He was about to cry when he shared this with me, but he later collected his feelings and gradually grew confident of his ability to speak English and go back to work, as he realized during our conversation that it was not HIS use or knowledge of English language proficiency! During a recent visit to Mayfair Shopping Centre in Victoria, a new immigrant felt comfortable enough to share with me this: He said that he couldn’t speak English well, as a result of which, he couldn’t understand what one of his customers repeatedly told him the other day at work. His inability to speak ‘good English’, as this new Canadian said, made this particular customer very upset at that moment, as the customer had to utter the same thing three times. Helping the new Canadian collect and calm down, I encouraged him to continue speaking English, as he has been doing, and attempted to discourage him from feeling bad at all about the incident. And, in fact, as we continued to discuss this incident, I was able to help him realize that it wasn’t his level of English language proficiency, which was thoroughly responsible for his inability to get what the customer was saying – in fact, it was the customer who was unable to help the new Canadian understand what he really wanted to say. (There is instantly almost always a feeling of joy when one is able to help the interlocutor understand what one means to say or share!) It was the customer who didn’t realize how he should be using the language so that the new Canadian would understand and provide him with the support he was seeking to receive then. It was very much appreciated that the particular customer repeated his statements, but he seemed to have failed to communicate to some extent, (so he missed that joy!) and it isn’t the new Canadian who failed to use English or understand or respond to the customer. The customer could use different words or sentence structures and thus could rephrase his statements to convey his message, instead of reiterating the same thing. During the discussion, after I shared with him possible interpretations and what really should have happened and who should have felt sorry, the new Canadian felt comfortable enough to go back and continue his work the following day! He was happy, and so was I!
← Using Task-based Instruction in Canada: Can Sheltered Instruction Complement? (For presentation at JALT PanSIG 2017)