{February 6, 2009}   First day’s frustration

As some of you know, I moved recently to Buenos Aires and I had to finish my course of studies in another institution. I had just 4 subjects left, and now, I have to sit for an entrance examination at -as it is said- the most important institute in Buenos Aires. (That’s not all, they acknowledge up to 30% of my former course of studies, and that’s up to 10/11 subjects out of 32)

You may think why I am frustrated.

The idea of sitting for an entrance examination was not nice, since I was almost finishing my course of studies, but I knew that if there was no examination of this kind, anyone would enroll just to learn or to polish their English.

And today we had the first meeting for the entrance summer course and I was completely frustrated. I don’t mean to criticize others, but I can’t understand what do some people think we learn at teaching training colleges. We were supposed to talk about our partners, and more than half of the people in my classroom were not able to say two words together. The woman sitting next to me told me she had enrolled in that institution to learn English and to speak English with other people. Then, we had to paraphrase 10 sentences and most of my mates couldn’t finish.

Sitting there, those two hours seemed endless. And then, I remembered Ms María Lidia Camporro’s article, “A Toast on Professionalism” in The Teacher’s Magazine #109 and I also remembered what I wrote here after reading that article, and I thought:

What would I do if some of these people were my children’s teachers? They were not confident enough to talk in English to their mates, nor could they answer easy questions (for example, one girl asked “how old are you?” to her mate, and the answer was just a number in Spanish. So, they go into the course of studies, struggle to pass every single subject and get their degree, they then start working at different schools, and they are teaching our children something they still don’t know.

Of course it is not that I am a know-it-all, but, as far as I know, to teach English (or any other thing) you have to know English and you have to know about English (the culture of its speakers, its history, the history of the countries where it is spoken, and so many different things I wouldn’t have enough space to write them here).  I though about the people who were in charge of the meeting (there were three teachers in charge of it) How did they feel when they listened to such outrageous grammar mistakes? And when I say outrageous I mean outrageous. It was something like you teach your students how to write the numbers and after weeks of practice they write 1 as “wan”, 2 as “chu” and 3 as “tri” because they just can remember how they pronounce these words. I felt it that way, could the teachers have felt the same? Or are they so used to the situation I’m describing that they just don’t care?

Is is like this everywhere? I don’t understand how this works, I studied English since I was a little girl, then started university knowing I had some knowledge on the language. Is it just here in Argentina that people go to teaching training colleges to learn English?

The thing is, after this first meeting, I see why these people make you sit for an entrance examination. The summer course lasts 3 weeks (6 meetings)  and I think that, at this level, it’s enough time for students to practice for an entrance exam. I wonder how many people will pass it.


Talula says:

Hi again Dora,
I saw you had linked and wanted to thank you for the visit, also wanted to comment on this post with a little new info. Have you heard about Mexico? Just this past week, they made it a National requirement for ALL public school grades to learn English; in order for them (Mexico) to compete in the global economy. I know I probably look predjudiced, since I am a ‘norte-americano’ or ‘gringo’ or ‘Yank’ as they call us in the U.K.; but since the reality is that English has become the language of the business world, I believe that many Latin/Spanish speaking countries will soon join with Mexico on this. The immediate result for Mexico was a huge upswing in employment for all the ESL teachers required for this national mandate. Looking Good for ESL teachers everywhere! Hope this bodes well for you (and your colleagues) there in Argentina! Talula

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