Wednesday, May 19, 2010

"Mil", "Dos Mil"... How Can That Be Motivating?

The other day I was talking to my cousin and she was telling me she was taking French in shcool. I started asking her questions about the things she had learned and I was shocked with what she told me. Before expanding on why I think it was shocking, it is important to say she is studying to become a chef. So, I was very surprised when she said she now knows the parts of the body, the numbers, etc. Aaaargh!!! It drives me crazy! How is that relevant to her and her career? There are tons of words and expressions she will need to use before having to say "visage" or "tĂȘte". How about teaching her, for starters, coulinary terminology, but most importantly expressions she will use in her career,so that she can communicate in French, see the relevance of it and get motivated!

And then, just a few days ago I spoke to a client who very excitedly told me about the few words in Spanish she had learned at a resort in Mexico while taking a vacation there. Apparently, it was one of the many activities the hotel offered to their guests: Spanish Lessons. And what were the words she had learned to say? Numbers! "mil", "dos mil", etc. Again, how is that relevant for someone who is on vacation and wants to communicate with locals?

Why is it so hard for these "informal" teachers to see how much more sense it makes to teach things that the students can use immediately in real life conversations? Whay can't they start teaching students to introduce themselves, saying where they are from, asking for directions, making simple requests.

There are tons of people out there who are frustrated because they have tried learning a new language and after a while they feel they are not getting anywhere. I am sure, in most cases, the programs they have enrolled in are courses that follow a traditional method in which they are given long lists of vocabulary words that they have to memorize and they are never given the opportunity to use them in real life situations.

I really thought things had changed and that these old methods had been put in a drawer and never used again, but as I can see, language instruction is still an area many educational institutions are not giving the importance it should have,and it is for that same reason that other types of companies(like resorts and hotels) can't tell the difference between what works and what doesn't. I guess there is still a long way to go!