Does teaching ESL cause brain damage?

Like all ESL teachers I spend rather a lot of time listening to horribly mutilated English. I am frequently expected to sit and listen to people who do not in fact possess any ability to speak the language. They have no vocabulary, no understanding of basic grammar or of the sound system of English. They frequently have nothing to say in fact, and even if they did, do not seem to have any realistic conception of reality or the dictates of logic. Despite all of this they remain convinced that they need an opportunity to “talk.” Personally I would prefer that they spent a lot of time with a carefully designed listening program first. In fact I have come to see my job primarily in terms of being an environment provider/creator. If and when I can bring them around to appreciating the necessity for massive amounts of roughly tuned input their English tends to improve rather remarkably. The problem is that it is frequently difficult for me to get them to recognize my expertise in the matter and so continue to show up for class unprepared, yet expecting an opportunity to talk. The resulting noise I am sure is having a negative impact on the very fabric of my mind. It has to be, right? I mean if you believe what the dctors say about pain being a signal that damage is being done to the organism. Is anybody aware of any reseach in this area?

It can be so depressing. I once had a class of adults in Tokyo (they sold an English Program, tapes and stuff, door-to-door). They thought they joined the company to actually teach English, or learn how to teach it and were a very unhappy group - totally unmotivated and slack-jawed. I asked them all what they wanted to really do: “We want to be dancers at Tokyo Disney Land” I almost cut my throat at that point. I eventually told the company I was leaving the country and never went to that part of town again.

I expect that continued exposure to this sort of thing could lead to clinical depression.

You’ve got the cart before the horse. People with brain damage become ESL teachers. :laughing:

Are you beating your head against a brick wall perhaps?
This occupational hazard is linked to mental problems and is well known in the teaching profession.

Cool…they had a dream…

Perhaps there is good use for a psychologist going to Taiwan to teach English. Do you think the Foreign Affair nazis would give me an ARC for counseling distressed ESL foreign teachers? Sounds like a niche market in need of serious consideration!! :bouncy:

They drag you down to their level. It is terminal. People with no aspirations or opinions on anything trying to articulate nothing using a language in which they have absolutely no interest. Pass the Prozac.

Cool…they had a dream…[/quote]

That’s why it was so depressing!

I guess the office job wasn’t so bad after all. Any chance of going back?

I guess the office job wasn’t so bad after all. Any chance of going back?[/quote]

I’m trying the worst of both worlds.

:raspberry: huh?

There must be some subliminal messages in children’s songs… (I’m not even thinking of playing these backwards) And the damage is indeed very hard to repair. Just look at my avatar!

After my final class today there was no way I could face the Happy Hour. I don’t think anyone would have appreciated my response to the inevitable jokes about bringing all my students, like I had threatened to in another thread.

In the never ending quest for a conversation topic that the late-Thursday maroons can handle we went around the room looking for interesting things that have happened to them this week. I led off with today’s highlights for me: putting a 47’ yacht in the water, losing my dog, and being told by four and a half girls that they love me. Run of the mill stuff.

They (11 people) came up with: going to work like they do every day, study (like they do every day), eating dinner(you guessed it), window-shopping(yawn), something else that I can’t even remember, and going to a birthday party!!! Wow!!! A birthday party! Excellent, we can talk about parties, gifts, birthday foods, all sorts of stuff. I was almost salivating with the prospect of all the fun in the air.

Best gift you know of anyone ever getting: money, my friends came to my party, I don’t celebrate my birthday
What do you like to do on your birthday? Look collectively at ceiling, floor, each other, or book that they refuse to open.
Parties: eat a lot, I don’t have parties, I don’t go to birthday parties. I don’t have any fucking friends, that’s why I’m sitting here in this room. I am a sad individual with no life and nothing to talk about. Why are you making me talk? You know I can’t form a sentence, much less understand the question. Tell me the answers please.

I’m going to take these people to a party? Aha, aha ha, ha ha ha ha ha, sob.

We tried talking about luck too.

“My mother loves me and I have a good job, so I am lucky.”

Thank god I found the dog again. He’s a conversational giant in comparison. He already knows about bones, sticks, streams, urinating on things, chewing student’s trouser cuffs, and a host of other stuff.

There, I feel better now. Bob, focus on the good stuff. It’s there, and it’s often unlooked-for. Take the end of today’s high school class for instance:

Bye everyone!

Bye, Teacher. I love you.
Me too! I love you teacher.
And me! I love you teacher.
Yes teacher. I love you too. Bye!
(pause)… I guess I love you a little bit too.
(the only other girl in the class) Teacher, I need a higher grade.

This after an hour of informal chat with two classes that mostly don’t need the scheduled test review on account of doing gratifyingly well. There’s not much to beat the feeling you get when boys who wouldn’t speak to you a month ago wave you over to ask why their answer to question 10 was wrong.

