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Empathy for Learners—One Way to Have more for TESOLers in Oman and Elsewhere

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Empathy for Learners--One Way to Have more for TESOL[1]ers  in Oman and Elsewhere


By Kevin Stoda


I began to learn foreign languages for the first time when I was nearly 20 years old. Over the next decades, I acquired advanced German and Spanish speaking skills, lower intermediate level Japanese and French skills, and beginning to elementary skills in a few other languages, including Arabic.  Since I have been an adult learner of foreign languages for well over three decades, I have often encouraged other professional teachers of English to Non-Native Speakers of English to take time and learn another language every few years.  I do this because doing so creates a closer understanding and empathy with the students whom we are instructing.

Another reason, I had begun to advocated "learning another language" as a great teacher training workshop topic over the decades is because when I first began to teach English in Germany in the mid-1980s, the head of our foreign language department (where I was teaching at the time taught) had mandated attendance of a workshop on "Learning Persian" for a staff of 4 dozen teachers of a great variety of European foreign. 

Through the "immersion in Farsi" workshop I came to respect the head of the department, Peter Kirchoff very much--and took away many of the insights he made on learning and acquiring different languages.  Peter also walked-what-he-talked to us language educators.  For example, Peter had become fluent in Bahasa Indonesian and a few other Asian tongues (even as he took time to undertake physically grueling triathlons and led a huge language program targeting adult learners.)

That particular lesson in totally undertaken in Persian or Farsi  was the first time I had ever tried to learn a non-European language. To this day, I can still introduce myself in Persian: (It'something like) "Esmi mann Kevin ast."

More importantly, learning-through-doing became part of my forte and mantra in talking and thinking about L2, L3, L4, etc. acquisition.[2]   For example, this focus of mine in the area of teaching writing skills means that when I develop a course in writing, I require the students to do more writing than most other teachers expect students to do--even if it means that they learn to appropriate my way of writing and thinking, too, when they create an essay.  [This direct or indirect way of passing on language culture and language concepts may verge on cultural imperialism to some, but teaching language is constantly to be considered a political, social and economic act in most any situation.)

Writing and then rewriting or  expanding the work-done is the best way for an L2 student to grow in that skill area of language acquisition. I really am not too worried about how many mistakes the student makes initially, but I just want them to do better over time.  I recall that both my capacities in spoken and written  Spanish and German had grown in succeeding years because I read and journaled a lot in those languages. Other times, I would take classes or received tutoring in German or Spanish  from other native speakers of those languages on the revising of some of the writings I had originally jotted down in those target languages of my diaries in Mexico, Nicaragua or the USA.

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KEVIN STODA-has been blessed to have either traveled in or worked in nearly 100 countries on five continents over the past two and a half decades.--He sees himself as a peace educator and have been-- a promoter of good economic and social development--making-him an enemy of my homelands humongous DEFENSE SPENDING and its focus on using weapons to try and solve global (more...)

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