Language Lessons As A Form of Self Care

Claire Handscombe

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Watching the film Julie and Julia a while back, I was reminded of an important aspect of language tutoring, or at least of my language tutoring. In the film (recommended if you like France or food, a must if you love both), Julia Childs is frustrated that a French woman won’t let her take cooking lessons. At her language lesson that week, she desperately wants to vent, but her strict teacher just looks at her blankly after her tirade in English and point out that she is supposed to be speaking French.

I never do that.

If my students come to me distracted, thinking about other things, or just frustrated by their day, they are not likely to have the space in their brain for irregular verbs. That’s one reason why I always start with a few minutes of conversation in English. Sometimes, I even let them vent. I think of it as clearing their brain fog, making them more ready to learn: it’s an important part of my job as a teacher to get them there.

I had one student who had a responsible job at her company, and often came stressed to her lesson time mid-morning. We had a slightly longer lesson that most – an hour and a half – so we chatted in English for a good fifteen minutes. Not only did it make her better able to learn, it also meant she went back to work calmer and refreshed.

So you see, language learning can be good for your emotional well-being and your mental health, and even your productivity at work. Choose a personable language tutor, and you get two-for-one: therapy as well as education. It's one of the many reasons that it matters to choose a language tutor who you click with -- seeing them can be self-care, even if they do sometimes have to scold you gently for not doing your homework.

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Claire Handscombe is a British writer who moved to Washington, DC, in 2012, ostensibly to study for an MFA in Creative Writing, but really, let’s be honest, because of an obsession with The West Wing. She is the host of the Brit Lit Podcast, a monthly show about news and views from UK books and publishing; the author of Unscripted, a novel about a young woman with a celebrity crush and a determined plan; and the editor of Walk With Us: How The West Wing Changed Our Lives.

Washington, DC
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