On Self Expression

Every so often, I feel like I can’t adequately express myself. So I write more and I talk more and keep on trying till I can more or less get it right.

I have a pretty great vocabulary and a native-speaker grasp of English grammar.  Perennially feeling like I don’t have good enough command of English to say what I mean puts teaching ESL into a different perspective.

We usually focus on teaching survival in our workplaces and culture: food, health, introductions, etc. It’s easy to forget about the basic need for self expression beyond “can I borrow that stapler?”  Those units on writing and feelings often seem less concrete, and so less important.  And really, people can survive without being able to shape their innermost thoughts into comprehensible English. But what’s the point of learning a language in which you can’t say what you mean? It’s a quality of life thing.  It’s good to remember.

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