Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Principle #1: Motivation and My HOST

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     During my years on the field, in Cameroun (1980), Côte d’Ivoire (1981-82) and then Senegal (1984 to date…), I have had quite a few opportunities to be involved in entering a new community to begin a language learning program.  Sometimes it has been for my own work, and more often, in recent years, it has been helping pave the way for other learners.  Thinking back on some of those situations, it is interesting to note how different communities reacted to having a “foreign” learner in their midst. 

One thing I can say universally is that people were intrigued,
at times mystified but always excited,
when they understood that this learner was there to stay for the ‘long haul’
and wanted to learn their language and about their culture.
     I recall one gathering I thoroughly enjoyed, during a visit from my parents in the first year in the village in Senegal.  The elders had gathered in our front yard, and were addressing my parents about our presence in the village.  They said, “If we had a Main Street, we would name it after your children”.  They were that thrilled to have us living there – and a huge part of that was our focus on their language. 
     Another favorite memory is a brief conversation I had with a taxi driver in the capital city one day.  I had been chatting with him in his language, of which I knew really just enough to get around.  He said to me, “I know you truly care about our country and us, because you are learning our language.”
     Have you had a similar moment or moments in your learning experiences, when someone you were developing a relationship with in your HOST community validated your motivation to learn their language?  If not, stay tuned!  With a strategically planned program, you’ll enjoy that sooner rather than later.

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The Task
We looked broadly at our motivation, from HOME, in the "Principle #1 – Motivation at Home" section.  As we look more closely now at different factors feeding into our motivation for learning our target language, it’s important to consider the context where our program will take place.  We can be fully aware of our very high motivation, but if we have no clue about where and with whom we will be living and learning, we will compromise our ability to move forward.

We’ve already talked about this in general in the section "Dimension #2 – the HOST" , in terms of the importance of knowing our HOST.  It’s time in the planning process to get more specific now about how motivation – ours and our HOST’s - will impact our learning experience.

First, we want to understand how our motivations can be brought effectively into our HOST community, at the different levels we choose to interact. 
Second, we need to identify our HOST’s motivations in relation to us being there and to our expressed goals.
Third, we can then move on to meeting our HOST in the HARBOR (the 3rd Dimension), where we’ll agree together (with all these various motivational factors feeding into our decisions) about our mutual goals and the benefits we each will reap from our relationship.

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Some Tools
Taking this one step at a time from the  three steps above, answer these questions. 
You can add the information to the Motivation section of your Learner ID:

My Motivation and my HOST
1.  Consider and describe how your motivation for this learning experience can be explained
     to your HOST
For example:
* if you want to be able to join in their special celebrations, you can tell them these are interesting to you and you value and honor them, and would like to - if possible - be able to participate appropriately
* if you have a job you need to be able to do using the language, you can describe the job and then find out what they know or think about this type of job, where it fits in their own world view or culture, how they might see you fitting in with them doing the job

2.  Talk with your HOST (again, at whatever levels you have chosen – see Dimension #2 – HOST) to begin to identify what their own motivations are toward you:
a) as someone who has come to visit/stay (depending on your situation)
b) as someone who wants to learn their language and about their culture
c) as someone who has things (relationships, skills, resources) to offer them
d) as someone who needs something (relationships, skills, resources) from them

3.  Move forward to the HARBOR where you’ll work with your HOST –
     stay tuned for next week!

                                               Share your comments with us below

This type of sharing about motivation will necessarily be superficial at first, and perhaps difficult in some cultures.   Don’t push it, and don’t get discouraged.  It’s good to at least communicate with people from the beginning what you are doing among them, and that you are interested in them, and  want to hear from them, not just expect them to hear you!  As you develop ties with your HOST, you will gain insights into this on your own and be better able to talk with people about it. 

See you next time!

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