Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Guest Blogger Heidi Raki

Today we have such a special treat- Guest blogger Heidi Raki talking about her experiences teaching EFL in Morocco! I hope you will enjoy what Heidi has to share, and will stop  by her awesome blog after you're done reading!


Hi everyone!  I am Heidi Raki of Raki’s Rad Resources and I am so pleased to be joining you on ESOL Odyssey today.  As a teacher with a lot of English Language Learners, I am always sure to check here for teaching tips.
In my class, I have 20 students, of which only 1 speaks English only in his household, and even he began his life in a bilingual environment. The other 19 speak at least one, if not two other languages in their homes. Most of my students speak Arabic, but many also speak French.  I also have one who speaks Spanish and another who speaks a Filipino dialect. My classroom is slightly different than the average because I teach in an American school in Casablanca, Morocco. 
While there are some classrooms in the United States where you can find this many English Language Learners all together, even those classrooms would have different learners than mine.  The reason is that my students are English as a Foreign Language Learners (EFL) and not English as a Second Language Learners (ESL).  There are a few differences between EFL and ESL – but here is the big one: outside of my classroom, my students generally do not hear, speak, read or write in English.  Some of the parents have English books at home, and most have access to at least some English T.V., but generally they live in a society where they hear and see Arabic or French only – from street signs and billboards to radio stations and conversations with store clerks, very few of their interactions are in English.
My students do not always have the same motivation to learn English as a student would if they were living in a country where English was the primary language.  Not only can my students get along without English in a store, on the street and in their household, but they are also aware that the majority of their classmates can communicate with them without them ever learning English.  Any teacher of EFL students will tell you that they lose count of how many times they say “English, please.” to their students.  I generally say “We are here to practice our English – so please help your friends out by speaking English.”  Not only does the switch to the home language stop the immersion process for other learners, it also allows most learners to switch back to thinking in the home language.  In addition, this means that my students are not necessarily self-motivated, and so I must be the person providing new, exciting, activities that will get and keep my students motivated to learn.
While teaching EFL students in Morocco has its own special challenges, it has its own special rewards too.  For example, I get to tap into my student’s unique background knowledge.  This is why my entire class (and I) can now count to 200 in French, Arabic, Spanish and English.  This is also why when we talked about the concept of plural vs. singular, we were able to address the topic in all 4 languages, making the connections easier for my students.  Another benefit of teaching EFL students in Morocco is the understanding I now have for how students learn language – both from watching my students and from learning French & Arabic myself.
Teaching EFL students in Morocco has made me a stronger teacher.  It has allowed me to compare and contrast different types of learners and different types of teaching strategies.  It has made me aware of how culture affects language.  Most importantly, it has made me put myself in my student’s shoes, and truly understand language learning first hand.
For more about my teaching experiences here in Morocco – feel free to stop by my blog – Raki’s Rad Resources.

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