Last week, I went to a teaching conference in Yakima. While I was there, I met a researcher named Dr. Heide Spruck-Wrigley who gave a powerful speech about teaching students to read, write, speak and listen to English. She is a very intelligent professor with years of experience and research in learning languages. She also knows how to give a very funny presentation to keep us all listening to the good information she has.
Here is a video she showed us about a young German man in the coast guard trying to learn English. I know I make mistakes just like this whenever I learn a new language:
Dr. Spruck-Wrigley is also German. She moved to the United States in 1986. Many of you know that I can speak German or at least I could many years ago when I studied it in college and then went to Germany. I got very brave and told her this. She was kind enough to speak German to me and I am so grateful because it helped me to understand how you feel when you try to speak English.
I understood most of what she said to me even as she said it but I had to think about it so much harder than I do in English. At the same time I was listening to her, I was trying to find the words to speak back to her. I was shaking with nervousness because my brain worked so hard to do everything at once. I was also scared about looking stupid. I always know why you are nervous, my dear students, but it is something very different for me to experience this for myself.
I honestly believe that we are lucky to have the chance to speak another language even though it is so very scary. I know that we are building connections in our brains and learning new ways to deal with stress. I’m thinking now of ways that I can put speaking another language more into my life. It’s difficult for me because everyone I know speaks English or is trying to learn it. But I am determined to try.
Dr. Spruck-Wrigley has information about the ‘bilingual brain’ that I am hoping to share with you this week. Check back later and you may find something interesting!
In the meantime, if you’d like to do some high level reading, here is more information about Heide Spruck-Wrigley: