I will be giving a talk at the Hiroshima JET Orientation on 15 August 2012 entitled Zen and (the Art of) English Language Teaching. It will be about what we can learn from Zen and apply it to teaching English on the JET Programme, in which I was had been a participant.
Before I was an English teacher I had been lay monk in Japan. I thought it would be interesting to talk about what I had learned from Zen, one of Japan’s best known cultural exports, and apply these lessons to ESL.
“Revisiting” my master in Zen on YouTube the other day I was compelled to think about what it means to be a language student and how it relates to Zen.
It seems to me many of the students I teach unnecessarily limit themselves with a psychological barrier – they believe they will never achieve native-like fluency. By thinking so they have effectively placed a limit upon what they can achieve.
Language itself already places limits upon you. So for students to place another one upon themselves, the limits become twofold.
But I am not saying that they will achieve native-like fluency either, but rather they make it harder to even remotely make any headway into acquiring a second language. To truly achieve native-like fluency one must have the years of experience in and exposure to the target language and culture. Nothing can replace that.
But nothing can stop you from trying and that is the essence of believing in being able to acquire some resemblance of a second language which is like native-like.
So the next question is how can I possibly teach my students to not place limits upon what they can achieve. Again, for this I will need to think that it is not impossible.