan 4 2012: I have to agree with you wholeheartedly in this. It also has teachers here dumbfounded because they usually speak two,three or even more languages. Many native English speakers feel their language(I am a native English speaker) is the only important language and even get mad when people speak in other languages.
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    Dec 31 2011: I disagree about the dumbest thing ever heard, that has to be when I turned-down a job offer from Steve Wozniak in the 70's in Silicon Valley.
    But about your headline question, it is imperative that the student understand the language the teacher is using, it is not essential that the teacher understand any other languages the student may speak.
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      Jan 1 2012: That makes no sense at all. The teacher is there to help the student understand. If you understand their language you can explain better the why questions. The problem is too many people have the God complex and do not want to put in extra effort. The better you understand the obstacles your student faces the better you can help them. How many people here making comments can speak multiple languages? Most that I have seen teaching English knows how to speak their native tongue but have not learned a second. How can you say you are qualified to teach some one their new language if you yourself do not understand what it is like to really learn a new language? I think it is very hypocritical.
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        Jan 1 2012: What makes no sense? My not taking the job at Apple, or my OPINION expressed in response to your invitation?
        If you want to limit responses to those who agree with your OPINION then re-word your question to say so. Thanks Jamie.
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    Dec 31 2011: I have taught English in China and do not speak Chinese. It has worked out very well. It is considered a bad idea to use a student's native language when teaching them a new language. And it is not necessary to know it.

    I am learning Chinese. The best Chinese teacher I had did speak English but insisted we speak only Chinese. Again, it worked out quite well (except she got married and quit teaching ... I have been looking for a good teacher ever since!)
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      Dec 31 2011: Thomas,

      I taught Spanish in the US to elementary and high school teachers during my college days. The method I used required me to use no English whatsoever. It was fun and easy to follow. Teachers I taught had a chance to learn like babies. We met several times a week for about an hour each afternoon soon after their classes ended, for several weeks.

      It was a great way to learn how to pronounce and how to internalize phrases. However, this is a very shallow, baby-level method. To really learn a language, it is very helpful to see analogies or lack therof with other languages you already know.

      This is why the more languages you know the easier it gets to pick up new ones. You know how the rules work, and you know what rules to look for.

      Furthermore, it seems the human brain, practically speaking, only has so many slots to track concepts. After a certain point, you need to fill new words you learn not in different slots, but as translations of the same concept. It seems as if you can only think natively about a limited number of concepts. After a certain point, you're stuck having to translate.

      Some people might sound and be able to speak natively, but if you review their vocabulary, you will see it is not very deep. They get away with it because the first 100 most frequently used words of any language get used to produce more than 50% of all written material.

      Therefore, there is a point, the deeper you get into a language, where you will be better served by translation into one of your native languages. Some concepts and phrases aren't even translatable. They simply must be explained. Take the word "Epistemology," as an example. Not having studied Chinese, I don't know if it has a single word that coins the same meaning. Learning the word, if it exists, is much easier, if I start with the English equivalent in mind, since it is a concept that isn't obvious or easily grasped.

      Warm regards from Los Angeles,

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      Dec 31 2011: I can not agree with you at all. One school in my city fired their native teachers after me subbing for two classes. Yes you want to speak English as much as possible but knowing their language helps avoid speed bumps. An example maybe a student can't figure out why Russian prepositions are so different than English prepositions and by knowing both languages I avoid these because I can really explain the difference. I feel and so do most no native English teachers that most native speakers are too lazy to learn. Or feel English is the one great language. You see I can teach beginners which is not normal for a native English speaker. Also none of my students have ever scored less than a 7 on the IELTS. To be honest here they dread native speakers and use them as a helper to the real teacher. I am trusted enough that I am the only teacher. I am from L.A too. I have met other Americans here that after two years still can not speak to me in Russian and they live here. The better you understand your students back ground the better you can help them.
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    Dec 30 2011: If these ads are targeting an American audience, then they are simply using the marketing technique that understands that Americans do not believe that it is necessary to learn any language other than English. (Yes, this is a sad failure in American culture).

    However, I see a benefit in the ad, in that at least it encourages Americans to go out into the world, to travel beyond the borders of the country. In my experience, every American who has ever spent time in a foreign country (living/teaching/working) has returned with a deep appreciation of the other culture, a mind that has been opened, and a better perspective on the dangers of American xenophobia. So, in that sense, I encourage the continuation of promoting American teachers to teach abroad.

    But to answer the real question: It is not so much the teaching of the language which is important as the learning of the language. A person learns a language only by immersing themselves in the language. However, an American who tries to learn the primary language of the students, or at least the culture, engenders a sense of trust, which probably enables the students to learn more quickly and more adeptly. I've found that the desire to learn is really diminished when the teacher is openly condescending or disdainful.
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      Dec 31 2011: I agree with the premise that knowing the language background is helpful in engaging the student. However, propose how you do this. As an elementary principal, I see teachers pouring into kids everyday...into their lives, their backgrounds, etc. There has to be some caution in making generalized statements about what should happen in the classroom.
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        Dec 31 2011: Randy,

        If you look at the history of academia (universities and schools in general), you will see that they were invented as a cost-savings measure, as only royalty was able to afford private, trained tutors. Nothing beats individualized personalized approaches.

