I miss being this goofy and getting away with it.
I’m the type of person who gets very involved with my dreams. I have lots of them, and they tend to change. Or be refined. You guys know by now (how many dozens of times have I said it?) that I’m moving to Korea when I graduate. See, I’ve even taken out the “want” and now it’s an “I am.”
Up until recently, my plan was to teach English until I was fluent enough in Korean to be a translator. And I would still like to translate, and that could still end up being my full-time job there. But lately I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about the bit before. The teaching bit. I love teaching. I enjoyed it in Taiwan and I enjoy sharing with people things I’ve learned and am excited about. One thing I love to do is create enthusiasm.
Right now in college I’m taking a Phonetics and Phonology class. Now, for those of you who aren’t into linguistics, Phonetics would be the study of speech sounds – how they’re created in the mouth, lungs, larynx etc, and how they’re heard and interpreted. Know about the IPA? You should. Phonology is how those sounds are used in a language – what the rules are, and so on. For instance, in English you can have the consonant cluster [skr] as in “scream,” but you can’t have [slr]. You know that intuitively as a native English speaker (if you are). To me, this sort of thing is fascinating. We’ve studied other languages and their sounds as well, like the clicks of some African languages and the guttural sounds in many Arabic languages. Most of these are fairly easy to produce once you know how to articulate them (though I can’t do a Spanish trill to save my life).
As I was in class one day, I thought about comparative phonetics, and how I wanted a chart of all the sounds in Korean so I could figure out how to teach Korean kids to make English sounds. Am I turning into Professor Higgins? I wouldn’t be upset.
My point (long time getting here) is that I am getting really excited to start teaching. I’ve been getting books on child development (Piaget), second-language acquisition, and ESL teaching techniques. Thank heavens for a college library full of dusty old academic tomes.
This is all rather funny, since for most of my life teaching was the one career I flatly refused to consider. I was pulled out of school to be homeschooled in fourth grade, had hated nearly all my teachers for their incompetence, and had(have) such a bad impression of American children that I thought to teach would be a living hell for me. Plus I was convinced at that young age that I didn’t like being social and wanted a job where I could be a hermit. (I still think this sometimes, but foreign children are a lot more appealing to me.)
At the risk of making this post statistically too long to be interesting, I want to say one more thing. Other people, and even sometimes the teachers themselves, seem to view teaching English abroad as a sort of interim job. The thing you do before you begin living. I may have mentioned this before. But it really irks me, particularly now that I actually want to focus on the teaching and make a real job of it. Heck, I even have a notion of starting my own experimental English school, based on projects and conversation, not tests. But when I tell people my dream, I always wonder how seriously they take me. Whether they think I’m just doing it because it’s a sure job, and what I’ll do once I stop doing it. So many people seem to do it as a gap year or as some adventure, so those of us who are serious about it and want it as a permanent thing aren’t taken seriously.
Maybe I can become the first celebrity ESL teacher and turn the impressions about it on their head.