The Joy Of Language
By Cassandra Torres
“We are all born (I believe) with the resources to speak and understand language. After that, we are free to express however and whatever we want.” – Noam Chomsky.
For the past three weeks the Language Institute of the American School of Guadalajara offered a summer program, Passport to Summer, in which students reinforced their English skills. As a Teacher Assistant, I was to supervise the younger kids and interacted with them in my second language, English. For most of the kids English wasn’t their maternal language either. At times I would ask them a question and they would simply stare at me tilting their heads with curiosity, a gleam in their eyes. It was at this moment that I realized how that might have been me a couple of years ago.
The best way to learn a language is through exposure. As we visited Colomos Park, the kids were to complete a scavenger hunt. As they were looking around for rocks shaped like dinosaurs and something smooth, a little Japanese boy from the class asked me what a feather was. I described the texture and shape, but he stood motionless. I tried something different; I told him where they came from, “Birds,” I said. He responded, “Birds?” I pointed to the sky but he said, “Rain?” so I figured out the best way was to search for a feather with him.
Once the feather was found, he said, “Ahhh!” followed by the translation of it in Japanese. This was one of my most determined and persistent students. While engaged in an activity identifying body parts, he asked me what an elbow was. I pointed to my elbow and asked him to repeat after me. Then, he found the elbow on his handout and copied letter by letter the word from the word bank. At first I didn’t think he would remember any of the body parts, but later on during recess he fell down scratching his elbow slightly. He came to me and told me, “Elbow hurts.”
There were times when the teacher went outside to prepare an activity, and I was left in charge. It was then that I felt how wonderful and strange it was for me being the “profesora.” I also discovered that the teaching was mutual. The children reminded me that I needed to forget myself once in a while, and to be patient. I also learned that language is not a barrier when it comes to friendship. During recess everyone would play together regardless of the language they spoke. They would communicate with signs and actions and the few English words that they knew.
I realized what a blessing teachers are. They are the ones who show us the basics of life, such as the colors of the rainbow, how to interact with others and the mysteries of mathematics. They also introduce us to the kindness of others outside the family. A wise man once told me he hoped one day I would be able to give back to others the knowledge that had been passed on to me. At the age of sixteen I believe this has been my first step. At some point in my life I would like to devote my life to teaching in order to give back what once was given to me.
(Ed. Note: CassandraTorres is a junior at the American School of Guadalajara. She is currently in studying Advanced Placement composition and is also a summer intern with Dr. Michael Hogan.)