Public speaking is the most common fear of young language learners


Public speaking is the most common fear of young language learners. - quote from myself

If you do not believe this, I challenge you to teach foreign languages in a secondary school. Even having a presentation or a speech in the native language tends to be a hard job to complete. I do not mean the gibberish chatting, but the stress in class when a pupil wants to speak in public. Therefore I advise parents, other teachers or educators to let their children or pupils speek freely. Correct when it comes to swearing, but do not ban them from speaking in general. This could lead to faltering or a total mind-stop, when pupils have to answer questions. Another is of course a lack of courage. Pupils must learn they mean something, they are important. So an additional good idea would be creating a class identity and atmosphere in which individual pupils make the difference.

For teachers, they have to pay attention to not use too much academic language. You do not have to ban it, but you can try to rephrase yourself when it occurs to you.

A good film about a class identity, but rather one about how-it-is-not-done, is Die Welle ( The Wave). It is a German production about a teacher who wants to prove if nazi-Germany can be re-constructed in his class, based on true stories.

Instructional language as a condition for inclusion


As I will be teaching, I will have to teach to non-native speakers as well. I usually talk slowly, but I have always related that to the fact that I am bilingual. The two languages I have grown up with keep on influencing one other. The West-Norwegian dialect has a slow pace and does not have the 'singing' which stereotypes the Scandinavian languages in general. Additionally, the tone is weak, accentless and as a consequence quite neutral. That is maybe why people find my voice monotonous. It is, however, the Flemish dialect that learned me to articulate and stress some pronunciations. This is also why I prefer to talk British English, because the accent allows me to underline what I want to say. So in communication with non-native speakers, I always use these qualities, trying to have the message understood. To chop long sentences in smaller ones may also help.

Why can't you speak ahead and do you really have to focus on the non-native speaker? He will learn the language by himself eventually? Yes and no. It is true that people will learn a language at last, but that takes time. Especially teenage immigrants are quite vulnerable for changes. The new situation (i.e. new country, new environment, different people...) is overwhelming. Plus, our education system requires the acquisition of competences in a relativly short time span, so as a teacher you will not have enough time margin to let the non-native speaker both comprehend the course contents *and* learning the language that is needed for these contents. One more important reason is the psychological backing, which gives a certain warmth, feeling of inclusion.

Now, unfortunately, there are still to many Flemings with different roots that keep on labelling themselves as the 'Moroccan' or the 'Pakistani'. The feeling of inclusion, which is partially due to good communication techniques, will automatically prompt respect for the new country and its values. I believe this is what we as a society should head to: changing immigrants into fellow citizens by the outcome of decent and well-thought communication.

The oddity about newcomers who are being kept 'new'


Western European societies are believed to have ratified the most immigration-friendly policies of the world. The way some of them may deal with those, is often a question of policy emphasis or simply budget. Many countries oblige the immigrants to adapt to certain expectations such as work, housing, heath care and education. The outcome of this is integration. From this point there are lots of sociologists and politicians who are opposing 'the need to adaptation' as a so-called result of «an excessive introspection» of that country. They consider the country in question to be uncertain and undetermined about its own direction (Schinkel, 2007). As a result newcomers would be affected by this identity search, because the native society keeps reflecting about possible reasons for certain sociological problems.

The post-war evolution to more internationalist politics is not a concept which is "modern" or "unique". In Western European societies, this process stems at least from the era after the fall of Napoleon, which led to the construction of the now-known nations, such France, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium. Peoples were merged into bigger countries, rather than "united" and countries haven't stopped re-inventing themselves ever since, in order to maintain stability within Europe. The internal uproar which has been manifestating throughout the existence of these countries (happily less violent in more recent history), however, has never been healed to my opinion. A possible reason for this is a lack of a strong identity which binds people somehow. What is the Netherlands? Why not merge into a bigger enitity? Can we comprehend people who are saying a Europe of Peoples will be the best long-term solution or do we better wipe out these "inequal" identities to create one people with one open view? Why do people prefer to call themselves Flemings and not Belgians? What is the main principle of American pride? These are perhaps unavoidable questions every pupil in secondary school has to deal with before participation in society. Only from a strong introspection, we can take a look outside our borders, trying to understand newcomers and what identity means to them. Only from a profound self-understanding one can discuss problems and propose constuctive solutions in a decent way. This would prevent the fenomenon Schinkel describes a hypochondrion people have got to relate sociological problems to.

As a consequence of these self-estimating questions, we can make choices properly. When it then comes to the question "do we want immigrants to adapt?", I personally believe they are welcome to, but not obliged. However, they only may 'adapt' under the condition that *we* know what we are ourselves and that we must not question the good values we already have got: democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, freedom of trade... 'To adapt' must be more than a contribution to a social system. 'To adapt' describes a movement. 'To adapt' is - without losing your own identity and beliefs - to spontaneously learn the language, to get in touch with locals, to broaden your network you can rely on and to respect the above-mentioned values our society is built on. These are elements that help immigrants to survive. Immigrants should be proud of becoming Flemings, what our democracy stands for. When immigrants talk about themselves, they are Flemings (okay with different roots, but whatever). Is it then odd why specific groups of immigrants keep labelling themselves as the people of their roots (even when we are talking about the sixth or seventh generation already)? Or are we simply too afraid to require that some values are to be respected, just in order to create a solid picture of our expectations in our society? You know, I finally want to stop calling Flemings with, for instance, Moroccan roots for 'Moroccans'.

The discrepancy between understanding and identification in inter-cultural communication


What do we need to know about other people's background? The best way of understanding other cultures is not to learn all their habits or aspects by heart nor to become part of them yourself, because judgements and deems seem to appear quite easily.

More relevant, however, is questioning the necessity to try understanding cultures regardless. If you ask me, every culture has its positive values and its downsides compared to Western standards. How do we look on an individual who comes from a (slightly) different background? Do we beset their motivation (to come over to our country) with questions about their meals, national football team and politics? Unfortunately, I am afraid these are not always appreciated. They come over to our region in order to participate in an international project, to experience the professional relationships on a level that exceeds the specific cultural differences, or it merely exists 'next to' the cultural contrasts that do not necessarily need to be set aside. The question is merely 'is it relevant to take cultures and backgrounds in account anyway'?

There is a quite longwinded description of the 'Nasirema', with a considerably primitive overtone. I will spare you the explanation, because there is no such people like the 'Nasirema' ('Americans' inverted). The inventor(s) of the story behind the 'Nasirema' wanted to mock with the idea of forming a complete profile depending on a sole point of view. When I listened to it as a class experiment, I actually did not care a lot about the details, because I noticed their stupidity after a while. It just makes clear that the lack of a fact-checking attitude is a daunting reality with many amongst us. Moreover, what do we think ourselves about someone? Then, which judgements can we make in a less biased way? Does another individual side or appreciate these collective values at all? Perhaps we tend to digg too deeply into specific information for a profound understanding of another's culture.

The real understanding of the people we deal with should be based on their presence, their actions, their individual point of views. I am thus far from an individualist, but my message is predominantly to be aware of the person who stands right in front of you. Identifying this person with his point of view and his qualities, means in my opinion a more successful inter-cultural communication. You are not labelling him as 'who he is supposed to be', but rather considering him as 'who he is'.

In conclusion, if we want to build a professional relationship with other-cultural people, we should avoid making them feel 'comfortable' by means of talking in their language, making their typical food, talking about their culture... We need to have our eye on one other's fields of interest. Like this we can prevent utterly awkward situations, in which our 'other-cultural' conversation partner could regard us as an annoying host.