“There’s nothing better to remind you of how difficult it is to learn another language than to be placed in the same situation,” says Kathy Dawson, Program Administrator in Teacher Education for MRU’s Languages Institute. She lists a few of the challenges one must overcome, “struggling to communicate, watching yourself make mistakes, not being able to find the right word and struggling with your dictionary.”
These are certainly a traveler’s communication woes, but they’re happening more and more in the university classroom. Kathy recently returned from teaching a ten-day course at the Universidad del Pacífico in Lima, Perú. The course is called Teaching Content in English. It’s part of the Languages Institute’s Faculty Development Program, which is gaining international recognition.
Kathy explains the challenge of the group of 13 professors who, while normally fulfilling the teaching role, must become students. “They know their subject matter inside out,” she attests. “They have been challenged by globalization and their administration to now turn it all into English.”
“The course is very experiential.” Kathy notes, while acknowledging that many of these professionals haven’t taught in English. “There’s some trepidation about whether or not they can do it.” For those who have taught in English, the course has additional benefits, “There is a lot of modeling about how to incorporate active learning in a way that supports second language learners.” In either case, she discovered that, “If they’re nervous at the beginning, they’re much more confident by the end of the ten days.”
For the Universidad del Pacífico, a top economics and business administration university in Latin America, this hands-on approach works well. In an additional language, all of the participants welcome the chance to become learners again.
With this initiative’s continued success, the offering of their local courses in English might create an opportunity for more Mount Royal students to study in Perú. “We’re so privileged as English speakers.” Kathy identifies, “We get lazy. We are able to travel around the world and not have to speak another language. The onus has been pushed on others to learn English.” Not one to shy away from learning, Kathy admits, “This reminds me that I shouldn’t feel more privileged.” She says, “I should pick up my Spanish books again.”
To that end, Kathy has already arranged for some Spanish classes for her next trip south.
- by JLove