English from Zero

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Location: Osnabrueck, Lower Saxony, Germany

Friday, May 20, 2005

A quick visit from Sergej

Sergej just called to bring back English 901 Book 1 that he had borrowed from me. He kept the cassettes and had planned to copy the books, though I forgot to ask him if he'd managed to do that. His car was double-parked with lights blinking in front of the house and we only spoke for a couple of minutes.

"Lots of stress" was his answer to my question: "How are you?". One of the project team ( a 'foreigner' I've just realised he said) has gone sick and the work has to be divided between Sergej and one other person.

I've thought back to our one and only lesson - amazing how much discussion there was about what turned out to be only one lesson - and wonder if I didn't spend far more time wondering about what I was going to do instead of pondering how I could best find out what he wanted. But I don't want to be too politically correct on this one and I think the answer is:"No. It was appropriate to think hard about what I was going to do." Remember this is 1to1 teaching and he has no English at all. He has said that he is not interested in examinations,only in being able to understand the discussions that go on in his Department quite requently in English. I'm too sure that my general approach, if I get the chance to use it, is appropriate - English only (as soon as possible), translation very sparingly and only when there is an important breakdown in communication, and talked based on his needs - from introducing himself and asking where his interlocutor comes from onwards and upwards.

If he does return I may well have to convince him that a method other than the one he is used to will bring better results.

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

English from Zero

Reality kicks in

I'd noticed that S. likes to plan things carefully. He timed his sessions with me to fit in between preparation for an examination and doing a laboratory-based team project in the summer break.

A new professor has arrived, though, and decreed that the project must be done now, beginning this week. This involves working with other students and together writing a report.


Our next meeting is scheduled for two months from now.

I confess I'm somewhat disappointed.

Nevertheless: Watch this space...........