My Adventure - Learning English
Aslihan Bagci, Turkey
Aslihan Bagci is currently studying English Language Teaching at Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey.
My adventure in learning English and my parents’ support
Primary and middle school
High school and university
Turkey is in the expanding circle in which English does not have any formal/governmental statue but is used as an international access to communicate with the rest of the world. Most important area of use is education and Turkish people in general have a positive attitude towards learning it due to the fact that parents believe learning English will allow their children to end up with a more prestigious job. However, a child needs support to achieve this goal and I would like to talk about my own adventure in learning English and my parent’s amazing support which made it possible for me…
As a final year English Language Teaching student, I like to take my time to sit down and think about that little curly headed girl who used to sit with her daddy and try to count the days of the week in English, always confusing Thursday and Tuesday… Time flies so fast, yesterday I was trying to learn this language and now, here I am getting ready to be an English teacher myself. However, this surely is not just a coincidence.
I have to admit, I was a very lucky girl whose parents supported her learning English in the best ways they could. Even though there were not a great many students who had this chance back then, I can say in relief that, parents in Turkey are much more aware of the importance of foreign language learning nowadays. But I was lucky to have a father who was aware of and also a supporter of the “the earlier, the better” notion. I remember driving in the car with him and trying to sing along his song which was something like ”brush brush brush your teeth, brush them every day. Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, every every day…” I was only 5 or 6 and I was already singing this with my dad. Now that I have a teacher’s perspective, it makes me so proud how he used the right motivations and methods to teach English or at least make me want to learn English. I believe this song is a good example to it, considering songs are great materials when teaching young learners. He was not a teacher, he was an engineer, yet he had the awareness and he knew that his attitudes about learning English could inspire me. And so it did.
When I started school, according to the Turkish Law of Education, English classes started from the 4th grade. Therefore I spent first few years of my school education only learning to write and read as well as calculating, etc. Once again, thanks to my parents, my best years which were perfectly suitable for learning English were not completely wasted because they tried their best to help me improve my English at home by buying me colored books, making me watch shows in English, etc. However, as I mentioned earlier, not all the students in my class were as lucky as me. When I was a 4th grader and started my English classes, rest of the students had very little or no knowledge in English. Considering we only had 2 hours of English per week and that our teacher chose to ignore me and others who had better English than the rest of the class, I was not really improving myself except for learning a few new words time to time. This is another issue that I realized long after how vital it is. Now that I already teach English to young children, I know very well how significant those above the average leveled students are in class and how essential it is for the teacher to know what to do with them. For example, making them his/her assistant instead of ignoring them. Once you ignore that child, he/she is going to get bored and will distract the rest of the class as well. This was what I exactly did and that’s how I know it so well…
Needles to say, there again my dear parents took action and they enrolled me into an English language course which was popular in the city and I had to spend all my Saturdays there. As a child, I was not capable of understanding its value and kept complaining about it. My angel mother had to deal with me trying to sleep in or me begging her to convince my father to allow me to go to my friend’s birthday party instead. I owe so much to her for patiently explaining me every single time how important is for my future to improve my English and persuading me to go there. Even though her English was not as good as my father’s, she was definitely as much supportive as him.
This situation kept on the same way until I reached the 7th grade, when things started to change for me. I won some kind of a scholarship and got enrolled to a private school. There, I had an English teacher who changed the way I looked at English. The way he used all his materials was so effective that I actually felt a little challenged time to time and that motivated me to improve myself so much. We watched videos, played games, read story books, etc. I was impressed so much that, that year was the very first time when I thought of being an English teacher.
It is no doubt that my parents saw this change in my attitude and they guided me. They came all my parent-teacher meetings and whenever they came across my English teacher at school, they never neglected to ask him about my performance in class. During my primary and middle school years, I remember me, my father and my younger brother playing games in English such as “find a word starting with the last letter of the word I say”. My parents would ask me to label things in the environment in English or they would say it wrong on purpose and I would love to correct them. Children love correcting their parents. They surely knew how to motivate me…
When I reached high school, I chose my department to be the foreign languages department (in Turkey, one needs to choose his/her general area of interest in high school, whether you are a math-science student, social sciences student or foreign languages student, etc.) This made it crystal clear to my parents that I was quite serious about my wish to become an English teacher.
