Laughing at Ourselves
By Kelsey Rivers
B.A. Student in Anthropology and Linguistics, University of Arizona
Honors Civic Engagement Team Intern - Iskashitaa Refugee Harvesting Network
As a student at the University of Arizona, I have been taking a number of classes on language learning. In one of these classes, we have been discussing Mikhail Bakhtin's "The Problem of Speech Genres". What he means by "speech genres" is simply the difference between language in a scholarly journal as opposed to speaking with a small child.
This got me thinking about the speech in our ESL class. I think Taylor and my speech is a lot of talking, but not a lot of content. Actually, there is a great deal of content, but most is lost in the process of crossing language barriers. If anything, the main mode of communication would be gestures and drawings.
There is also a lot of swapping, both in terms of language and culture. This swapping often leads to "Spanglish" or "Franglais" type situations; most sentences come out a mixture of many languages.
However, instead of the typical frustration that occurs in other multilingual settings (like my more formal French class) our class is far more light-hearted. This is possibly because of my poorly executed drawings but I feel like we are always on the verge of laughter.
This laughter extends to the linguistic front as well; on a mechanical level we, the teachers, often can't accurately produce the sounds of their language, and the same applies to them. For us, we constantly mess up the length of our vowels, for them the fricatives appear to pose problems.
Although we all laugh, we persevere and finally nail the pronunciation, and our students are excited for us to have finally managed it. I wish all language learning experiences could be as rewarding as this.
Are you ready to share your skills and passion in Iskashitaa's English classrooms? We would love to have you as a lead teacher or assistant. Please contact Lizbeth for more information!