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Meet the challenge

Iranian speakers of foreign languages in attempting to use the new language to express their own thoughts, find themselves in an abnormally constricting situation, where their choice of expression is severely limited.

At the age at which adult Iranians are accustomed to being able to demonstrate orally the maturity of their thoughts and the breadth of their knowledge in their mother tongue, Persian, now speaking a foreign language, English, they are limited to expressing themselves in a childishly simple language, called “Persian English”, that makes them feel frustrated and exasperated. Not infrequently they end up liking the language, but disliking its native users.

Iranian users of English have a strong tendency to hear the sounds of English language in terms of the sounds of Persian language.

You can not underestimate the strong connection between how you sound to others and your feeling of contentment. Non-standard Iranian way of pronouncing English leads to a feeling of malaise and anomie.

“Ridicule the way I sound and you will have ridiculed me. Ask me to change the way I sound and you ask me to change myself.“

To speak a foreign language authentically is to take on a new identity and to step into a new and unfamiliar pair of shoes.

To overcome the natural tendency of our students to “hear” in the categories made familiar by the native language, we give aural discrimination exercises in which the differences between apparently similar sounds in Persian and foreign languages are clearly demonstrated and in which near equivalents within the foreign language are distinctly differentiated.

A phonological introduction serves to make our students aware of the particular problems they will be encountering, revealing which sounds they are confounding and, therefore, which sounds they are probably not distinguishing in their own production.

The rise and fall of the voice, stress, intonation, and tone of utterance make the meaning clear. It is often in the area of stress and intonation patterns that non-native speakers have the most difficulty.

The stress pattern of a word is as much a part of its identity as its constituent sounds. Whenever a new word is encountered, learners in our center should make learning the stress pattern a part of the learning of the word.

Language is not dry bones. It is a living, growing entity, clothed in the flesh of words. We help our students by giving them ideas on how to learn vocabulary and specific detailed guidance on what to learn.

The acquisition of foreign languages in a natural, native-like way is possible only until puberty, when the brain loses its plasticity. The best years are between four and ten. As the individual matures, the left hemisphere of the brain gradually takes over most, language functions and foreign languages have to be taught and learned through a conscious and labored effort.

The task of mastering a foreign language is not as easy and effortless either psychologically or linguistically as majority of Iranian learners believe. The process is very long, very demanding, and frequently frustrating.

Our students ask themselves: How do we say it as native speakers say it? How do we do it as they do it in the country where the language is spoken? What is the underlying significance?

Language cannot be separated from the culture in which it is deeply embedded. Mere fluency in the production of utterances in a new language without any awareness of their cultural implications or their appropriate situational use, without a realization of the values and assumptions underlying these so-called skills are of little use.

We bring an awareness of cultural meaning into every aspect of our teaching and the students absorb it in many small ways. From the beginning we orient the thinking of the students through a program which seeks to develop systematic progress in cultural understanding side by side with growing mastery of the language.

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Être un polyglotte est une lutte éternelle.

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