Welcome to Fool for Language

Welcome to Fool for Language, the site for people who are crazy about learning languages - like me! If you are new to this blog, I recommend you read the articles in order. The information will make better sense.

This is my first blog and writing each essay has been much more enjoyable than I expected. I have spent most of my life teaching and, more importantly, learning languages. I have “survived” a wide range of teaching techniques, materials and teachers. The result is that I have a pretty clear idea of what has and has NOT worked for me. Yes, I am opinionated, but even if you don’t agree with me, I hope you will enjoy the stories and think about what gets you “wired” when you dive into the wonderful world of learning another language.

I want to thank some people who have helped me maintain momentum with this blog. To give you, the reader, a break, every 10th essay is written by a guest blogger, all close friends with their own special take on language learning. As for the uploading process, Kurt meticulously proofreads and makes insightful comments on each essay; while Yoh patiently provides technical support, including selection of the vibrant visuals. Thank you!


1.The Power of Parents

So where do I start? I think “motivation” is probably the best place; however, this might raise a few eyebrows. Some education specialists view “motivation” as a dirty word, synonymous with “competition” or “bloodthirsty overachiever”. I am obviously not in this camp.

In my case, without a clear reason to study another language, I quickly throw in the towel. So what kind of goals get me excited about learning a language? The list is a long one, but in my youth the main reason was simple – I wanted to escape where I came from.

I was raised in the middle of nowhere in rural Alberta, Canada. The next house was a LONG way down the road and I knew from an early age that I wanted to see the big, wide world and spend time with more people than just my kid brother (sorry, Norman). But I wasn’t sure how to go about it.

In Canada, the national languages are English and French. I lived in the English-speaking part of the country where kids are expected to study le français from around 13 years of age in Grade 7. In fact, most of the kids in my first French class did not want to be there. Their parents had convinced them that learning French would be of little use in their world, and sometimes there was open antagonism with parents criticizing the need for French being in the curriculum at all.

For me, the home front was very different. My mother, in particular, was keen that I should excel at French. Due to financial constraints, her own formal academic education had more or less ended in her early teens, after which she had taken various part-time jobs to help her family. One of these jobs was playing the piano at a ballet school. (She had limited formal training, but could play by ear.) The ballet instructor was “Miss Boulanger”, a woman from Quebec, the French-speaking region of Canada. My mother adored her and dreamed of learning French, but it wasn’t in the cards. So she transferred the dream to me, her oldest son.

Where other parents were telling their children that learning French was pointless, my mother sat me down with a dog-eared atlas and started pointing out the various places I could visit if I spoke “Miss Boulanger’s language”. Frankly, my mother never was that good at geography. She could have been pointing at China or Sri Lanka for all I knew. But I was convinced that a little French would take me a long way and walked into my first French class ready to tackle all things français so as to see the world. This would be my ticket out!

Which brings me to the point of all this rambling. I came from a monolingual home without a strong background in education, yet my mother managed to instill in me the fervent desire to learn another language. Many parents do not realize what incredible influence they exert on their children and how just one positive nudge can set their kids up with a "can do" attitude. This was certainly true in my case.

In studies on motivation, there are all sorts of calculations made with a range of factors and percentiles, but rarely is the influence of the home included. Every family is different and assigning a value to something so variable is rather pointless. Yet I know that my own home environment, particularly the attitude of my mother nurtured by the wonderful Miss Boulanger, put us both on an exciting path to see the world!

(If you are really fool for languages, check out my language learning website, http://en.sulantra.com/, with courses from and to EnglishSpanishChineseJapaneseTurkishBulgarianThaiGerman , Korean and Italian!)


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