Horizons Aug/Sept 2018

From the Interim Executive Director

Language Learning and Plants


What do language learning and plants have in common? This edition of Horizons focuses on greenhouse work that JCS-ers are involved in. It also contains an article from our Language Coordinator. Often when we think of greenhouses, we think of the end result: fresh produce that becomes available earlier than if it had come from the garden or field. However, much needs to be in place before that end result can happen. Language learning is like a plant. When we think of learning a language, we think of the end result we desire – to communicate well with others in their own language. However, just like with a plant, much needs to have taken place for that end result to happen.

A greenhouse gives a framework – a structure – to provide a good environment for plants to grow. Similarly, language learning needs a structure – whether it be a classroom setting, an online course, or an individual tutor – in order to have a good environment to learn.

Soil is needed for plants to grow; our minds/brains are needed for language learning to take place. There are a variety of soils where plants can grow, but they grow best in a fertile, well-prepared soil. Language learning can happen in a variety of ways, but probably happens best with a well-rested (prepared) mind.

Plants begin life as seeds. Language learning needs initial study to begin its ‘life’. Plants need water to survive and grow. Language learning needs encouragement and materials and new vocabulary to ‘survive’ and grow. Plants grow stronger and produce more when they are nurtured and fertilized. Language learning grows stronger and is more productive (self-confidence) when the language is used or spoken.

Usually plants that have been given a good environment – framework, soil, water, fertilizer – will produce a good harvest. Hopefully, language learning that has been given a good environment – structure, rested mind, good materials, usage – will produce fluency (or near-fluency).

Although I have been comparing language learning with a plant in a greenhouse, in reality, it is better to compare language learning with a tree. While all the plant comparisons are accurate, a plant in a greenhouse is only for a season. Language (and culture) learning, like a tree, lasts much longer – for a lifetime.

Just as someone caring for plants in a greenhouse does all they can to encourage a good harvest from their plants, may we do all we can to encourage good language study in order to have those deep conversations we desire. And sometimes, when we step back to look at the bigger picture of what has been accomplished with good language study, we may get a surprise – just like the good surprise we had with the recent AA celebration (see page 5).

Click here to download full version of Newsletter – Horizons Aug/Sept 2018

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