How a Year Begins

As their first academic experience, MAT students take an intensive Beginning Language class at the same time they take the theory course, Second Language Acquisition.  In this way, they study a language and study their experience of studying language. Assuring that all students are absolute beginners, students are placed in a language to which they have had no exposure.

In the following interview, a student from each class reflects on her experiences.  You’ll notice the way they describe their language learning experience is informed by their Second Language Acquisition learning.

Anna is a recent graduate from North Carolina with experience tutoring ESL students.  Her Beginning Language class was Turkish.  Megan is an experienced teacher who most recently was teaching in Prague and studied Thai.  Wai Yee was most recently teaching in Thailand and studied French.

Q: What did you like about the Beginning Language class?

Anna:  Even though the language is so different, it was easy to learn because we did so much practice.

Megan:  The way we practiced in class greatly reduced my anxiety.  We would get up and walk around during practice and negotiate meaning with our peers.  There was no spotlight on us during practice.

Wai Yee:  I had a negative image of French, but that changed in this class.  It inspired me to be more open to the new language.

Q:  What was difficult about the Beginning Language class?

Anna:  It was my first time learning a non-European language, so I had very little understanding of how it works.

Megan:  It is a completely different writing system which was challenging.

Wai Yee:  It was difficult to distinguish sounds because the sounds are very different from and of my previous language experiences.

Q:  What did you learn about yourself as a learner?

Anna:  I learned that partner work is very useful for my learning.

Megan:  I realized that I am very kinesthetic.  I also liked having the opportunity to check the meaning with other students before going to the teacher with questions.

Wai Yee:  I learned that it is helpful to stay open and avoid preconceptions.  Developing self-motivation to learn the language is very important to improvement in the target language.

Q:  How did you think this experience will influence how you teach language?

Anna:  I will use immersion techniques.  I will remember to include a lot of practice and use practical scripts.

Megan:  I will involve students in low-pressure activities such as involving kinesthetic memory and providing opportunities for collective negotiation of meaning.

Wai Yee:  To make students feel more comfortable learning, I will address their impressions of the language.

Q:  How did the Beginning Language experience contribute to your Second Language Acquisition class?

Anna:  It helped me understand the concepts of “input” and “output.”

Megan:  It gave me a new/recent experience of language learning to reflect on in class.

Wai Yee:  It helped me realize the importance of “awareness.”


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