Teaching the Familiar in the Unfamiliar
Before I set out on this journey, I gave a lot of thought to why exactly I wanted to do a program based on teaching English. My reasons for wanting to travel to Italy are quite simple: the country is obviously gorgeous, the food delicious, and I studied Italian language in college. Having the opportunity to live there for an extended period of time is the best way to immerse myself within the language and lifestyle. I could have done this simply by back-packing through Italy though, or participating in an actual study abroad program in which I would spend at least three days a week in a classroom studying the language. The question I asked myself was why did I feel a teaching program was the best route? What could I bring to the program as someone teaching English, and how would I benefit from it?
I had the strange advantage of tutoring Italian language to English speaking students at Seattle University, and while I was teaching beginners’ grammar in Italian, I discovered that I had to teach the students more basic English grammar than Italian in order for them to understand the latter. As frustrating as this was in terms of time-management (covering twice as much material in short periods of time) it was easy to explain an English concept to an English speaker. It was also very easy to explain the Italian concepts in English to the students. In choosing a program to apply to, I looked specifically for programs that emphasized teaching English grammar because I wanted to see the flip-side of what I experienced in college; I wanted to see what it was like to teach my first language to someone who has little to no knowledge of it. How would I explain these concepts that to my other English speaking students were second nature? When given the choice, I have a tendency to choose a more challenging task than an easier one to see just how well I can accomplish it. I have never been a competitive person when it came to sports or games. Competing with others does not interest me as much as competing with myself; what can the “Present or Future Alyssa” achieve that “Past Alyssa” could not?