Learn by Teaching

The question of what qualifications a teacher should have is not an idle question. I previously wrote about our teachers and people with different backgrounds who also teach Russian as a foreign language. There are both professors and people who know language more or less. How do I feel about that?

Let’s begin with a story that took place 100 years ago in Hungary. A young girl who was a graduate chemist couldn’t find a job. Quote:

“So I chose another profession: I decided to live for language teaching. But what languages? I didn’t know Latin well and in the city there were enough teachers of French – more than people willing to learn it. Only English could yield steady money. But there was another problem: I had to learn it first.

I still don’t feel guilty though much time had passed that I dared to teach language on the Latin principle of docendo discimus (we learn by teaching), being two lessons ahead of my students. I believe that lack of knowledge was complemented by my inspiration and enthusiasm.”

The above quote is translated from a book by Kato Lomb (1909-2003), herself a translator, interpreter and polyglot. She lived and worked in Hungary. I read Kato’s book “How I Learn Languages” to tatters when I went to school.

The example of Kato Lomb is so outstanding. As a result, she learned English quite well. She decided not to teach and instead became a translator.

So now I answer how I feel about that. Actually I have nothing against either this way of teaching or such teachers. I respect them even more than others, as they learn language the hard way. They will have nothing to eat if they don’t learn it or teach.

Let’s come back to the 21st century. I get messages from people who want to teach Russian, with mistakes. And I always agree with them. If they go the distance, they can learn Russian well. Starvation is the best mentor. It’s true that by educating someone, we learn better.

Certainly a teacher should be several years, and not just two lessons, ahead of the students. And of course, the teacher should know how to teach and not just be present. There are a lot of demands on a teacher, but the prime demand is to be ready for constant self-education. As the ancients say, docendo discimus – by teaching, we learn.

Soroka. Russian language for children

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