This is a concept that’s understandably difficult to teach to students that are using their precious time to learn English. Learning a language is a long-term process, and it’s an even longer-term process for those students who don’t have the luxury of living in an English speaking country. Some students seem to get this, others seem to believe that a magic bird will come and whisper the words in their ears regardless of whether they study or not.
In my opinion, studying a language is more like a sport than an academic discipline. It’s a metaphor I often use with my students. They can readily understand the hard work it takes to become a top soccer star, but not always what it takes to be a great student. The best athletes start young and practise, practise, practise. They think about strategy, they lift weights, they go jogging at 5 am. And they become stars, or at least very good. But not all top athletes start young and older students shouldn’t be discouraged by the fact that their children are learning the same thing as them at school. Never say never! A close friend of mine who suffers from a degenerative eye condition decided – in his thirties – that he was determined to go to the Paralympics. So he worked very hard and became the Visually Impaired Archery World Champion in 2009, crushing the competition. When his archery discipline wasn’t approved for the 2012 Paralympics, he didn’t give up his dream. He decided to change sports and do one that could get him to London in 2012: swimming. And he’s at the pool right now, training so that in the next race against a pool full of people ten years younger than him, he’ll win. And he probably will. So when my students lose hope about ever learning the language, I like to remind them of my friend, the blind archer. Nothing’s impossible.
So listen up, language learners: get down and give me 20 (sentences) and then run 10 laps (with your favorite songs in English). As teachers, all we can do is hope that our students do their workout and then do as all good coaches do: teach them some strategy, make them work hard and remind them when they start feeling as if they’ll never be good enough that they need to do one thing, have a little faith that all will come in due time.
Photo credit: JSmith Photo. Creative Commons Licence