Friday, April 10, 2009

Every play! You like it!

One great thing about being in a multilingual environment everyday at work, is that I get the chance to hear English used in much more creative ways. The most satisfying thing, sometimes, is to realize how far my international students have come and that they are, in fact, successful communicators, despite their grammatical setbacks and limited vocabulary. Today for example, one of the fourth graders in my student teaching classroom (an irresistibly cute boy from Iran) popped his head quickly into the room after dismissal to announce to the assistant teacher and I the following message in broken English: That Ms. M wanted us to know not to close the door because she didn't have the room key with her, and we would be locked out.

We didn't need to ask him to repeat himself. His speech was clear, concise, confident, and successfully delivered the intended message. Within five seconds of poking his little head around the door and blurting out the long sentence, he vanished again in the flurry of students rushing down the hall to their buses. The assistant teacher turned to me smiling and said, "I can't believe it. He's speaking in full sentences now! At the beginning of the school year, he didn't know even one word of English, and he was crying all the time."

Is this the same bubbly boy I see everyday that I am in the classroom, talking to his classmates, singing and muttering and counting to himself, flashing me these mischievous looks with his huge brown eyes, and cracking jokes? My god, the sense of humor on this little guy! Can he really be the same kid she was talking about?

Just today, Ms. M announced to the group of students she was working with, "Okay, guys, let's get to work!" To which, aforementioned student burst out with an enthusiastic, "No guys, let's go to PLAY! Every play! You like it!"

What else could I do but laugh? Is his grammar off? Certainly. Is his accent foreign? Definitely. Is his message lost? Absolutely not. His humor carries through, clear as day. He is an effective communicator. I fail to remember that sometimes in my never-ending quest to be a "perfect" language learner. But what does that even mean? Do we remember people for their ability to correctly conjugate verbs and pronounce Rs? Or do we remember their smiles and laughs and dancing eyes, the stories they tell, and the way that they've charmed and befriended us and reeled us in?

Come on, Kristy... as if I even need to answer that.

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