It goes without saying that my parents supervised me during this time period in high school until I took the university entrance exam. Even though those were the years when my parents started to fall behind my English language knowledge, they always set aside some time for me and tried to help me improve myself. For example, my father would grab my vocabulary notebook and ask me some random words from it. I was already well aware of what I was doing and I was very passionate about it. Hence, I tried to make the best out of every opportunity I had to talk to foreigners, especially to whom were the native speakers of English. It could even be the tourists that I come across on the street and they didn’t even need to ask me for directions to any spectacular mosque or anything. I would directly go up to them and ask how they were doing or if they were enjoying their time in Turkey, etc. I might have gone a little too far about it but I blame it on my passion to use my English in authentic settings.
In my junior year in high school, I won another scholarship to go to USA as an exchange student for a year. I must say it was nowhere near easy and I had to put in lots of effort to achieve it. However, later I realized that my hard work was not the only factor that made me win, but also the fact that my parents encouraged me. When I first heard about that exam and that only three students from the whole country were going to be sent, I thought it was almost impossible for me to be one of them. But my father gave me a good talk on how he believed in me and that I should try my best for it and you already know the result.
That year was a turning point in my life in many aspects but especially in terms of my language skills, this was one of the best things that I have ever done for myself and a huge reason to thank my parents every day of my life.
After I came back to Turkey, I was a senior with a good deal of knowledge in terms of English language both due to my grammar classes at school and my real life experiences in the US. I took the university entrance exam and I got into Boğaziçi University’s English Language Teaching Department, my dream university of all times…
My parents’ support and efforts to help me to improve myself haven’t stopped even after I got into university. Whenever I came home for holidays, sometimes even on the phone, my father would ask me a new word which he probably found from the dictionary five minutes ago and learned himself first and then he would test me if I know it or not. It had something to do with the fact that he got retired, but the great thing is that he learned new things to catch up with me and to be able to keep supporting me. Obviously, as the years passed by, my English level became way above my parent’s level and they were not able to test me anymore. In fact, now I am the one to whom they come and ask “how would you say this in English?” or “what does this word here mean Aslıhan?” and there are times when I correct their mistakes when they say something in English. In fact, due to those corrections, my father’s favorite saying has become “student has surpassed the teacher”. I guess that’s how the life goes, but I surely know that without them, I would not be where I am now and there is not a single day that goes without me thanking them for everything they have done to support me throughout my language learning adventure.
All in all, besides of some other factors which have affected me throughout my language learning process such as my teachers, the courses that I went, the books that I read, etc. my parents were my biggest support and source of motivation as well as encouragement. After explaining all those years and stages I had been through, I hope to have underlined how vital the parental support is in language learning. To support their children’s language learning, parents should be aware of how their child is doing in her/his class at school and being in touch with their English teachers is always a good idea. Parents should guide their children through this language learning journey and be a role model as much as they can. Parents should supervise their children’s homework if they can or they should test them time to time. Every parent may not have a good level of English but there will be times when you learn something new yourself to support your child. Since everyone has to work, there is also a big time problem nowadays; however one cannot only be a parent when he/she has time for it, parents need to set aside time for their children and their learning. Today, almost everyone is aware of the advantages of learning a language at an early age. Therefore, parents should not wait their children to start school to teach them English. It is widely known that motivation is the key element in language learning and parents should try their best to highlight the advantages of learning a foreign language and motivate them in any way they can as well as encouraging them. It is very important to make them feel it is okay to fail sometimes and language learning is going to take some time, telling the child that he/she is doing a good job already and will get better if he/she tries harder. Not only creating language awareness for their children but also trying to have a wider understanding about it as parents themselves, is also very significant. Parents should never forget that their attitudes about foreign language education can be inspiring for their children and can lead them to take charge of their own learning.
Please check the Methodology & Language for Primary Teachers course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Methodology & Language for Secondary Teachers course at Pilgrims website.
Please check the Teaching Advanced Students course at Pilgrims website.