Tatiana Taranova

Accepting Breeds Better Communication

Being used to the fact that it’s difficult for my students to cope with some phenomena of English grammar that do not exist in Russian language I’ve invented the whole arsenal of different methods, metaphors, analogies to help them understand the material. Not until much later did I understand what that thing that impeded the process was.

During one of the lessons a student of mine asked a question that made me change my approach to language teaching. Trying to pronounce / θ / sound» she said: «Which Russian sounds is it similar to? Is it more like /f/ or /s/». She was refusing to accept that there could be some other notions in other languages that existed independently of her first language.

Why is it so difficult for language learners to accept and put up with the fact that other languages have different sentences structures, or some nouns’ genders don’t coincide with those of the nouns in L1 or might not have any grammatical gender at all. You, experienced language learners, might not be familiar with these thoughts. But a lot of my students do think so and you might recognise your students here as well.

So why don’t we, when teaching or learning a language start with introducing it to the students or perceiving it as a living being with its soul, character, it’s peculiarities? Introduce it like that, discover and celebrate all the differences and accept them without questioning the way we accept other people, without judging and comparing.

Ask the speaker a question


  • Vinternet says:

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  • Weltbummler78 says:

    Очень интересно. Тоже при учении русского языка трудно мне было смириться с тем, что в третьем лице в прошедшее время окончания меняются если женщина говорит, например она сказала вместо она сказал.

  • heatherjay94 says:

    Thank you for this lovely presentation! I too feel that this is something that’s very helpful for acquiring new languages – accepting that each language is unique in its own way and that not everything needs to make sense, at least not right away. The thing is, most of these things that puzzle us initially WILL come to make sense – if only we stick around for long enough and remain open-minded. As we develop a deeper, more nuanced understanding of the language, a lot of these bizarre differences will become less arbitrary in our eyes. They were never arbitrary in the first place – there usually IS a logic behind it, we just weren’t ready to understand it. Just because we don’t understand something doesn’t mean it’s crazy and inherently incomprehensible. Personally, I just accept that things are the way they are, and look forward to the day where I will finally understand WHY they are the way they are. It’s one of the most rewarding parts of the language learning journey imo!

  • EstherB says:

    Can we be best friends? I always, always want to Hear and talk about this subject, not only in language learning. It corresponds to a Piaget stage of development in children, the one (I forget the name) we are supposed to acquire as 18 month olds, when we start to understand that other people aren’t experiencing the same sensations at the same time as you, that everyone is a distinct individual body experiencing things in a unique way and may not like chocolate with mayonnaise the way you do, that was a perfect example. But people older than 2 have a lot of trouble with it in various contexts like cultural manners and language learning. On the other hand my students in rural Japan years ago were the opposite, they accepted too quickly that every new thing was just another crazy aspect of English that would never make any real sense to them. That robbed them of parallels or similarities To Japanese that they could have used as shortcuts.

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