What are the benefits of knowing a second language?
To really understand the motivation of a student is obviously crucial but to inspire them to pursue a life long interest in reaching fluency is a real challenge.
How do I do this?
By telling the following story.
Once upon a time in a green and pleasant called England, there were two little mice. A mouse from the countryside and a mouse from the city. The mouse from the countryside comes to visit the mouse from the city, to stay for the weekend. They have lots of cheese and everything is hunky dory! However by Sunday morning they are running low on supplies.
On the last evening of the country mouse’s visit, they were thinking about where they could find more food. Hiding behind a little hole in a wall, they consider going out to have a look around the house. The country mouse bravely ventures out to find more cheese.
Suddenly the largest black cat, the country mouse has ever seen appears. Terrified, he runs back into the hole in the wall and cries.
“Oh No! We are doomed! It will wait out there forever . We are going to be its next meal.”
"Don’t panic, " says the city mouse. “Leave this to me.”
Marching up to the black cat, the city mouse takes a deep breath and shouts, “Bow wow wow wow!”
The cat turns and runs out of the house never to be seen again.
“How did you do that?” asks the country mouse. That was amazing! How did you know what to do?
“Well,” says the city mouse. “Now you can see the benefit of knowing a second language!”
I always tell this story to my students at the end of our first class. It can be modified to low or high levels. You can modify it in various ways. Give the mice names. Change the location to anywhere in the world or into any language. But to be honest I have know idea how a Japanese mouse barks at a Japanese cat!
The response of a student can be insightful in establishing what kind of language learner you have in front of you.
The student can be be prompted by the following questions.
What are the differences between the mice when it comes to their personalities?
What phrases and idioms would you use to describe the differences?
Is one mouse smarter than the other?
Which mouse is most like you and why?
Could we perform the story as a play and use masks and costumes?
Shall we add other scenes? A visit to Buckingham Palace to visit the Queen of England to have tea?
What kind of conversation would they have?
Shall we write the dialogue in the form of a script?
What about adding other characters? More mice? More cats?
Building confidence in students is a big challenge especially if their previous experience is full of embarrassing moments, keen disappointments and spectacular failures. My job is to guide them
on their journey.