In this video, Alfredo interviews Matthew Weathers, an English teacher in Asia, about having the courage to communicate with a speaker of another language.
Alfredo: I’ve tried studying French or Spanish before. And you were talking about the importance of finding a native English speaker to practice speaking with. And I know that that’s important for me as I seek to improve, for example, my Spanish skills. But sometimes it’s kind of intimidating, knowing that I’m not fluent in Spanish, but the other person is.
And I’m recognizing this other person’s going to have to be patient with me, and so I may feel hesitation. I do feel hesitation when I approach someone who is fluent in Spanish, but I want to speak Spanish with that person. So I imagine that there are also English speakers–or English learners–who feel hesitation, who feel fear. They get nervous when they’re around native English speakers but they still want to practice English with that person. What do you you recommend for that person to overcome that nervousness?
Matthew: I would hope that their love for English and learning English–their love for that is greater than their fear of a foreigner or a native English speaker. Often in China I’ll need help with a Chinese word or phrase, and I’ll ask my students for help and they’re happy to help me. I will ask them [Chinese], which, I think it means in Chinese, “Can you help me?”
Alfredo: I have no idea if it means that.
Matthew: Well, they usually say, “Yes, teacher. We can help you.” [Chinese] “What do you want?” And so I’ll tell them in English and they’ll help me in Chinese. And they’re happy to help me. The same thing for most native English speakers in a foreign country: We are happy to help students learn English.
Matthew: We know it’s difficult to learn English because we are having difficulty learning that language. And so when they come to us for help, we’re happy to help them learn English.
Alfredo: So when they come to you and they try to speak English, it’s like, you understand their frustration, or you understand their hesitation because you are surrounded by people who know a language that you were not quite fluent in. And you’re nervous about it, but they’re nervous about speaking in English, and so you can both overcome that hesitation.
Matthew: And many times in Chinese, I will know the right words, but I won’t know how to say them in the exact way that they should be said because pronunciation in Chinese is very difficult for me at a Westerner. But the students are very patient, and they’re very helpful, trying to help me learn their language. And likewise I as an English teacher want to help my students and any Chinese student wanting to learn English to speak better, to listen better, to help find resources that they can utilize for their English learning process.