Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Sliding down the glass mountain

As mentioned previously, my voice and vocabulary have had to change a little out here in Korea. Not much but subtle changes. There is something else that is now different. I feel like my grammar is falling apart in the classroom. At home and with co-workers there is no change and I maintain a decent standard of English. Surely as an English teacher of sorts my English should be constantly improving? That is not always the case. I should know better after studying grammar intensively for my CELTA but that is four years ago and seems like a lifetime away. Besides, I'm not really teaching with my present curriculum.

Almost every teacher here does or at least has at some time mocked the locals for their broken English in the classroom. I know I'm guilty of it - it can be very funny what you hear and how things are said by people learning a language. Most Westerners I believe will go through what I am experiencing even if they don't know it. Obviously my students grammar is full of holes - it's my job to fix that. For the past 12 months I've been teaching mainly lower levels so I am not exposed to students of a higher ability. Consequently all I am hearing are mistakes. I can't correct every little mistake as a) I'd be doing that all lesson and there would be no lesson, b) Some students hate being told of mistakes or crumble under the weight of shyness if corrected c) I'm too lazy or too apathetic to do so, because they just repeat their mistakes again and again 99% of the time. Once you allow mistakes to slide, it's difficult to reverse the trend.

The constant and consistent class errors have resulted in me toning down my English grammar. For some situations it's been dumbed down in order to be totally understood. I find myself also adopting some of the Konglish (Korean-English) that my students come out with. I know I'm doing it but I don't always stop myself. In themselves, the changes are not significant but its a slippery slope and I must try to maintain standards even if it's just for my sanity. I spend large amounts of time before and after work reading but maybe I need to read more to prevent more damage. This doesn't mean I think my English is terrible, it just means I think my grammar has ironically become worse as a teacher.

Where will it end and how long will it take to be rehabilitated?

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