ESL, Thoughts

Teaching in Another Language

Not going to lie. Teaching is hard. What is even more difficult is trying to explain things in a language other than your mother tongue. Though I am quite fluent in Japanese, I never have confidence in my speaking abilities. Don’t let my writing skills fool you. I’m horrible when it comes to getting in front of people and talking. Yet, I love instructing and helping others.

Recently I taught a yoga class in Japanese. Going into it, I knew that I was going to have to forget about using imagery for fear of the message getting lost in translation. The usual cues that I would use when teaching in English were flipped upside down. I was shaking the entire time, trying to formulate the instructions amidst moving through the poses. It was taxing but incredibly rewarding. Not only was a great to finally be back teaching yoga, it was  an eye-opening experience.

So I can do it, I told myself. I can teach in Japanese, even though I was not fully confident in my abilities. What also seemed like a triumph was that I didn’t go brain-dead from nervousness.

Granted, I need more practice. But I’m also in the right place to ask for advice.

Also, I’m teaching a new friend English from an EFL (English as a foreign language) perspective. Because he doesn’t understand explanations given in English, I repeat the English twice then translate into Japanese. He might have a question about an English statement then ask in Japanese what it means. At times, the skills required to be able to switch between Japanese and English seem to fail me. Until he shows that he totally comprehended it.

Then I take a step back and say, “Hey, I just explained a challenging grammar point in English in another language. Isn’t that kind of cool?”

Okay, maybe I’m not that terrible at speaking.

What matters is confidence and the ability to overcome those moments when your tongue ties into knots. The best teachers are the ones who can reword things and simplify explanations. Competence is proven through the ability to crunch information into sizable pieces.

I can’t wait to teach in Japanese again. I can’t wait to learn more pedagogy techniques in dance. Doing these things makes me realize how close I am to accomplishing my ultimate goal: teaching in Japan (in Japanese).

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