“It’s a dangerous business… going out of your door. You step into the Road, and if you don’t keep to your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.” Bilbo Baggins (The Fellowship of the Ring)
I’ve often thought of this line as I’ve gone through life’s adventures. Like Bilbo in The Hobbit, I find that I miss the comfort of the life I left, yet when I finally return home, I find myself changed, more worldly, and somehow unable to slip back into life as I used to know it. It is a disconcerting feeling, as though somehow I’ve been separated from a piece of my identity. Recently, I’ve realized that the same could be said about my idiolect, or personal dialect.
Our guest blogger this week, Hélène Bramwell, is a second language educator, teacher trainer and researcher in the area of applied linguistics. Raised in Ecuador by a Québécois mother and British father, she speaks English, French and Spanish fluently. Her academic background includes a B.Sc in Biology and a M.A. in Applied Linguistics from Concordia University, as well as ESL teaching certifications from Cambridge University. Her research interests are second language learning motivation and identity development in the process of acquiring a second or third language. Currently, Hélène works as an instructor at both College Lasalle and Champlain Regional College, teaching ESL and training novice teachers in the TESL program, respectively. In her own time, she continues her independent project of five years to reach native fluency in German. She develops vocabulary and a feeling for the culture and pronunciation by watching Sturm der Liebe, a German soap opera which airs 45 minutes a day Monday through Friday. Apart from a passion for learning languages and teaching, Hélène is a certified yoga instructor and salsa dancing enthusiast. She also sings with a women’s choir group. She travels back to Ecuador regularly to visit close friends and family.
People ask me where I’m from. This is a loaded question because what does it address, anyway? Is it about where I was born? Or where my parents were born? What about where they grew up? And where they live now?
Born and raised in the Philippines, John moved to Alberta, Canada 8 years ago, learning Tagalog, English, French, and his heritage languages Ilocano and Kapampangan along the way. Since finishing a BA in Anthropology in 2016, he has taught English and French in the Montréal area, and recently started an MA in Applied Linguistics. He is interested in investigating the intersections and interactions of language (use, pedagogy, and acquisition), culture, and identity. For more about John, see our Active Members page.
Once in a job interview I was asked:
“Say, hypothetically, a German student named Hans comes up to you and asks: ‘How can you teach me English if you’re not Canadian?’ What would you tell him?” Continue reading →
That “language is a systematic means of communication” is probably the most precise and unambiguous definition of “language” that our ears have heard. Language, however, is more than a means of communication and a cultural behaviour. To me, it is an active, living, animated, emotional, dynamic, and breathing entity, which characterizes us and is a “character” itself. What made me ponder over the latter (i.e. seeing language as a lively character) is the way I invest in maintaining the languages in my plurilingual repertoire. Continue reading →
I am a teacher and one of the few things I’m secure in is my ability to teach, regardless, or maybe because of, my love of research and learning. I’ve been a teacher since I came to Quebec over 25 years ago. I taught ESL to small groups or individual adults. My classes were intimate by nature, as many of the students were shy about speaking a foreign language in front of strangers, of losing their carefully constructed identities as confident, intelligent adults. In order to get those confident, intelligent adults and later often apprehensive, international students and diffident, unemployed youth to speak out loud, I learned that I had to create a safe space where they felt comfortable making the inevitable mistakes of language learners and to continuously craft a secure place in which they could recover from banging their heads against the vagaries of the English language. Continue reading →