Reflections on authenticity in teaching and learning

Learning Hindi

It’s language learning but not as we know it – Beginner’s Hindi

I have started studying Hindi.  I started 2 weeks ago and the back of my notebook already has a page of notes on  things I have learnt about the way I teach (the front of the notebook has Hindi in it, don’t worry!).  Each week I’ll add some musings.

Let me get one thing clear from the outset.  I was my own nightmare of a student on day 1: I arrived at the lesson 20 minutes late because I hadn’t sorted out my sat nav the night before.  I also decided I needed a coffee before embarking on a 2 hour lesson in something I had no idea about. 

LESSON #1: Just because someone arrives late does not mean they are not eager to learn or interested in the subject.  They might just be disorganised or nervous.

Upon arrival, my teacher gave me my very own exercise book and pen, and I mean old-school exercise book with spaces for name and subject on the front.  I actually wrote ‘Emma Lay’ and ‘Hindi’ on the front cover.  This gift (the classes are free so I haven’t paid for materials) from the teacher made me feel extremely enthusiastic about starting.  I felt like I was at school and at school I was a bit swotty.

LESSON #2: Rapport can be built not just with words but also with actions.  It is amazing, the sacred feeling of an empty exercise book.   Unexpected gifts/help in autonomy-driven classrooms may prove quite refreshing.

“Can you please introduce yourselves to each other?” 

My teacher asks this question to the whole group. I instantly feel nervous and ‘on-the-spot’. I am a teacher, I ask students to do this all the time, we do ice-breakers, warmers, get-to-know-you sessions, so many they are abbreviated (GTKY).  Yet, put me in this situation and I panicked.  How do I condense all I am into a 20 second introduction?  What shall I say?  How will I be judged by what I say?  Should I say I’m a teacher?  Should I say I want to go to India, but haven’t been there yet?  Will I look silly? 

“What should we say miss?” (the students are mixed in age from young teens to middle-aged).

“Just tell everyone your name.”


LESSON #3: Asking people to introduce themselves with more than their names in the first session can be extremely overwhelming and potentially stressful.  Start simple. Be real, let people introduce themselves when they feel ready.

mera nam Emma hain, me Hindhi seekh rahee hoon…


One comment on “Learning Hindi

  1. Jane Sjoberg

    Dear Emma, Having just discovered your blog I truly empathise with the incredible learning journey a teacher can embark on when putting herself in the shoes of the learner. My Chinese lessons made me realise that… when some students put their head on the desk they are most probably really tired, not casting judgement on the lesson…homework is hard to motivate yourself to do on a regular basis, even if you know you should…breaks are not important…they are ESSENTIAL.

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