Friday, March 16, 2007

English Only ESL Classes - Great Rule, Necessary Evil, or Oppression?

I wonder why I am so crazy about English only in the classroom. I am sure that is comes from a number of sources ranging from the way I was taught French as a kid and as a young adult, and from the different ideas I was exposed to while I was in graduate school studying Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL).

You see, when I was a kid studying French, English was FORBIDDEN in the classroom. In fact, if we spoke English, our teacher would have a fit and we risked being sent into the hallway or even the Principal's office. This way of teaching didn't stop as I got older either. When I was 17 years old my parent's sent me away for the summer to Trois Rivieres - a city halfway between Quebec City and Montreal. I guess you could call it the Red Deer of Quebec. Anyway, while I was there I went to CEGEP to study French - it is like a college. Can you picture me? I little 17 year old guy all by himself for the first time? It kind of reminds me of some of my students who are studying here in the LEAP program right now. Anyway, not only was English forbidden in the classroom, it was forbidden EVERYWHERE! That's right, I could drink beer (illegally), smoke cigarettes and ignore doing my homework, but if I ever spoke English anywhere in the city at all and I was caught, there were huge consequences. And I mean huge! You see, the CEGEP had not only teachers, but also monitors who hung out with us after class. On top of that, many of the local people in the city knew that Anglophones came to study French every summer and they kept an eye on us to. If we were caught speaking English at any time, we would get a warning. You only got three chances. If you were caught on the third time . . . you were put on a plane back home! I'm serious. I personally know people where were kicked out of French programs for speaking English too often. Even me, your teacher got caught speaking English one time. I remember I was in a pool with some friends and we were swimming. As some of my students probably know, I love talking, and suddenly I just started shouting to some friends in English to come and jump into the pool. Right behind me was a monitor! Holy cow, did I get in trouble. It was really serious. They had me totally freaked out that I was going to be sent back home. From then on, it was French only for me.

So you can see that from a young age I have been indoctrinated that the best way to learn a langauge is through the immersion method. It is almost like a Canadian way of doing things. I guess that it has affected me a lot,but you know what is amazing . . . . I speak French :-)

3 comments:

Federico Javier said...
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Federico Javier said...
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Alif said...

Wow!!! What a great experience with French! English Immersion is a great program. However, it is sometimes stressful. When I was first forced to say English for more than 6 hours, it was really horrible, my mouth ached sometimes. Regardless of the fact, my English started going better since then. Still, my speaking is gettng much more better in the LEAP.