Native speakers in Romania
Alex and Sarah MOORE
We were happy to serve as two of the five native English language instructors during the Lingua Franca conference this summer, in Miclauseni, Romania. We were scheduled to teach English for 45 minutes a day, for six total days.
In reality, our English classes lasted the duration of the whole conference! Every moment was a learning opportunity, for us as well as the non-native speakers, because we shared a cultural exchange that cannot be found in a classroom. The best way to learn a language is to use it – that is certainly true – but also to make mistakes using it, to tell jokes using it, to sing songs using it. That could not have been more true at Miclauseni.
Each participant shared stories about their unique cultural identities, describing the religious, political and economic challenges and strengths of their respective homes. Sharing stories is integral to forming friendships, and forming friendships is vital to creating an atmosphere of encouragement. For the participants who needed more English practice, we watched with amazement as their newly-found friends encouraged them, sometimes translating difficult concepts into another language, and other times just lending a patient smile. Each stumbling block presented a new learning opportunity, and the English sessions we led gave participants an opportunity to ask specific questions about words or phrases they struggled to understand. The intellectual atmosphere at the conference was nothing short of warm and hospitable.
As the days progressed, Sarah and I watched as the participants improved their English skills as well as their confidence in using English — by the last days of the conference, we were amazed at how noticeably better everyone had become at speaking and understanding English! As language skills improved, the advanced topics in our sessions became more accessible, the discussion became livelier, the meals became more conversational, and the free time became more relaxed and inclusive.
Our formal language sessions were just a fraction of the total time the participants spent learning English. Most of the learning took place through cultural exchange and friendship. It was incredible to take some small part in it! You guys are experts now!