Languages for teachers
Welcome to the 5-week Linguist Show. Today I want to talk about language for teachers. So the very first thing that I want to say before I get into anything else is that you teachers are amazing. And I’ve been teaching for, I don’t want to tell you how many years, since my early twenties. And every year I have more respect for teachers. And it’s not just because I am one, it’s because I see what teachers do every single day.
I’m sure if you’re a teacher you’ve heard this quote before, or statistics rather, that teachers make more decisions in a day than an air traffic controller. I believe it. There are so many decisions that have to be made. And not to say that they’re all big, because many of them are small, but it’s, you’ve got 10 people asking you a question at the same time. You’ve got the phone ringing, you’ve got constant competing demands and not always the respect we deserve. Sometimes we have some really unrealistic expectations put on us. I do agree with some of the quotes that it takes a certain kind of person to teach.
However, we can’t do all the work. It’s the person who does the work, who does the learning. And so much of what teachers do is spending time, making, learning, engaging and fun and enjoyable. And they put themselves last. Teachers do so much looking after so many other people that they don’t all look after themselves. Right? And it becomes a way of life where you get used to working incredibly long hours and trying to help people learn as much as they possibly can with the time that you’re given.
But one question I get a lot from my teacher colleagues, and I’m not counting my language teacher colleagues, how do I learn the language? And I just talked about all the things that teachers do, right? Teachers are the busiest people I know. And I’m not sure that, apart from the planning and the classroom and everything teachers do for that part of their job, the grading, all the stuff that comes after school, I’m not sure that people realize if you’re not in teaching, how many other things teachers do. All the committees at school, the fundraising. If kids want to have an activity or you want to do a trip, you have to raise the money. And that involves things like bake sales and working extra jobs at school to help out with that. Planning and putting on special events and coaches, oh my goodness.
Coaches do such an amazing job. They give kids such a productive thing to do that involves building teamwork and a sense of belonging and physical activity. It’s just every year, I’m more in awe of what teachers do. But I wanted to share some tips for teachers to learn other languages. And I know that people, we all have different motivations for learning other languages. And the main motivations that I see for teachers to want to learn languages are first of all, they work at a community to be able to communicate with parents. They might have people from, service a lot of immigrant communities.
So learning another language sure will help in doing your work. So a very practical reason, as well as making a connection with the families, that home/school relationship. The other reason I often see is that teachers are smart and they want to help their kids learn another language because they know about all the advantages they give them. Or even teaching it a little bit in their classroom, just a little sprinkling on top of something. Teaching some words in Spanish or some words and phrases, just having one small part of the day where you can help your students learn that languages aren’t a scary thing and help them get the benefits of improved executive function and better problem solving skills. Really amazing gifts that you can give a kid on top of all the other amazing things that teachers do.
And the other reason is that teachers are amazing. Teachers, they want to always improve themselves. So I wanted to talk about all of these demands and whether teaching a language is something or learning a language is something, if you’re a teacher, that you want to do for yourself or for your children or for your students. I wanted to share some really easy and simple ways that you can do this because teachers are smart. So I am a super passionate language teacher and language learner. And the fact of the matter is I don’t get to spend nearly as much time as I want to in learning languages. And I’ve had to find time in my day to learn languages that don’t interrupt, that don’t take away from the other things that I’m doing and definitely don’t add stress or put more on my plate because I can’t handle it. I wouldn’t be able to do it.
People have families. They’ve got things to do. So I wanted to share a few ways where as a busy teacher, you can get language learning into your life. And if you do it over a long enough period of time, you will learn another language. You will be proficient in another language. So my number one time saving hack for teachers to learn another language is… I’m sorry. The number one is Pimsleur and Pimsleur’s amazing. It’s a program made by Dr. Paul Pimsleur and they use space repetition. And they teach a lot of themes in a format of increasingly difficult everyday kind of real life conversations, or they’re modeled on real life conversations. Topics you would definitely use. And it’s my number one choice. It’s expensive. And check out your library to see if you have it, but it’s my number one choice because they’re 30 minute lessons and they don’t recommend doing more than 30 minutes a day.
And most languages have levels one through five. So you might do a 30 minute lesson over 30 days. And that would be, realistically, five or six weeks that would take you to finish that. Or if you do a lesson and then you review maybe preview that lesson and then move on to the next. And then there’s five of those lessons. It’s amazing. If your commute is a half an hour or your commute is 15 minutes each way, it’s a great way to just turn that time in the car into language learning time. So think about that. 30 minutes a day over 30 days. And then multiply that by five. That’s a school year for those levels one through five, and you will probably find yourself a pretty proficient, surprisingly so. But find a space that you can realistically do. You don’t have to sit down, you don’t need to change it.
You can even do something like Pimsleur if you walk. So if you’ve got, I really like to do Pimsleur when I’m walking and I have it on my phone, on my audible app, and that’s another way to do that. So I’m not taking away from something else that I need to do. Those language courses aren’t detracting from my day. So it’s not adding me any stress. And my skills are building every single day.