You are making a difference, bob, but maybe you can’t see it because you’re too involved with the day-to-day to see the big picture. On the other hand, I’ve met you and I thought you were brain-damaged then.

The big question is whether the students are more harmful than the booze consumed in dealing with them.

Taipei Liz wrote:

Children’s songs!!! :astonished: They really mess with your head. After five years of not hearing it, the song “Busy, Busy, Busy” in Let’s Go 3 still messes with my head.

Been there, done that. It’s enough to drive a man to drink.

Too bad there isn’t some way, some method of being able to teach what we want to teach and where we could set our own schedule. A place where students have an ability to speak and just need practice.

I have a dream.

I have made a startling discovery. Taiwanese actually possess remarkable language skills! All you have to do is switch languages! At which point “you” become the stumble bum. It’s fantastic. No more nodding and pleading for some semblance of coherent thought. “Got something to say? Say it in Chinese!” Use this phrase at your own peril however because once you do the flood gates open. I have been using it the past few days (motivated by an instinct for self preservation no doubt) with one simple rule: Anything that is said in Mandarin has to be translated as quickly as possible into English. Each and every student is on the translation team and is expected to be on the ball at all times. There is no way that my Chinese is actually good enough to run a class like this but something that has suprised me is that by far the fastest translator of the simple stuff is yours truly. I know what I know if you know what I mean. If it is outside of that “known zone” I am pretty much a wash. In other words it doesn’t happen often that my comprehension improves much if the phrase is repeated. That’s suprising (and I think it has to do with affective filter - I panic when I hear something I don’t know so am not actually listening the second time preoccupied as I am with thoughts like Oh my God! they are going to see my Chinese is crap!). But enough about me. I think this “method?” has a number of unique advantages for the students including:

  1. Avoiding that awkward feeling that we are all sitting around trying to have a conversation in English when we all know that none of us are actually capable of it.
  2. They can think through and articulate their ideas (thereby giving others a jist of where they are headed) before trying to speak in English.
  3. They can learn to say things that they actually want to say. A big frustration, of course, for second language learners is that they can’t express things in their second language that they can in their first.

There are probably a lot more advantages that I can’t think of just now but I thought a few of you may be interested to know that at least one teacher out there has taken the “No Chinese” rule, wrung it’s neck, and kicked it out the window. So far the reults have been encouraging, especially with lower level adults. Actually about all I teach these days is lower level adults so I guess I would have to rethink this idea in another context. I can see that I will be continuing with this however and that the big challenge, the place where some real discipline will be required, is with the rule: Anything that is spoken in Chinese is translated to English. Or at least a real effort is made to translate it to English. They tape record the entire thing too so if they want to they can write down the sentences that were generated in class. Up and away gentlemen. This approach puts a whole new spin on things.

Bob, great idea! Let’s kick that “No Chinese” rule once and for all. Imagine a Chinese class for foreigners with a “No English” rule… That would be ugly and consist mostly of “eee…aaaa…mmm…我的意思是…” This translation rule is a great idea. I’ll try it on my students next week.

Let me tell you how it went this evening. I had a private student who needed to prepare for a real life event tomorow. Problem was that she was having a heck of a time describing the situation and what she needed to say in that situation. Hardly suprising as she is, after all, an English “student.” Finally I asked her to just spill the beans on the whole thing one time in Chinese first. I was able to translate some of it and that got the ball rolling. We got a basic feel for what we needed to do and made some good phrases for her to use the next day. That sequed into a little roll play and whenever we got stuck I told her to" ‘please’ just say it in Chinese." It wasn’t long before we were right back into generating the kind of language that would be most useful to her. It was suprising actually that while she was not able to make sentences and did not know all the voacbulary, she did know some that I didn’t know (cable, for example) so between us we were able to get at what she needed.

The only thing that slowed the whole thing down was her reluctance to speak Chinese and my inability to understand a lot of it. I can sure see how this is going to require some considerable improvement on my part.

There is one guy (Krashen?) who actually holds “NO English” ENGLISH classes. Everybody sits around and socializes about whatever, he tape records the whole thing and in the next stage they translate it all to English. Wow. I like it. I like it a lot.

Bob wrote [quote]"Got something to say? Say it in Chinese![/quote]

Right, from the man who gave us “watching TV instead of teaching” comes “speak Chinese, not English”. :wink: (Actually, your TV/DVD as homework is a pretty good idea for students so inclined).

I also disagree with the no Chinese language rule, but I only allow it to be broken for complex vocab/language. If I near simple stuff like “zhe shi shenme?” or “Wo bu zhidao” I jump on them. “You can say that it English!!! Why say it Chinese? If you do that again, I’ll make you shag my twin sister. blah blah plank blah blah arse!!”