Marife Santos, Online English teacher at Acadsoc, Ltd.
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Have you ever heard of the three universal languages? I mean the real one? Don’t tell me that it is Spanish, French, English (though as an online English teacher I know it is widely used across the world) or whatever language there is ever that is widely used. Here I am implying to the languages even illiterate people can speak, words that don’t contain a specific alphabet, no grammar, no rules. Everyone can speak it whether you are mute or dumb. There are three; namely- Music, Art, and Silence. These are the three major languages that everybody can use towards another person. Though I’ll be honest, I’d like to add one more- Humor.
Let’s begin first with the Music. I bet most online English teachers have encountered students a bit too young so it seems? Maybe around 3-4 years old? The most common approach teachers doing in a classroom is “Do you know the ABC song?” This a helpful tool to bring any class with a pre-schooled into an interactive mode. Nursery rhymes from different countries may vary in their lyrics; but the tune, it’s the same! Singing a song can be a way of connecting, teaching and interacting. I remember dealing with a student who was very young and was not responding to my efforts at the beginning of the class, I was sweating to task ‘what could I do?’ Then remembering that the holidays were around the corner- then played a Christmas song. ‘We wish you a Merry Christmas! We wish you a Merry Christmas! We wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy new year!’ The student’s attention which was diverted during most of the time during our class went to me, and I had it all for myself. I used to it make her read, talk; just like a bait. She got caught in it, and the class went from boring to stimulating! I have dealt with a lot of students who belongs to this age group and yes! – Music really works like magic.
How about Art? A language that people can easily understand! Yes… Pictures, objects, actions, and facial expressions- they all mean something, right? They’d belong to this language! People can have a lot of difficulties trying to understand an explanation; add some illustrations everything gets cleared up. Why? Same as with music, it is universal- it is for all, it stands for all. Illustrations can aid us in our struggle to explain everything in the simplest way possible. Drawing things can make an explanation easier for our students to understand. The side note is, you won’t need to be perfect in your drawing, and the idea alone is enough for it to be understood.
If you still feel unconfident about your drawing skills, don’t worry. Just ask your co-teachers to borrow some of their drawings or find some pictures on the internet. The advantage of borrowing picture is that you can save a lot of time in your classroom. However, you will have to name the origin of the image and make sure it is sharable in a class under author’s permission.
Is Silence a language? Yes, it is! – Eye contact, gestures and facial expressions belong too in this category of speech. At times, while having class; I’d encountered a dead air during the conversation. I can be just a few seconds, but it seems like an eternity. How to break this ice? – A funny face? For a picture sent or shown? Possibly but not ultimate, am I right? I want to talk about silence as a means of conversation; a realisation of something deeper than words. The acceptance of something that people failed to grasp on what we intended to say. The times when people see that they get overwhelmed with awe. I bet we’re all familiar with the thing we commonly say when we run out of words ‘I’m speechless!’ It’s more because of languages; any one of it has a limit- silence is limitless. This is what I was alluding to in the first part: even the mute can speak this. As our job as online English teachers this language is something we try to avoid at all cost- we try to keep the class an ongoing exchange of words. But never forget that in the midst of any conversation- silence is needed. To make sure all our advice sink in, to make the student digest every part of the lesson.
The last one now- my own addition: HUMOR. “Laughter is the best medicine”. Heard that almost a million times before, but have you heard this? – “Laughter can make even the most difficult language easy”. Yes, we online English teachers need to have a lot of sense of humour to be able to conduct a lively class. We need to make our students see that learning isn’t just about books, lessons, worksheets, etc. in a boring classroom. Learning can be fun and exciting, not boring! In my years of experience as an online ESL teacher, I noticed a common trend. The student who keeps on participating in the class isn’t always the best student. It is the one who really has the passion for it; who enjoys the class even without fully understanding every single detail of the lesson material. The students who may not be the best in answering all the questions in a specific test, but can use it in daily life. How do they use it? They use it humorously. They focus on parts of the lesson that catches their attention the most! Then, it isn’t just a memory- it becomes a part of their system. An added extension to what they’ve already known in part- now in a more complete state. Before I continue this dissertation, let me clarify the term humour so to better our understanding of this language. Humour isn’t just about something funny or comic; it is a flexible use of the mind by a person. The capability each one has in connecting or disconnecting ideas formed by us and stored in the memory. This is the universal language of humour that I am referring to.
With the light of these 4 languages, we were able to call them universal! I hope we can conduct more interactive classes in the future. Now, I sign off with this quote I found in a bookmark that seemed published during the last decade as yet:
‘I can’t teach anybody, I can only make them think and provide them ideas to think about.’