Saturday, September 22, 2007

Why are they so scared to speak English?

Recently, I've started tutoring kids and adults in English. With the kids, I'll invite them (the student and their parent/s) over to my apartment so we can meet each other before the sessions begin. During this initial meeting, I usually spark up a conversation in English to see where they student's at with their English conversation skills. Each student has looked at his mom instead of me, when answering my questions. Like their moms are their English dictionaries. It's adorable. And each mom has told me how their son (all my students are boys at the moment) are terrible in English and/or are really behind everyone else in their English classes and/or had terrible English teachers and hate English as a result and/or just hate English.

I have this one student who's mom told me he was terrible in English or he thinks he's terrible in English. Then why did he just get a 20/20 on his last English test? And why does he blow me away each time we have a conversation that lasts over 30 minutes? Why do the French (I'm only including the ones I'm tutoring) think they're so terrible in English when they really aren't?

But, then again, why do I think I'm so terrible in French and will probably always think that way?

4 comments:

Jennifer said...

I'm so glad you asked yourself that last question, thus saving me the trouble of doing so...Aren't we all scared to expose our own inadequacies (real or imaginary)? ps. I loved being an English-as-second-language tutor. I can't wait to read more blogs about your experiences.

The Late Bloomer said...

Oh, I've gotten this with some of the kids I've tutored as well... I get the impression it's a bit from the French system, that kids can't really be told that they're doing well, or encouraged, even when they are! They have to be told what's WRONG and what needs to be improved, but there's supposedly no point in balancing things out with some positive compliments as well...

I don't get it, so I try to encourage my students by telling them what they're doing well and what they definitely need to improve -- and when I can tell they haven't studied or done any work! I honestly think it can help boost their confidence and make them feel better about themselves, and where's the harm in that? (of course, as long as they don't become TOO sure of themselves!)

Destination Metz said...

That's true they are so self-conscious about their English skills, always telling me how badly they speak English and I'm usually amazed! And Christophe surprised me by speaking a tonne of German recently but he maintains he really can't speak it!

African Kelli said...

Hmmm... very good questions. It took me a long time to become comfortable in speaking a foreign language -- knowing full well I couldn't own the words yet and just had to send them out their, hoping I was making some sort of sense.