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I grew up privileged. Not just because of my middle-class upbringing, but also because I grew up as a native English speaker. English is truly the international language of today’s world. Often, those of us privileged to be native speakers, take this fact for granted on a daily basis. Today we wanted to take a minute and reflect on the real impact of an English education.
My Finnish friend once told me “I knew I had to be fluent in English since I was a child. They would remind us at school that no one else in the world is learning how to speak Finnish.”
How does that statement relate to your upbringing and language education? I know it’s a distant cry from my own. Sure I took some Spanish and later French, but never with the pressure of feeling that I HAD to speak it perfectly if I wanted a good career or future for myself. For me, language learning was a fun subject to study at school; it was never presented as a “life-altering” skill or frankly even as a necessity.
After living abroad for a decade, I can safely say that more people on our planet grow up like my Finnish friend than like me.
When you step into a TEFL classroom as a new teacher the atmosphere may surprise you. Students come to study extra hours after their normal school day is done. Working adults with families and responsibilities make time twice a week for English lessons. Why? Because they know that an English education is worth far more than knowing how to ask “Can you tell me where the restroom is?” while on holiday. They understand that an English education open doors of opportunity.
English can equal a university scholarship in the UK for one person and job promotion with benefits for their family for another. Observing this as a teacher on a daily basis was humbling and also filled me with a great sense of responsibility. I knew that the work I was doing had meaning and significance in the lives of my students.
Remembering this truth, that we are providing a path to opportunity by teaching English as a foreign language, is something I hope all graduates of our TEFLPros course will keep in mind and take to heart.