Today marks one week of living in Florida. One week, seven more to go. It’s been an interesting week filled with disappointments, several frustrations, and some really great moments. Moving into new apartments is always a roller coaster ride, and this experience was no different. As I sit here on this couch and type this post, I’m thankful for my roommates’ admirable qualities and they are sweet individuals. But I miss my desk and my study areas at home 🙂
My introduction to Wolof has also been a hybrid of ups and downs. I’m in an introductory class with 3 students total, but my other two classmates have already spent considerable periods of time in Senegal. They understand and produce the language much better than I do. They are still considered beginners, however I am pretty far behind them. It’s been a very L-O-N-G time since I was a true beginner (someone without prior knowledge or exposure to a language) and my mind has often gone back to my university students who have looked at me with fear, apprehension, and frustration in their eyes. Note to self: when teaching 101 classes in the future, be sure to address their concerns and give them hope and assurance of their success.
This experience has made me recognize once again the value of my BYU training in effectively teaching introductory language courses. Grammar and vocabulary contextualization is so very important in the learning process. Throwing out vocabulary is so ineffective. Practice/group work and role plays are essential in providing opportunities for students to manipulate the language. That’s the only way it sticks. And having good textbooks also helps. On the other hand, it’s also important to control the direction of the class period and not allow students to derail the lessons by unrelated questions and tangents. Perhaps the majority of my frustration stems from the fact that I am a language teacher and I know how much more effective our time in the classroom can be.
That being said, I’m sure that things will improve once we get farther into the program. I’m learning a lot and despite my frustrations, I enjoy going to class and interacting with my classmates. They teach me a lot and they’re enthusiastic about the language, the Senegalese culture, and it’s evident that they love the Senegalese people. I look forward to strengthening my relationships with them. Interestingly, all of the Wolof speakers in the program (introductory and intermediate) will be in Senegal during the same time I will be in Dakar, so we’ll probably have occasions to meet up and do things together. It will be great to have friends from the States in the country. Furthermore, my teachers are wonderful people. They are so happy and encouraging and they are always smiling. Their Senegalese friends who stop in from time to time to help out in conversation labs are equally as genuine, happy, and helpful. I think that all of us are grateful to and for them.