Week 15

Personal/Professional Reflection
30th April – 7th May
As I near the end of this Erasmus adventure here in The Netherlands I wish to reflect on one of the most central and fundamental aspects of moving to a new country and being able to participate in everyday life there, that being the language. Without a doubt, having very little knowledge of the Dutch language did make me somewhat anxious before I left. Although I had learned some useful phrases and words from the language labs in Stranmillis, it wasn’t long before I realised that certain words have many meanings and the way we pronounced them was hardly even translatable. Thankfully my fears were put to ease in the first few days when we realised most people have some English and are willing to help in most situations. Their enthusiasm to practice their English and ability to converse in the English language made me even more eager to learn the Dutch language.
One of the many situations where the class
had the opportunity to converse in
English with me.
As part of our course here we have been taking Dutch language classes each week. At the beginning, these made me very excited as I thought they were a great opportunity to get a good grasp on the basics of the language which would enable me to participate in all aspects of Dutch life more effectively, but as time went on I soon realised that I wasn’t learning very much. As I reflect on this experience I can say that the way this second language was taught was not very effective. Stranmillis has given me much preparation in dealing with children who English is an additional language and from this I can see how the use of simple words and useful phrases that children will need is more useful at the start than teaching grammar and structure of language. In any case, from this experience I can most definitely say I know how it feels like to be one of these children where they feel lost and frustrated in situations when they are unable to communicate.
The teachers in my placement school were very good at making me feel involved and making sure I knew what was going on most of the time. At the same time I spent much of the day clueless and silent at the back of the class. I enjoyed my placement school very much but there were many times whilst I observed the teacher teaching I wished I could understand what she was saying as the it was evident the way she taught was exemplary as well as the way she interacted with the pupils in the class. After all much can be learned from observing a situation rather than being told how it shoudl look.
From my previously learned knowledge about teaching languages and the useful classes about teaching English here in PABO, I was able to plan and teach meaningful and beneficial lessons to the children in my placement school. I used stories and songs with language relevant to everyday life with gestures and actions enabling children to build upon what they already knew and expand their English vocabulary. When I first met these children they were not very confident in speaking English but after the 6 weeks that I had been in their classes I was pleasantly surprised at how eager they were to converse in English and learn new words and phrases.
For me this experience has been very beneficial in many ways. Not only have I grasped some of the Dutch language but I have also seen how language is a key part of accessing a culture and without it life would be very isolated and difficult. For me learning some of the language was not easy but I have seen how it opened up many doors. Personally I think Walter V. Kaulfers encapsulates the importance if making an effort and learning some of the language. He says, “In humans relations a little language goes farther than a little of almost anything else. None makes a wall, some can make a gate.”
Group 8 showing me their version of
'Head Shoulders Knees and Toes!'
I have also seen how the way languages are taught has a huge impact on people being able to learn them. As a future educator I have benefited greatly, not only I am able to empathise with children who do not have English as their mother tongue but I have gained more knowledge about how to teach these children as well as having experience of teaching English to second language learners which is something I have not done before.


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