Teach EFL and Begin a Linguistic Love Affair

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love /lʌv/ noun, verb, loved, lov·ing.

1. a profoundly tender, passionate affection

Many people decide to teach English as a way to see the world, but some of them find the experience leads to a lifelong love affair. I don’t mean that they find partners in the coffee shop around the corner from the school – although that is a common experience, too. I mean that they fall in love with language. A few months after starting their new jobs, some people wake up with a profoundly tender, passionate affection for the intricate variety of communication, our human need to express ourselves, and how we express that need through our words, tones, body language, facial expressions, and idioms.

EFL teachers fall in love with the language of our students. Some of us are Spanish majors moving to Cartagena. Others fly to Busan without a word of Korean. Yet, by living and breathing the culture, we learn the language in a way that would never have been possible from a distance. We learn the shrug of the shopkeeper that signals acceptance as we ask for a cash discount with just the right phrasing. We treasure the cookie recipe written for us by our quiet neighbor.

We can also fall in love with English as we notice its quirky ways. Our language’s blending of German, French, Greek, Arabic, and so much more makes it the original melting pot. Instead of trying to build barriers of language purity, English has always welcomed foreign words and playful idioms into our communication. As a result, it became a flexible, messy conglomeration: a Statue of Liberty of communication. Even today, rap and pop music, English as Lingua Franca, and techno-talk continue to expand our dictionaries: hashtag anyone?

August 29, 2012