Okay, it’s Friday, “English Club Day” at the local ESL Academy in the town near Barcelona. This is the day that regular classes are not held, the kids can show up and participate in “activities” that are meant to be fun and are meant to add to the twice-a-week classes they attend Monday through Thursday.
This Friday, Bob the American and Pete the Canadian are introducing the activities. There are about sixty kids aged 10 to 15 in the grand hall of the academy listening to Bob and Pete try to explain what they had done the previous weekend.
“So, here we are, in a beautiful country house, and Alfonso said to us that we had to move these prinks.”
“Yeah!, There was this huge pile of prinks just inside the gate and he wanted us to move the prinks closer to the back door.”
“Yeah, those prinks were heavy and there were hundreds of them and only two of us.”
Suddenly these two guys realize that no one understands what they are talking about, so they begin miming the action of moving the prinks from one side to the other. In a flash of inspiration, Bob, the American, realizes that it’s the word “prink” that no one understands, so he begins miming just what a prink is, while repeating over and over again “prink! prink! prink!”
This went on for a good fifteen to twenty minutes. The boredom level of those sixty kids was nearing the boiling point. I was embarrassed for these two teachers and frustrated for the students. I stood up from my corner and projected in my best “stop that train!” stage voice “Un momento, por favor.”
Horrors! I had just used L1 in a situation where the two teachers doing the presentation had decided that English ONLY was the ONLY way to hold the presentation. I personally didn’t care. If they were too dense to realize just how much time they were wasting, how much they had already lost the attention of a group of kids who didn’t want to be there anyway (their parents paid for the extra club time, so they HAD to attend!), I wasn’t going to allow them to continue.
“Ladrillos!” I continued, again in L1. That was the missing word, “bricks” those two guys had been moving bricks, not prinks. When I said that single word, suddenly 60 kids heaved a sigh of relief, commented amongst themselves “so that’s what they were talking about”. It took me exactly one word, one second, to clear up a confusion that 15 minutes of pantomime and monkey shines and repetitions of an unknown word had not done.
What I said after that, also in Spanish, well, that’s another post and not related to English ONLY. Just wanted to share this incredibly stupid, embarrassing and disastrous scene.
Don’t enforce English ONLY at the cost of actually teaching your students English.
Still want more? Of course I’ve more to say on this topic!