        Unfortunately, because of costs and apathy, we end up with classrooms that mimic factories, with dies, stamps and cookie cutters. Indeed, "most" classrooms tend to only measure and encourage compliance. Showing up on time, following rules, etc. are great training for people that will go work in factories... but will not be likely to produce people like Steve Jobs, William Shakespeare, Pablo Picasso or similar creative geniuses. Just imagine an English teacher saying, "No little Billy, 'tis not how we speak. Stop it!"

        It's as if the most important time for people to learn is outside the classroom. That's why the public school system should encourage and empower parents to do most of the teaching.

        Warm regards from Los Angeles,

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          Dec 31 2011: Education around the world has gone to hell in a hand basket. We all need to come together and figure this out our youth need to come first. I actually heard an native speaker teaching the classes bad grammar. He was from Britain and I have studied both forms of the language and actually use British books in my classes.It made my ears burn to here a "TEACHER" speaking so bad. I grew up with my Scottish family visiting often and for me both forms are easy.
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          Jan 1 2012: Emmanuel and Jamie, here is something you will probably not be surprised to see:


          In my personal opinion, I think loving parents can do alot to educate their own children in being a well rounded individual....as well as teaching them many basic competencies. Also, parents, motivated by love, will look at the positive attributes and natural talents their children have and nurture these.
          I don't think the school system will ever "encourage and empower parents to do most ot the teaching", the school system doesn't really care. I do think individual dedicated teachers who have their student's best interest at heart, will however, encourage parents to enrich their childs learning when they see a special trait in any one particular student.

          I invite you to visit the Idea and question sections and read what some of the young people on this site are trying to do with the school system in their states.
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          Jan 1 2012: @ Mary Munoz I haven't watched your video yet I will in a bit. I agree and I feel parents are laying to much of the blame on the teachers. How many parents today sit down and help their children with their homework? How ever these same parents blame the teachers for their children bad marks... We are in an age that parents use the internet and t.v as a pacifier for their kids so that they do not need to be bothered by them. On top of this most public schools are underfunded. I seen in Yahoo News that in N.Y they are getting rid of older teachers because they get a hire salary and replacing them with fresh out of school teachers that don't have the experience that the older teacher did. The other thing is that they want to put more kids per class room. The U.S is 26th in the world for education. How could we let this happen?
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      Dec 31 2011: Yes is is ads to get you to spend $200-$1000 for a 20-120 hour course that is not really worth the paper it is printed on. I actually went through the British Consulate to take the test Cambridge University demands. Also these guys are great for helping IELTS instructors. By the way most Americans that have taken the IELTS score a 7 which is the lowest score my students have ever scored. Results boys results.
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        Dec 31 2011: Sorry, hadn't thought about that. Yes, there are definitely scams to make money, such as overpriced courses that supposedly "train" you to teach abroad. Sad.

        I like the idea, though, overall, of sending more people out into the world to teach their language to others. In my experience, true understanding comes through a mingling of cultures (in a non-threatening context).

        Maybe we could someday start a teaching abroad programme that is not-for-profit, and emphasizes at least a basic understanding and respect of the target culture/language before sending the teacher there.
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          Jan 1 2012: I just feel they need to be more serious about it and not have such a simple classes online. Here the schools require a teacher to also have went to a four year University and have majored in English.
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    Dec 31 2011: We are in America, and our first language is English. Of course, you don't just drop their language and teach them everything in a language they barely know. But if you teach them in their language it will be impossible for them to finally get the hang of understanding what your teacher is teaching you in English. So you should make the English teaching easier, while they are being helped with learning English. Just teaching them in their language is not fair to the other students; the child who does not know English will drag behind the class; I speak from experience (I am only 13) and there is a whole group of Spanish kids. They have trouble learning because they barely understand English. Now is that fair for us, who need to learn at our own pace, not constantly being stopped in the middle of class just so they can understand what the teacher means by "divide."
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      Jan 27 2012: If there is a whole group of Spanish kids they should take separate class for English . A three year old baby can learn a language and start speaking . They just need support . Its better to treat a class fellow as friend rather than competitor .
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    Dec 31 2011: Basically the rule of thumb is to keep the native language of the pupils out of the class as much as possible but by knowing their language you increase your ability to understand any walls that may come back. Too many American bounce from country to country (I am an American) and are just used as a teachers English monkey. I heard so many schools say no no natives can not teach a group on their own. After two years I have schools calling asking me to come and work for them. I thank God everyday that I followed my Russian friends advice when I got into this. Now I am having my articles published in Russian here and teaching at some of the largest companies here.