Focus Question: If you could go back in time and design your own learning environment what would you create for yourself? Knowing what you know about education today.
Growing up in a rural French community in Quebec, I did not get much exposure to the English language. In school, we studied English as a second language where we learned basic conversations, grammar conjugation and how to write proper sentences. With Bill 63, 22 and 101, which were created to protect the French language in Quebec and as I lived in a remote area, I had no option of enrolling in an English Immersion program. This did not seem to be a problem until I began my Psychology degree at a Quebec French university. Every time I did research, most of the references found were in English which I did not understand. That was frustrating to say the least. To solve this problem, I decided to immerse myself in the language by moving to Vancouver and eventually, by enrolling in an English university. However, learning a language while learning university course content did not turn out to be the ideal. I immersed myself in the language which allowed me to develop reading, listening and speaking skills but I always needed someone to proofread my writing since I never learned the grammar rules of the language. To this day, I don’t feel confident in what I write in English. From my own learning journey, I recognize the importance of being in contact with the language in an authentic way but I also know that a learner needs to acquire knowledge on how the language works and to practice in a controled environment such as a classroom in order to be able to feel confident about his overall skills.
When I was in high school, it was already “recognized that an important relationship (existed) between experience and learning” (Knutson. 2003. p. 52). However, there was not much experimentation available in what was offered in my English classes. No one around spoke English and there was no internet nor technology to support the learning and to make it more interesting and authentic. These days, there is such a variety of online tools available online to assist with the learning. One student in my OLTD program learn Italian by using free web applications. She used Duolingo and Memrise to learn the basic of the language, to manipulate it, and to practice her skills. She also supplemented with News in Slow Italian. After three weeks, she was able to carry basic conversations in Italian with someone fluent in the language. Her progress tells me that someone can use online tools to learn the language basics, to manipulate and speak it, as well as to listen to it. I have to say that it would have been nice to have had access to such tools instead of having to do: grammar drills, activities of “repeat after me”, dialogue practice with another classmate who did not know more than me and listening activities from tapes played in the front of the class by the teacher. I would have liked to have had access to the application mentioned above but also, the teacher could have used French resources such as the 7 jours sur la planète de TV5 which offers videos and listening comprehension exercises for beginner to advanced learners. So, back in my English high school classes, I would have like to have lessons taught by the teacher, to familiarize myself on how to converse using online activities, to manipulate the language using web applications, to practice dialogues with classmates,to watch authentic videos on cultural aspects, and to assess my own understanding and learning. I believe that acquiring a second language requires some individual work as well as interactions with others while using the language.
My past experience in learning a second language has taught me that being immersed in a language is the best way to increase someone’s fluidity. However, I also learned the importance of knowing the syntax and structure of the language in order to be able to manipulate it correctly. This is why if I was taking a high school English Immersion course, I would listen to the teacher speak in class, watch movies, tv shows, and anything of interest available online, learn the grammar rules taught by the teacher and use the applications recommended to practice them. As for developing my oral skills, I would converse within a group in class but I would also use an online application to record my voice to practice. I could try to meet French speaking student my age in social media. If I was unsure how to pronounce a word, I would search it in an online dictionary as most of them include a dictation of it. Compared to a lot of high school students in French Immersion classes where they speak French only when the teacher can hear them, I would own my learning and not be dependent of what my teacher requires me to do. I think that if I would have graduated from such a high school English Immersion program, I would have the choice to attend a French, bilingual or English university and would also be able to read and understand what I find while doing research.
Basically, if I knew what I know now and if I had access to what is available online these days, my knowledge of the English language and my skills of using it would definitely be at a higher level. I would not doubt of my abilities and feel like I have to get someone to proofread what I write.
Behiels, M. D., Hudon, R. (July 31, 2013)Bill 101 (Charte de la langue française). Historica Canada. Retrieved Nov 4, 2016 from http://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/en/article/bill-101/
Crema, S. (June, 2016) Learning project summary. Retrieved Nov. 4, 2016 from http://screma.edu.glogster.com/learning-project-summary
Knutson, S. (Spring, 2003). Experiential Learning in Second-Language. TESL Canada Journal, 20(2). 52-64.