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Apprehensions about Foreign Language Teaching, or How I Had To Rethink My Identity as Teacher

Written By: Billette on November 11, 2008 5 Comments

We’re now envisioning the end of the fall semester, my first as a graduate student at Berkeley. After ten years as a junior high teacher of “core curriculum,” I received an appointment to teach French 1 upon returning to Berkeley. I wrote the following journal entry three days before instruction began in August:

le 24 août 2008: I am most apprehensive about instructing entirely en français. I go back and forth between feeling confident in my French skills to doubting the quality of my accent or careless fautes de grammaire. Even before the beginning of the semester, however, I feel strongly supported by the organization of the department and the accessibility of its faculty and staff.

I’m also wondering if I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, class-wise. I hope to have a clear sense of my load by week’s end.

I imagine my class to be attentive- that they are motivated to be in this class. People in the department have said that these students are typically highly motivated, and I remember feeling that way as an undergrad in foreign language classes. I sense that they (some, unconciously) expect me to be highly motivated: to show that I care about the subject matter ansd about their success. I hope to convey my love of teaching in general: the interplay among students, teachers, and material. I imagine being in a classroom where we all want to be challenged and satisfied by the process of language acquisition.


Eleven weeks later, I find that not all of the tension has dissipated, but my belief that I can instruct daily in a foreign language has grown stronger. I marvel over the students’ accelerated learning, and I appreciate my own nuanced understanding of a language I love.

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5 Responses to “Apprehensions about Foreign Language Teaching, or How I Had To Rethink My Identity as Teacher”

  1. Cailyn on: 12 April 2010 at 5:25 pm

    Pour certains, au début, tout est difficile et qu’il soit toujours difficile ou vous apprendre à l’aimer et il devient plus facile. Pour moi, ce n’est pas le français mais, même s’il est difficile j’aime apprendre et d’essayer de mon mieux pour parler.
    I think everyone should at least try a to learn a different language. In the end the satisfaction of saying just one sentence in another language is a magnificent feeling. At Berkeley there are many students willing to learn a foreign language but many others gave up a long time ago because of the time commitment and difficulty.
    I also believe the desire to learn a language and keep learning comes from the teacher. When a student has a great teacher who also loves the language learning it is more worthwhile and the love for the language grows into a love to travel and spend time in foreign cities or countries.
    It is a great to know there are so many professors that love the language they teach and can pass down their passion on to their own students.
    Students should not be scared to take a language course or talk in class. Everyone is there for the same thing, to learn a new language and open the doors to new experiences.

  2. Ashley Whittaker on: 12 April 2010 at 10:28 pm

    I think this is common among students as well. I’m taking French 3 directly coming from high school, and I was very nervous about how I would be able to adjust to a class taught entirely in French. Much to my surprise, I was able to understand at least 90% of what was being said/expressed.
    Expression is very important when it comes to comprehension, I’ve noticed. Grandiose gestures prove helpful in understanding foreign words.
    Personally, my experience in French 3 has encouraged me to consider learning another language (a spoken one, unlike Latin!). Generally, I’ve heard great things about the departments of each foreign language, and students at Berkeley seem to be satisfied with their education and learning of those languages.

  3. que linda! on: 13 April 2010 at 10:38 pm

    It’s comforting to know that teachers have the same apprehensions as we students do. I never really realized that teachers are just as much expected to be motivated as the students, if not more (especially at Berkeley). I know some days I struggle a lot with being motivated to excel; teachers aren’t allowed that leeway. When teacher’s decide to be teachers, they give up that leeway.

    The thing about teaching is that people understand it to be unidirectional: where the student only learns from the teacher. It’s kind of cool to rethink it as a bidirectional activity: where the student and teacher learn from each other.

  4. Amy on: 14 April 2010 at 9:37 am

    Vous avez courage Professeur! Je ne crois pas que cette semestre c’est le premiere fois tu as enseigné un cours. Je pense que il est necessaire pour un instructuer à montre le cours que il adore le sujet. Tu fait ça bien.

    For students to enjoy a language course it is important that the teacher is engaged and excited everyday of the week. This must be extremely difficult. Learning a language is hard but extremely rewarding.

    I hope that you continue to teach!

  5. kjust on: 14 April 2010 at 10:50 am

    La langue a toujours été facinant pour moi. Le fait que beaucoup peut être communiquée avec un simple ménage de bruits est un concept étonnant quand on prend le temps d’y penser. Malhereusement, la plupart des gens ne le considèrent comme quelque chose que nous utilisons, mais seulment quelque chose que nous faisons. Quand on sait que nous utilisons la langue, il est possible d’explorer la façon dont elle est utilisée, et la comparer à la façon don’t la langue est utilisée par d’autres personnes ou groupes de personnes.
    Avec la capacité à parler plusieurs langues, il est possible pour vous de mieux vous exprimer. Les mots ont des implications subtiles liées å ceux qui proviennent de la culture ou tout simplement ceux propre expérience. Il y a des mots que littéralement ne peuvent pas être traduits, ainsi, afin de les comprendre pleinement, il faut connaître l’histoire et la culture qui les entoure. Une personne qui apprend leur langue seconde ne sera probablement jamais comprendre de la même manière qu’un locuteur natif, parce que la langue ne sera pas un lien aussi fort avec leur passé personnel.

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