I find myself having just returned from a very interesting symposium at Purdue University entitled “CIBER Doctoral Symposium on Foreign Language Pedagogy for the Business and the Professions.” Wow, what a title! No wonder people tease us academic folks! But don’t let the title fool you. It was a very interesting symposium, bringing together doctoral students in foreign language education and providing them with training in teaching business language. I was invited to give some training in teaching business culture. (BTW, the picture with with Greg Cutchin, the Managing Director of the CIBER at Purdue University. We are at Harry’s, a local pub, and I’m still trying to figure out the whole “Go Ugly Early” thing!)
As to learning foreign language, there were two guest speakers that I wanted to mention. The first was Quinn Frazier, the Director of Sales Operations and International Business Development at UPS and the second was Larry Ingraham, President of Ingraham & Associates, Inc. Both are North Americans who learned Japanese along the way. Quinn Frazier first learned as a Mormon missionary and Larry Ingraham first learned while stationed in Japan in the Army. What stuck with me was the enormous effect of how foreign language has shaped their lives. In Mr. Frazier’s case, while working in Japan, his wife and children have all had the experience of experiencing Japanese culture, to the point that some children experienced cultural shock upon returning to the U.S. In Mr. Ingraham’s case, to a large extent, the whole state of Indiana, and the presence of over 250 Japanese companies that have operations in Indiana, including the Suzuki’s auto factory, are all directly tied to the impact of one former U.S. soldier who was stationed in Japan and who decided he wanted to learn a little Japanese. For one the impact was extremely personal, for the other the personal experience has had enormous impact on thousands of people.
Here is a partial list of Mr. Ingraham’s suggestions for language learners.
1. As a non-native speaker you will always make mistakes! Accept it! It is okay to make mistakes.
2 The point is to successfully communicate your thoughts to the other person… It doesn’t matter if it is not grammatically perfect. You will improve.
3. Practice language OUT LOUD! Silent study doesn’t work.
4. Keep a notebook for new words learned, and mistakes you have made with their corrections.
5. Don’t get hung up on WHY something is so with grammar. Just understand it is “correct” and use it.
6. Why do you think we have two ears and one mouth? We should listen twice as much as we talk.
The whole symposium left me with a sense of the privilege it is to teach foreign languages. Thanks to all of you at Purdue University and thanks to all of the doctoral students who participated in the conference.