What I’ve Learned Through Teaching English

One of the big clichés of modern training is that it’s a 3-way process: candidates learn from the facilitator, they learn from each other. And the facilitator learns from the candidates. Well its true. And often in unexpected and pleasant ways. I know, because it has happened to me.

I have taught Business English in Amsterdam for 3 years and during that time I have kind of lost track of the things I have learned. There are the usual things like getting a better grasp on how Dutch culture influences how people act, as well as some nice idioms and tongue twisters.

Of course, I now also know quite a bit about how various Dutch companies work, what their industries are all about and what some of their jobs are actually meant to do. This is all fascinating and part of the feedback loop that makes real, on-demand customisation of our English programmes possible.

The unexpected learnings are more about me and who I am as a person. I have discovered some very interesting things about my own English use and what that says about me. For example, I will almost always tend towards using French-Latin root words when I feel like I am on show (as when in front of a large group) This is not great as it is not good language grading on my part (speaking at the level of the clients) but more than this it made me ask myself: what am I doing? Is it an unconscious self-defence mechanism, or is it worse? Is it just plain showing off?

I also have an annoying habit of answering questions that require Yes or No answers with a suitable sentence answer in the Present Perfect tense. To the question, Do I need to buy milk, I might typically reply, “I have been to the shops.” To me it’s clear that no person would ever say this if they had not bought milk while they were at the shops and that this milk has not run out. But it’s not. Especially not to a non-native speaker. Why do I do this?

My patience is also deeper and longer than I had previously thought. If there is a challenge in front of me, it appears that I can keep coming around at it from different angles and trying new explanations until a break-through is achieved. I had never realised that I like solving puzzles more than I dis-like repeating things.

You will have heard people talking about how language and culture go hand in hand and cannot be separated. I would go further. I have learned that so much of HOW I am who I am is because I am that person in English. As a non-fluent speaker of Dutch I have also realised I am a more reserved person, less inclined to talk about myself and a lot more direct. A lot of my personality has got to do with my belief that I am understood. When that is absent, I behave differently.

TalenInstituut Language Learning Tip

Unexpected things can happen in language lessons. As a result, it is always a good idea to have specific goals to focus on. If you do not, it is easy to get distracted by interesting but non-essential things. When this happens, you run the risk of getting to the end of the course having learned many interesting things, but not the things that you need to improve your language use in your target area.

Here at TalenInstituut Nederland (The Dutch Language Institute) we understand the needs that companies face as well as the fears individual learners feel. This is why we offer flexible, fully customised Business language courses to businesses and individuals. Through a process of interviews and meetings we establish the unique needs and competence of our clients and design each and every course around those. To find out more about our Business Language courses, visit our website and ask us for a quote: www.taleninstituut.nl.

© Taleninstituut Nederland

By: David Chislett
Trainer Business English