Sometimes Learning English Is Like Joining A Gym

gym_jim.jpgIt occurred to me that knowing a language – for the sake of logic I’ll use English as an example – is a little bit like losing 20 pounds. Many people want these “ends” and feel that achieving them would improve their lives – and possibly their dating ability – multifold as well. There are also many different means to reach these ends; to lose weight, you can eat less, you can eat healthier, you can incorporate exercise into your life by selling your car and walking, you can pay to join a gym; to learn English, you may be able to immerse yourself in it through books, television or people (if you know enough), you can up and move to an English speaking country, hoping for the best (that’s harder), or you can pay to take an English class.

Perhaps you can see where I’m going with this analogy. People generally pay the money to join gyms because they genuinely want to get healthier, and in theory are up for the challenge, but of course there are some obstacles. They may be tired after work; they might not like to feel fat around all the other skinny people at the gym. Turning up at they gym is not enough. With a few minor adjustments (relative weight is, I hope, less an issue in language classes than in the gym, but you never know), this is sometimes the case for a private language school. There are differences, sure; learning English is likely even more important to their job than losing 20 pounds. When you leave the gym, you are finished, but not with English! I’m giving you homework.

No, not every student has this issue, but if some do, I don’t think it’s because s/he is a slacker or doesn’t care about learning – I think this is just a part of human nature.

What can teachers do?

Try to make classes interesting and engaging, make students aware of their progress and let them know that it takes time. When I post different classroom activities here on the TEFL Logue, I hope I am sharing ideas that are interesting and engaging – I know that I especially enjoy hearing about such activities from others. I’m aware that this post may come across as negative, but I think realizing the issue is part of finding at least partial solutions. Everyone would love to learn the equivalent of losing five pounds in every English class, but progress just takes time.