Learning outside your comfort zone | ELPNZ

Learning outside your comfort zone

31 March 2017

I am really enjoying the ESOL home tutor training course run by English Language Partners in Palmerston North. One particular session in the afternoon of the first day has stayed with me.

Presented by Kattarin Wickins, it was delivered entirely in Thai, with no explanatory introduction or any form of debriefing afterwards. Initially, I felt confused and wrong-footed as she spoke to us, and I kept waiting for her to swap to English to shed some light on the purpose of her presentation. After some minutes, with no clue about what she was talking about, I looked around at the other trainees to see how they were reacting. They seemed okay with it, and I had that unpleasant feeling of being the only person in the room who wasn’t fitting in.

As the lesson continued, she began teaching us vocabulary in her language, still entirely without using English. Our course outline made no mention of learning another language. I went through a range of emotions as the lesson proceeded: confusion, annoyance, frustration, isolation and withdrawal. Gradually, though, I was swept up in the lesson as the infectious enthusiasm of the presenter won me over and I found myself chanting the unfamiliar words back at her with the rest of the group.

By the end, I was even feeling a small sense of achievement at having briefly spoken a few correct new words on cue. Reflecting on the day later, it all fell into place. Of course... Kattarin was demonstrating to us what it feels like to be a migrant or refugee in a new and unfamiliar environment where the language is strange. You feel small. And stupid. And shut out. Lesson learnt.

Sue Dow, ESOL home tutor, Palmerston North