The second way is podcasts. So check out Spotify and whatever language you’re learning, you can do that same thing with podcasts. I highly recommend as a beginner, do Pimsleur, but once you become a little bit more advanced or if Pimsleur”s a little bit pricey, you can also go on Spotify and do language podcasts and courses. You might have to spend a little bit more times curating your playlists, but it works. You can turn your downtime into language time.
The third one is Yabla. And they are immersive language videos that are especially made for language learners. So it’s kind of like Netflix, but for language learners. And I love to do just a little bit of Yabla every day. Right now I’m working on my Italian and I love it. It’s got a player, a patented player, actually that will slow down speech or speed it up. You have subtitles and captions. There’s tons of games. It’s really geared towards language learners. They do have a very proud affiliate by the way, I’m going to just completely disclose that I absolutely love Yabla because they’re fabulous. And I would love more people to know about them. Some of the complaints are that it’s a bit unstructured. I mean, it’s not built in a way that say Pimsleur is, level one, level two, level three, level four. But you didn’t learn your own language like that.
So it’s really based in videos, authentic cultural videos, commercials, music, movies, TV series, news and then specialized immersive videos, tutorials on cooking, things like that, documentaries. And then they have all their tools built in to make it comprehensible. So it’s research based. It’s awesome. Teachers know how to learn anything. So set aside some time every day. If you’ve got time to sit and watch Yabla, please do. Because it’s awesome.
The next one is Netflix. Netflix for language learners. Netflix of course started as love film. I want to say that they used to mail DVDs, but they went online and they took all their content and it’s subscription. You can watch it, stream online. They’ve got apps. You can watch it on your TV, et cetera. It’s pretty amazing. We all love it. And so after they built up this library of content, they started producing their own content.
They’re doing it all over the world. So if you’re learning Spanish, Italian, French, Chinese, Japanese, there’s stuff out there. So you can learn a language using Netflix. And there’s a special Chrome extension, if you watch on your computer, called Netflix for language learning. And it offers similar supports to what Yabla has. Yabla is richer. But maybe if you’re more inclined to see some of those new series, you can check it out.
The next thing that I want to talk about, because teachers are amazing, is reading. So Dr. Stephen Krashen did a study of two hyper polyglots. And in summary, these people that I want to, I don’t even know how many languages they spoke between them, but they were both 10 plus. They’re hyper polyglots. They spoke lots of languages. One of them had never lived abroad and did not do any formal language study, or much rather, did all of their pleasure reading in target languages. Just said, they’re going to read a book. They just read in other languages. That time adds up.
Teachers have that great skill. And you can incorporate that if you love to read, set aside at least a half an hour a day to read in your target language. It’s going to take you longer. It’s going to be a different experience. As a beginner or intermediate, you’re going to need a pen to mark up text. You’re going to need tools like Readlang If you’re reading on a device. Readlang, especially for language learners, you’re going to need a lot of support, but it’s well worth your time. I like a lot of paper and pencil, traditional type things, highlighters, writing in the margins, really marking up my text to understand, but it’s a really powerful way to learn languages.
The next thing I want to talk about is studying abroad. So teachers oftentimes don’t teach during the summer. If you’re a teacher, you know that we say we have summers off and I say that, but I really don’t. I mean, I’m actually technically unemployed during the summer. So while I’m not working, I’m not getting paid, but I’m also doing a great deal of work for my job. All of my activities that I create, they’re created during the summer, because I have too much to do during the school year.
I spend long periods of time creating what I know will be engaging activities that I can pull out and use the following school year, because I’m going to be too busy with meetings and grading and extracurricular activities, all those things that I’m just not going to have time to do, but it’s well worth it because the students love it. There are not enough hours in the day to get creative. Not for me anyway, and not often, there’s just too many different things to do. So I’m also doing professional development. I’m studying languages. I’m taking classes. I’m really trying to be a better teacher as well as put that oxygen mask on. So I could go fill my cup and then go be the best teacher I can be.
And one of my very favorite fill my cup activities is to study abroad. And there’s private language schools all over the place. I’m going to link to another episode that talks about how to do it. Just even if you had a little bit of a side hustle and again, teachers are smart. And I know that people can, maybe you can rent out your house on Airbnb. All of our circumstances are really different, but one way I know a lot of people do a side hustle, teachers, is tutoring with VIPKids. So it’s giving English lessons to kids. And I bring this up specifically because it could really be any side hustle, couldn’t it, that you do and you’re making a little bit of extra money every week. I’m doing stuff with Chase Sapphire. However that looks to get the money to be able to, or rewards to be able to go abroad.
Like using airline rewards, credit card, side hustle, whatever. There’s lots of ways that you could do it. But I’m bringing up VIPKid because it can really give you some insight into how to learn languages. So if you’re a teacher that wants to learn and become a better language learner yourself, some of what you will see in the process and earn a little bit of extra money at the same time could really help you become a more effective learner and communicator in a new language.
So I want to close out by telling all of you teachers, or if you know a teacher in your life, please thank them because they work so hard and they’re awesome. So yes, I’m biased because I’m a teacher, but I want to thank all the teachers for all the great stuff that they do. Thank you so much. And I hope that these tips will help you find some ways to get language learning into your life in a way that won’t stress you out, cost you a whole lot of money and just give you in general more things to do, because you already have enough already. Until next time.