By Corey Heller
Photo credit: Waifer X
My husband was born in Germany and attended German public schools. He started learning English in 5th grade and continued all through school. His teachers often had German accents when they spoke English and it is possible they made mistakes from time to time, but he learned English well anyway. He also added French and Latin along the way.
My husband is multilingual because his school system encouraged him to learn languages.
When he was older, he traveled to England and Ireland many times and studied in Galway, Ireland for a year (which is where I met him). He has also traveled in France and even though he couldn’t teach Physics in French, he can make himself understood when he travels there.
He did his Diplom (Master’s degree) in Germany and a Geophysics Ph.D. in the United States. In English. The whole thing in English. He chose to become an instructor at a local college and now teaches Physics to college students from around the world in English.
My husband’s personal story is unique but his language skills are not. Most people in the world are multilingual. Multilingualism is what happens when we choose to live as global citizens and to encourage our children to speak languages from around the world. (By the way, the other Physics instructor in the department is French!)
My husband teaches Physics in a non-native language because he can. And he can because his country’s education system decided it was important for his future as a global citizen. Thank goodness for that.
How many of you teach or work in a language that is not your native language(s)? When did you first learn your non-native languages? Did your country’s education system help make this happen?