Wednesday, 10 August 2011

A childish way to learn (a language)

Children don’t learn, they absorb. They can’t help but take in languages and new skills because their curiosity cannot be contained. A child learns with all their senses. A child will put an object in its mouth, feel it, look at it, smell it, and put it up to its ear to hear it. Yet, as adults we often forget to engage all our senses. We think that we must be serious all the time and that this is the best way to learn. We feel that we will look silly if we chew on our Lego blocks. But really, we are only holding ourselves back.

A child learns languages non-stop. They don’t just go to English class for an hour a week; they are immersed in learning their first language. They have to learn it otherwise they can’t communicate. So they will point at objects and say the sounds, and they do not worry (yet) about grammar. Actually, they will never really worry about it. To communicate vocabulary at first is far more important than grammar. A child also doesn’t have any idea that their language is easy or difficult. A child learning Chinese as their first language will not say that it is difficult because they have nothing to compare it to, but an English speaker will be convinced that Chinese is the most difficult language in the world. For adults this is the problem: we start comparing things and our first language gets in the way of our second language, or third and so on. We lose the direct connection with words that we had as children. We say that another language is difficult, hard, complicated, and yet we are only giving ourselves excuses not to learn at our best.

My suggestion: change your attitude! Language is easy. Yes, people will come to you from time to time and say that language is difficult, but just smile politely and say, “maybe it is for you, but for me learning another language is easy.” Even if you don’t believe it say it anyway. This is a mantra. English is easy. English is easy. English is easy. Say it over and over again and you will change your thinking pattern. Learning should be fun. At the start of learning any language, throw grammar out the window. It’s boring. I hear you! Point at objects, and don’t be afraid to make a fool of yourself trying to write and speak. A child doesn’t worry about how they look, they just do. They point at words. They ask questions. They immerse themselves in the language. We all know how to be a child. We’ve all been one. Tell yourself it’s easy. Don’t worry what other people say. Use all your senses. Look, listen, touch, smell, feel and most of all have fun!

Monday, 8 August 2011

The Power of Language

I titled this blog "Nuclear English" because I used to teach at the Nuclear Safety Centre in Prague. There, I gained experience teaching nuclear physicists, toxicology experts, lawyers, mathematicians, and nuclear safety inspectors. I figure if I can teach these people, who are not only experts in Europe but experts in the entire world, then I can teach English to anyone. For every lesson that I taught at the Nuclear Safety Centre I created a "nuclear lesson plan". My idea was to make every lesson so enjoyable and interesting, that the potential to learn would be just as powerful as nuclear energy.

By creating this blog, I hope to help students and teachers of English. I will write about tools to assist students in learning English, and resources to assist the teaching of English also. I will provide ideas for lessons as well as basic lesson plans and conversation starters. I don't claim to be an English language expert. I completed my TEFL certificate in 2009 here in Prague, and since then I have gained experience teaching in many different companies and individuals. I also studied creative writing at university, I am currently studying acting in Prague, and I have experience in proofreading and editing. Yet, I am still learning and always will be. Sometimes I get things right, and sometimes I get things wrong. Learning any language is a process. Even though I am a native English speaker I am learning more and more about my own language every day.

I believe that learning English should be an enjoyable process shared by the student and teacher. Therefore, I invite you to follow my blog and walk this path with me.

A bit about me:

My name is Stuart Mentha, and I am a private English teacher from Melbourne, Australia. I am 25 years old, TEFL certified. So far, I have been living in Prague for a year and a half, and I studied in Turin, Italy for 6 months prior to that. I teach students of all levels, from absolute beginners to highly advanced. In Australia I completed my degree in Creative Writing, and I now study acting at the Prague Playhouse. My lessons are therefore always unique, as I involve the use of games, and I can act out words and phrases instead of just explaining things. Sometimes I make a fool of myself in the process, but that’s great, because then my students are sure to remember what I am teaching! I also like to involve Australian topics such as: native animals, the beach, and the Australian outback.