Regent's Park in London
Just like any large city, London has many problems. We've already talked about transport, commuting and overcrowding. Then there's the pollution, the litter on the streets, the anonymity and the fact that we don't know our neighbours. But one thing which London doesn't have a problem with is 'green space'. It has a huge number of parks and open spaces which are a kind of refuge from the urban rat race, a place where we can go and have a few minutes away from it all. Some of the parks are so big that you can almost feel as if you are in the countryside, and forget about everything going on around you. These green spaces are sometimes called the 'lungs of the city', and, if they weren't there, London would not be half the city that it is.
Now, your comments have been building up, and it's a while since I replied to any so, here goes:
(from July 20th post – aka ‘better late than never!’)
Tamara – where on earth did you learn English? You tell your story of the wedding in such a natural way, and your use of the Present tense to make the story more immediate and interesting is spot on. Very impressive! It’s true, babies are often a liability at weddings, but normally it’s them crying, not their parents…. The person you ask about is called a ‘registrar’.
Vladimir, your questions are all valid in my view. I think it would be very useful for students to write about their own educational background and I have done this before with some groups. One thing though, I’m not exactly sure what you mean with your last question – could you rephrase it for me?
Hi Cheikh Vall. I really think that a good fit of giggles is beneficial for the health. It must release some tension don’t you think? It seems logical that living in an English speaking country should improve a student’s knowledge of the language more quickly than staying in their own country. However, what often happens is that some students naturally tend to hang around with people from their own country, end up sharing accommodation with those people, going to restaurants and socialising with their own nationality. The fastest learners are those who are genuinely curious about other cultures and make the effort to go out and meet people and get involved.
Henrique, that’s the thing about the giggles – you never know when they might strike, sometimes at the most inopportune moment!
Adriana, thank you for your kind words. I think diplomacy is a very underrated skill!
Ana Paula, I like your story. It’s great when people do things like that – it’s just like the person walking around looking for their glasses who later realises that they are on their head. I put a cup of tea in the fridge by mistake the other day...
Thanks for posting your questions Rabail – I think they’re all valid.
Atsumi, with a heavy heart, I have to say that the ‘gentlemanly manner’ which you speak of appears to be dying out. Not sure if it’s the pressure of living in the rat race or what, but people are getting ruder and less respectful, and I can imagine the new crossing at Oxford Circus being complete chaos. (or maybe I’m just getting older and more grumpy…) Very nice questions, thank you.
Ramilton, yes indeed I have heard of, and read, Edgar Allan Poe – I remember reading The Fall of the House of Usher when I was younger. He’s quite well-known in England I would say.
Hyoshil, it’s interesting to hear the questions you would ask as a student – very practical and perhaps born of experience?
And thanks to Toni and P for your questions...
Comments 23rd July
Jingjing – thanks for your thorough and interesting comments. I think it has to be a good thing if the education system is changing and gradually the importance of English as a means of communication is being given more emphasis, not just in China but all over the world.
Henrique, if English gives opportunities then it must be a good thing, but I can’t help wondering when the ‘tipping point’ will come… I guess some day it will be a skill that is expected, perhaps like computer literacy now, and that it will no longer confer any great advantage or opportunities. At that point, it may be time for me to start looking for another job!
Mauricio, as you say, methodology in schools may be slow to change, but there are many more possibilities for the keen language learner these days, internet being perhaps the best example. A lot certainly depends on the person learning the language – wanting to learn and liking the language are two very important factors in my view.
Atsumi, I think fear of making mistakes and ‘losing face’ is a large part of why many students prefer to keep quiet. Something else which strikes me is the thinking time before answering. As you know, I teach multilingual classes which contain a really eclectic mix of students – many of my Asian students like to consider for a few seconds before answering a question, something which I believe is perfectly natural in many Asian cultures. The European or South American students often take this to mean that these students have nothing to say – they are used to an immediate response, rather than a considered response. From this, misunderstandings can so easily arise. Part of my job is trying to make people aware of these differences, because once they start their undergraduate or postgraduate course, the cultural challenge may be as big as the linguistic one…
Paulraj, I wonder if the situation is changing at all in India? With such a vast population, any type of country-wide education reform must be incredibly difficult. I read that the Indian government want to introduce ‘biometric ID’ cards for all Indian citizens – what a big job that will be!!!
James Wu, your comment is very interesting and raises a really important issue. I must confess, as a teacher (and a person…) ‘I’m not always right!’ You say that in Taiwan students shouldn’t question their teacher, the teacher is always right and this seems to be quite a common attitude in some educational cultures. Of course, the teacher is often right, and usually knows more about the subject than the students, but I think it is vital to encourage students to approach everything with an attitude of enquiry – to ask why something is the case, to be curious and to want to find out more, rather than simply to accept a bunch of facts without question, and to do this, a two-way interaction with teachers is essential.
Abdisamad – I forgive you!
Xavi, you’re spot on with what you say about motivation. There is no better motivation than survival to make you learn a language, and this is why studying in a country where the language is spoken is so important. You asked about the languages I speak. Well, my degree was in modern languages, French and Spanish, so I speak (or at least I used to..) those two languages, plus a tiny bit of Portuguese and an even tinier amount of Hungarian. The problem for an English speaker trying to learn a language is that the survival motivation which you mentioned is often not there because you find so many people who speak English wherever you go! Hasta luego..
Toni, although your experience at school wasn’t a positive one, it’s good that you were able to come back to it later on...communication is the key, and you're doing that right here.
Ramilton, it’s great to hear that language teaching is developing in the right direction in Brazil. If students are able to see the need and use for learning a language, then hopefully they will be more enthusiastic about it.
Ana Paula, well done in your FCE and good luck with CAE! After that - CPE?? It’s pretty tough I must say. I heard a statistic claiming that 70 – 80% of native speakers would fail Cambridge Proficiency if they had to take it and, having taught it before, I can well believe it!
Lucy, I’m happy you were able to experience the eclipse last week – 6 minutes, wow! Is Li Yang Crazy English and that method of teaching still popular in China?
That's all for now - keep blogging! Till the next time...
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