An Educational Trip to Cambridge Part 1

As promised I have another blog post!

On Monday I went to Cambridge to explore and visit my wonderful friend Becki … little did I know it was going to give me more ideas on what I want to do when I graduate …

So the main purpose of the trip was to observe a few classes with some Japanese students who are studying English under one of the colleges and to squeeze in some sight-seeing as well. I was super excited as I have only ever observed teaching in the UK through primary schools and of course my own experiences in education.

It was eye opening.

The class was laid back with students free to speak to one another in Japanese and there were no textbooks! Having studied all of my Korean with the presence of textbooks it was a bit of a surprise. But it really works. In fact, I think I would prefer to teach without them in the future.

At the beginning of the class I was introduced and given a seat at the table with the students! I didn’t think I would be so involved but I felt really included and it was great to get my hands in. The introduction was a casual question and answer which gave the students speaking practice without any form of structure. This wasn’t really something we did in Korea so it was great to be able to talk without having a goal or set questions. The group of students in this class were small, no more than 8 which is ideal when teaching languages as there can be more focus on individuals rather than a whole.

The students were then introduced a gap fill exercise focusing on rhyming and was in song form. We have used songs before in learning Korean and they are so great but they have never been linked to anything we have learnt grammatically (in Korea not England cos the songs at Sheffield really do help). Songs are a great way to teach a language and new vocab you wouldn’t come across everyday however if you stick them in a lesson just for the sake of it they lose their value as a teaching aid and become more of a time wasting exercise.

Going through homework on adverbs was actually a real learning experience for me about English grammar. Whilst I can communicate effectively and get good marks in essays (trying not to toot my own horn), I am unaware of a lot of the rules that come with English because they have little importance to my everyday life. I don’t have to carefully construct sentences before I use them and often I know a sentence is wrong because it doesn’t sound right – though I could never tell you why it sounded wrong.

It turns out adverbs have a different definition than in primary school. In primary school I was taught they add to the verb (hence the name) and that they always end in an ‘ly’ sound e.g. happily, sleepily, carefully etc. However this isn’t exactly true. The word adverb comes from Latin and means before the verb. The term can also be used to describe words such as really, hardly ever, frequently and definitely. Unfortunately this new definition is even more confusing than the first! Adverbs can go at the beginning, middle or end of a sentence depending on so many different things.

English – possibly the only language with too many rules that all have too many exceptions.

I learnt a new term for a group of words though: intensifiers. I didn’t have a pad to write down tons of examples like I wished but from the top of my head a good example is the word ‘really’. When added in front of an adjective it intensifies that adjective. Another example is ‘very’ which operates in the same way. See? You learn new stuff everyday.

Anyway, all this looking at linguistics reminded me of what I originally wanted to do when I began learning Korean which was become an English teacher in Seoul (I even have a 220 hour TEFL certificate under my belt), although the motives have changed a lot since then. Before it was because I wanted a job I could do in both England and South Korea without having to specialize too much. Nowadays it is because I genuinely love being in a classroom and teaching. My two weeks work experience at my old nursery were the best 2 weeks of my life and I never wanted to leave.

So now I have to make decisions … because these final two years of uni are when you have to think about applying to everything and I no longer have the year abroad prep to procrastinate with! But that’s another story ….

During lunch I sat with Becki’s supervisor and we all talked about the situations in Japan, Korea and England for all manner of things. It was so insightful because he teaches teachers how to teach. I don’t want to go into tons of detail because I don’t think this is the place for it but it was such a valuable experience.

I also got to sit with Japanese students from another university, there were like 30 of them and they looked at me whilst speaking in Japanese because they didn’t know who I was and it was really freaky at first. But then Becki mentioned I liked Harry Potter and a few of them came over and we got to talk about Harry Potter and I got taught to count to 10 in Japanese which I have now shamefully forgotten …. one day I will conquer Japanese, one day.

After lunch I spoke to another teacher who works with them and she told me about an activity they were doing in the afternoon. They were to do a radio performance and record it in groups then present them. I never thought of using radio for language learning but it makes so much sense! In Korea we always had to make our own scripts using vocab we knew, then had to memorize everything without really having an idea of what we were saying sometimes. And then we had to perform it. This activity took out the memorizing part and making up lines so you could focus on reading and pronunciation which are invaluable! it was so insightful to see a different method of language teaching.

I have tried to keep this blog post free of most of the sight-seeing and anecdotes simply because I wanted this part to be more focused on English Language teaching and what I learnt whilst there. I will be posting a second part to this post which goes into the more fun aspects of the trip including some mental health stuff and of course Korean food.

Have a good day, Ruthie ~

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