Jeanne in a Bottle: Speak Easy My Friends

Meet Talal and Juan, meie studenti. Last month I started teaching a Level 1 ESL class. I had the pleasure of teaching 2 bright students: one a Saudi and another a Colombian native. While both students excelled throughout the class, and worked their tails off up until the final exam, one of my proudest moments as a teacher, and one in which was very nostalgic of my own language courses, was the oral exam. For some, oral exam is horribly dreaded. For others, it is a chance to reminisce and express oneself with enthusiasm, perhaps a chance for success in language learning! 11143631_1573313712918310_8684189075440232749_n

11351226_1573313722918309_1741783770338651678_nI started taking Italian in college a couple years ago. Beginner level Italian was fine and dandy and I coasted through fairly well having taken Spanish in high school and college (being that they’re both Romance languages). However I really started to fall in love with Italian when I started speaking it.

Senior year, I started taking classes in the upper levels. It was more intensive and in order to produce what we were learning, a lot of our presentations and exams were oral. Then I met Jeanne, the ingredient to letting my Italian stallion run free! Jeanne and I hit it off from the beginning, a connection stemming from a language that was neither of our firsts.

The bond that is created with another person over a language is quite unique. I attended an annual Conflict Resolution conference and one of the sessions had to do with making bonds over languages. When people who are not native to the language start speaking they are breaking down barriers. In order to make mistakes with ease, one has to be in an environment that is comfortable, and safe to do so. It is the same reason people often look for those who speak their own language, it is comfortable and they can do so with ease. Learning sometimes can best occur when we make errors but are in a place to maintain our confidence in order to feel okay with making them.

I saw this bond in Talal and Juan. There were many moments when they answered the question to the oral exam without being prompted. I was excited and energized because it was the same moment three years ago I shared with Jeanne, without any prior eliciting. We started speaking like we were in a piazza in Milano o Firenze gossiping, people watching. In reality we were in a classroom, imagining where our language would take us. Talal and Juan in much the same way imagined themselves in an European paradise, people watching.

Italian class with Jeanne for me was magical. We had powers to unleash our speaking abilities. Comfort and confidence are two dynamics that must be present in order for speaking to start and progress. Find those people who release your word woes, and you too, parli tu!

-Salina Khanna

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