Just Wait and See

Posted on April 14, 2012 by

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In my village, approximately 7 people speak English, including my co-teachers, the English teacher who had a baby, and me.

I don’t know what the level of English was in the past in my school, in my family, or in my village. I do, however, know the level of English that exists today. In my school, my co-teachers speak English well, although, I occasionally slip into Georgian out of habit. Students yell at me from every direction, “Hello!” and “You are beautiful; I love you!” After school, on the walk home, children follow me as they piece together sentences to ask what family I have, if I like Georgia, and how old my friend’s sister’s baby is. My family does not speak English, although we have come to a good balance of my stunted Georgian and their bits of English. In my village, the woman down the street practices English with me as she walks past; “Good day. How do you do?”

To be honest, I don’t see the increase in the level of English that statistics point out. This may be due to the fact that I’m not in the older classes every day; it may be that very few students from my school go to university, as my host mom explained. However, I do see a motivation from the younger students to learn English. The first and second grade students are eager to use their new language skills and are still at the age where “showing off” to the teacher is celebrated by their peers.

My family – consisting of my host dad, a farmer and organic fertilizer salesman, my host mom, the village doctor, and her niece, a 12-year-old who is in a class that is farther in their English than she is – uses English when my Georgian has reached its limits. My Georgian dad doesn’t care to learn English but often uses his language skills of “Sit down” and “Eat!” when he needs to reiterate what he’s just said in Georgian. My Georgian mom realizes how important knowing English is and picks up what she can but has very little free time to sit down and learn a new language. My Georgian sister uses English with me the most, but she knows very little grammar, so it is one word at a time; however, in our English lessons, we practice every day phrases, which are then reiterated at home.

I think the biggest problem facing those who want to learn English in the village is a lack of resources. If my host mom decided to study English, where would she go? Who would she have lessons with? My co-teachers have their own students and even those lessons have multiple students in them. If the woman down the road wanted to practice “Good day; how do you do?”, who would be there to listen? Internet is scarce; money is scarcer. Most of my neighbors have grown up in the same village; they work in the same fields their parents worked in; they rarely venture out into a world where English is necessary. I don’t say this to belittle the village life; I love the village life. I don’t say it to belittle the necessity of English in Georgia; students who are studying to get into university need to increase their language skills. However, apart from school, English isn’t needed in the village, and, therefore, the motivation for those who are not students to learn another language is significantly lower. And yet, I realize there’s no way to fix this, short of flooding the villages with native English speakers so that we become the majority.

I don’t think the statistics of an increased level of English are reflective of my village and my school. I don’t know the older classes; I don’t know their quality of English or whether they can pass English exams for university. I know that with significant change comes the desire for significant results. However, the results I’m interested in won’t come for another nine or ten years, when my current students begin entering university. They will have had a native English speaker; they will have had more time to study, and it will have been instilled upon them from an earlier age. What will the seven-year-old who can remember the word for “cloud” and “sky” choose? Where will the 3rd grader who can translate better than some of the 4th graders go? Those are the statistics I’m interested in knowing.

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