As you may have read here I recently got back from 3 weeks in Iceland, Italy and France. I went with a couple of friends from university and we met up with our friend who is teaching English in France this year. The trip was amazing for many reasons but in particular this was my first time traveling since becoming a “real teacher” and I felt like I was constantly on the lookout for teaching inspiration.
I could probably write a book about the many ways travel has informed my teaching but in this post I’ll stick to my transforming views on language learning this trip.
When I started teaching French this year I really wanted to get across how French has helped me in my life so far. I shared a couple of stories of learning French in Quebec with the Katimavik program and a travel story or two from backpacking through Europe (the favourite being when a taxi tried to drop us off in an alley way in residential Paris around midnight after a flight got in – probably the most happy I’ve been to communicate effectively in another language).
After I shared those stories there seemed to be a bit of understanding of the usefulness of knowing French (besides job opportunities in Canada) and I went on teaching FSL the way I have always done – lots of games and illustrated writing along with verb conjugation and oral practice… relatively fun but very basic.
And then came Italy…
I have been to Italy once before but never learned a lot of the language and I’d forgotten most of what I had picked up. So when we arrived in Rome I started again and tried to practice some simple phrases here and there. It wasn’t until we got to Naples that I really started picking up more Italian though.
One night we went to a bunch of little markets to get ingredients for dinner. By using a lot of hand gestures we were able to gather most of what we needed and practice the Italian names for the ingredients.
We had a blast chatting with the locals and practicing our Italian. I had such a great time trying to communicate and count out change in Italian that it really got me thinking on the walk home… That is how you learn a language! Through immersion mixed with necessity and fun! How can we create these “living” language experiences in the classroom?
When I returned, I was on a mission to create authentic language learning in my classroom. Two month long French projects later and I’ve discovered that yes it’s possible to start to create these experiences but WOW is it going to take a lot of planning! My goal is to start incorporating drama and art into the FSL classroom to try to create some living language learning experiences.
It’s a work in progress but I’ll keep you updated on how it is going… And, as always, I would love to hear your comments and advice on this topic:
How do you think we can create more authentic experiences in the classroom?
What are your “go-to” plans for teaching foreign languages?
Where have you travelled and what are your favourite travel memories?