by Olaf Ernst, Visiting Scholar, NHTV Breda University of Applied Sciences
I am writing these first words of my very first blog post in the middle of the night, after I suddenly woke up thinking about a specific term in English which I could not remember…
Hi everyone, my name is Olaf Ernst and it might be good to introduce myself first as I will probably be in a bit of a different position at VIU than most of you folks (by the way a word I have learned over the past weeks!).
This spring semester I am a visiting scholar at the department of Recreation, sports and tourism, in the faculty of Management.
As you can probably guess by my way of writing I am not a native English speaker. Normally I teach at my university, called NHTV Breda University of applied sciences, which is located in The Netherlands. Luckily I had the opportunity to join all classes of two course subjects so far this semester: one in year 1 and one in year 4. Even more, I co-facilitate them (again a new term I came across once I arrived here), together with the ‘official’ teachers. This already gave me a first insight in how classes work here and I thought about the topics that stroke me most the past few weeks- one of them is definitely language.
In both courses I am involved in there are quite a few international students. At my university some colleagues call them ‘foreign’, fortunately you VIU-ers are more interculturally aware. What I noticed are the problems most of them have with following what is said and discussed in class. And I do understand that to be honest. Back home I solely teach in English, but it is different when you are in an environment where almost everybody speaks this as their first language. It is not just the tempo of speech, but also the fast way conversations go between students and teachers or among students. And do not forget about all the inside jokes and remarks being made inbetween.
As long as I concentrate I can follow 95%, I have to tell you though that the first days I was really exhausted after having heard English the whole day. It is simply intensive to being exposed to all those enthusiastic and talkative Canadians who do not really like silence during conversations –as one of my new VIU-colleagues pointed out in a subtle way. Imagine how this would be for an average 20 year old student from China, India, Saudi Arabia or Germany?
Of course we expect our students to have a certain level of English and as far as I am informed we ask our international VIU students to have this and they are tested on this. Maybe we could even become more strict and raise the bar.
On the other hand we should be more aware of this in our teaching methods and the attention we give to our international student population. At my own university we do not really have these discussions as most of our staff members are not native English speakers. Well, that is also a way to deal with it…As is the case with all learning issues, awareness is the first step and that is something we as VIU teachers, instructors –and supporting staff- should be aware of.
Maybe some of the sentences, terms or expressions I used in this post raised questions as you did not really understand them. If that is the case, I hope you can relate to what I have tried to point out in the 25 sentences above…