Six months ago, I wrote an article which clearly reflected how confused I was with EAL teaching and learning. As I am learning more and more about the world of EAL, I thought of sharing my insights (yes, I don’t want to sound like a textbook) about the questions I wrote in my previous blog post. I’m treating my previous blog as my ‘pre-assessment’ and my upcoming blogs as evidence of my growth as an English teacher.
My first question was: What is the main goal of EAL. Answering this, I thought that a more conceptual approach to this question is asking what is the goal of learning any language anyway? There are multiple answers to this question- we can go from the most practical to the most scholarly ones. But simply put, I have come to understand that the goal is to communicate and understand meaning.
‘Learning the meaning of things’ is not quite a simple task to do- not for the teacher, not for the student. This involves learning within a context, culture, certain expressions or words that could have multiple meanings, slang and basically understanding people’s way of life. The meaning of words and phrases develop with time, technology and even with how ‘playful’ people could be. It could be highly subjective and reveals multiple realities—this, by the way, shouldn’t be seen as a problem, but an evidence of how fascinating language could be.
So I say that learning the meaning of things requires constructivism within authentic experiences, a sense of immersion, a sense of imagination. I know a lot of teachers now are aware that language learning requires more than the rigidity of forms, structures, grammar and skills development. However, more stress should be placed upon understanding that the essentials of language learning involve global awareness and values, such as empathy, open-mindedness and risk-taking. Therefore, as a language teacher, the goal is to help my students use language (in any form) to adapt to both typical and unique situations, to express, to understand, and most of all, to belong. I didn’t really expect that I’d end up with a ‘world peace’ kind of answer to this question, but in retrospect, much of the hostility in the world do stem from miscommunication.
So I say, strive for meaning and, the rest will follow. And if we value perspective in our classrooms, our students will come to realise that learning any language will help them see the world differently. Then, the ABC’s will never be the same.
‘A different language is a different vision of life.’ – Federico Fellini