Does teaching matter?

I started this journey a few weeks ago with a number of ideas in mind. The foremost, how well would I learn different languages with different approaches.

Of the five languages that I am attempting to learn (not too cocky yet), three have the direct involvement of a teacher.

Six weeks may not support a definitive conclusion, but I have been surprised by one thing. Each of the teachers, whether professional or amateur, group or private, has brought a similar level of enthusiasm and expectation to the exercise.

I am not new at this. I have been a teacher (not always the best one) and have been a student to a wide range of teaching styles. Some teachers in the past have been wooden, some exhausted, some top notch. I was curious to see what I would encounter in 2012.

So far, so surprising. Everyone, even my amateur language exchange guy, has been keen and professional. Lessons zip along, and I am supposed to have done my homework.

Which has not always been the case. The expression on my swap teacher’s face when he realised that I had not worked on mastering the Korean script was fleeting but devastating. I have learned the Arabic letters, but not really gotten all of the Chinese characters (so far). The biggest challenge? Everything.

I am still hanging in there. A big part of it is because there is an implicit agreement with the teacher, and I feel obliged to keep up my part of the bargain. I want the teacher to be proud of me. A good teacher’s good opinion matters.

Does this mean that Polish and Hindi have disappeared under a wave of apathy? Not quite. The inherent wackiness of the Polish language and the quality of the software have brought me back for more (I am up to Lesson 12). But Hindi is requiring the greatest level of willpower to advance. I would still struggle with more than a word or two. I have a nodding acquaintance with some of the letters, numbers but haven’t yet found a chance to practice.

So in answer to the question posed in the title of this post – it sure does. A good teacher (in other matters than just languages) shares enthusiasm for the topic, creates a welcoming environment, and also an expectation.

Sometimes we learn because we might be ashamed of not learning.

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