Friday 15 December 2017

Learning English

is not easy. 
Many years ago the late Judith Wright gave me a book. 
      "You need this Cat," she told me in her characteristically outspoken way. 
The book was the "Oxford Advanced Learner's" version of the dictionary.  
I was a bit taken aback. Did she really think I needed that version? When I was a grouchy, touchy, teen kitten who hated the world Judith had suggested one of the things I needed to do each day was read the dictionary until I came across a word I didn't know - and then learn the word. I never had to read far.  But, I had been trying very hard (and mostly successfully) to do as she had suggested. Wasn't I learning something?
By then though I had managed to learn that Judith would have a good reason for what she was suggesting. And yes, I have managed to learn a lot from that dictionary. Quite apart from anything else I have managed to learn a lot to help other learners.
This year I have been reading the English assignments of several students who have had to learn English as a second language. I have seen them occasionally in the library or in the supermarket where they have worked part-time. They have sent me work on line. I've made the occasional suggestion. More often I have asked a question.  It has all been aimed at making sure they pass the necessary exam.
Those students have all worked hard. It's why I am willing to help them. They want to learn. They want to know. All of them want to go to university. They have careers in mind. It is all so different here. Chances exist that they would never have had where they have come from, particularly for girls.
Learning English has been part of that. Sometimes they will be telling me something and it will come out a little awkwardly. They will stop sometimes and search for a word. 
Four and five years ago these students knew no English or no more than a few words. Now they are doing examinations in the same subject. It's been a hard road for them.
I have often thought back to my teen self. I was fortunate to have English as my first language. I was also incredibly fortunate to have Judith telling me I needed to learn more.
Exam results for this little group of students will be out on Tuesday. I expect some emails to let me know how their results. I expect them to pass. 
I also expect them to go on learning English. I am still learning English.


Adelaide Dupont said...

Questions are good things for English language learners - and not only.

Now I understand about Judith Wright.

Jodiebodie said...

Great advice from Judith Wright.

My most used book is the dictionary. My mother used to do many crosswords. English is not her first language. Her huge pictorial dictionary was always by her side. I spent many hours reading and browsing through that dictionary and trying to 'help' solve the crossword. No sooner did I find a new word to look up, when one of the words in the definition would also be new and lead me on a new chase and so went my adventures with the English language.

As an adult with my own family, my children groan when I direct their queries to the dictionary - a very large volume of the Australian Macquarie. A comprehensive volume of the Australian Oxford is next on my wish list because one needs to have a variety (one descriptive and one prescriptive). The fact that they groan means that they already know the answer in their head (to "go look it up in the dictionary") and I am doing my job as a parent and educator!

Advice is what we ask for when we already know the answer but wish we didn't! heheh

Wishing your English students all the best with their results, Cat!