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January 02, 2011

Swimming With The Ducks

You've probably heard of running with the bulls of Pamplona or swimming with the dolphins in warm seas. Sometimes, after the routine of working or studying too much, all we really need is...


I've never run with any bulls or swam with any dolphins, but I did recently go snorkeling, and I did see some leaping dolphins from a distance, but I only mention it here because that was my way of getting way, way out of my normal routine.

As teachers or students, we often get caught up in the rules, processes and vocabulary. As much as I love a well-written phrase, or a beautifully done line of poetry or an excerpt from an inspiring speech, I find that as I study and keep learning, I find myself far more interested in WHY something is written than HOW it is written.

When one speaks or writes from passionate intensity, the words may not always be technically correct - but they are usually absolutely packed with meaning.

I encourage my students, at about mid-term, to go out and talk to people they don't know, or go places they've never been before. It is always a novel experience to see how other people live and hear how they express themselves. I tell my students to use my class as an excuse to go where they've never been before. And I urge them to talk to strangers to hear their stories. This is a definite step beyond the unpredictable - as one of my students put it not too long ago in their best whiny voice, "But I don't know any strangers!"

That's the whole idea. Get away from the routine, learn from people you normally wouldn't talk to, listen to music or eat food you always thought you didn't like until you learn to appreciate it.

We all learn most when we step into new territory, so go running with the bulls, swimming with the dolphins or if you are on a budget like I am, swim with the ducks or run with the kittens or whatever you need to do to remind yourself that you are a miracle and your time is now.

We are all learning, no one is perfect, and perhaps most of all, forgive yourself for not doing everything exactly right. Just keep going, don't give up, no matter what anyone says - and when you find yourself saying that it's not worth it, it's just too hard, don't believe yourself either, just keep going. And when the going gets tough, go running with the ducks.

Send us any links or other resources that you think any teachers, students or even just normal people might find interesting or useful. Let us all know about words that make you crazy, aspects of language and expression you find challenging, and be sure to let us know what it is about English and language learning that you find confounding, infuriating or endlessly intriguing.

Listen, read and speak. Make your new language your own.

My best to you as you make your way through this intriguing , constantly shifting linguistic landscape.


About the author of this entry:

Morf has a B.A.from the Evergreen State College in Olympia, Washington and an MAT (Master's in Teaching English) from the University of Washington (Seattle). Morf is currently a radio host (http://www.tacoma.fm/) and a newspaper columnist http://www.thenewstribune.com/opinion/columnists/morf_morford/ and would love to do either one of those somewhere else in the world later this year.

Posted by mmorf at January 2, 2011 09:53 PM

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