Who IS this “Rosetta Stone,” and how can she speak so many languages?

October 26, 2010

OVERHEARD IN THE FACULTY ROOM: “No, I don’t teach Honors Pre-Calculus!   That’s for SMART teachers!”

As a language teacher I get a lot of people greeting me in Spanish as I move around Gould’s campus.  I love it.  I love the fact that students greet me with an “hola“, and that students and teachers alike call me “Jefe.”  It makes this little school in this little town feel more international, somehow.

As someone interested in languages (and the cultures behind them), I also make an effort to speak regularly with students in their own native tongues, even if it is just to say “thank you.”  There is something truly special happening when you speak to another in their own language. I have seen it many times and I know exactly what to expect from the surprised international student when they hear their own words from the mouth of an American teacher.

They laugh.

They laugh loud, they laugh hard, and they do it every time, even if they heard me say the same thing 45 minutes ago.  My wife, who teaches many international students at Gould, tells me that the laughter comes from surprise and gratitude.

I think it comes from me sounding like an idiot.

In Korean, Chinese, German, you name it; I can sound like an idiot all over the world.

But I keep doing it, because there really is something special that unites people when they at least try to speak the same tongue.  We, as faculty at Gould, spend a lot of time and energy reminding Students Of Other Tongues (SOOTs?) to speak English.  Maybe it’s time that all of us, as native English speakers, learn to say at least a few things to the rest of us.  It just might bring us closer together.

Xie xie.


(Rachel Oh, laughing at my Korean)


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