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This is especially for people who teach classes with students of mutliple nationalities.
It's pretty clear that one's first language is sort of a filter through
which students view English, so it's good for both the teacher and the students
to learn about others' languages. There's a good book called
Learner English (Cambridge U press) that addresses language differences
and how they affect English. BUT--for those of you who don't want to
buy or borrow yet another book, another approach is to have the students
tell you first-hand. Obviously, this is not necessarily easy, but it's a
great activity for an Advanced class. First, have any students with
the same first language get together. Give them a list of starter
questions, like "How does your first language differ from English"
and "What aspects of English are hardest for people from your country
to master" or "Tell us about English learning in your country." It's also
good to have them work with a simple sample sentence like "She is a pretty
girl" so that they can demonstrate differences in word order. After
students have had some preparation time, have them present their information
to the class. (It's a good idea for you, the teacher, to also prepare
some information about English. I usually take some funny examples
from Richard Lederer's book Crazy English, like "Why do we drive on a
parkway and park on a driveway?"). One really good thing about this
activity is that it helps students understand why their classmates have some
of the problems that they do, and puts them in the teacher role for a
change. I've always learned something I didn't already know when I did
this activity.
I must warn you that this activity takes a long time--so, if you have
thirty students from twenty different countries, look out, it may take
more than one class period. Some students may lose interest after a
while with that many different languages, so you may need to break
things up a bit.
--Karin Abell,
Carrboro, NC

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