Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Exercise vs. ESL

I’ve been thinking again about how Personal Training is similar to teaching English as a Second Language, which I’ve done for 16 years. On a very basic level, people are trying to improve themselves, through either fitness or an additional language. They know there are benefits, even though they don’t have to do it. It also means long-term, hard work.

My most successful ESL students were international students, in the U.S. on a student visa, with nothing else to do but study English. They didn’t have family here; they couldn’t work on a student visa; their friends came from all over the world, so their common language was English, and they were surrounded by English in their everyday lives. They spent 20 hours a week in English classes, plus homework. A comparable fitness situation would the The Biggest Loser or a health spa for 3 months. With nothing else to do but focus on health and fitness, you are bound to be successful!

My least successful ESL students were those who only came to class. Either in their own country or in the U.S., they spent no time outside of class on English. They lived and worked with other speakers of their native language; they were surrounded by their native language in terms of TV, newspapers, books, movies, music, etc. Since they were so busy with work and family life, they didn’t have time to do homework.

A comparable fitness situation would be someone who exercises a few times a week, but otherwise doesn’t live a healthy lifestyle. S/he eats too much, drinks too much caffeine or alcohol, eats unhealthy foods/beverages, doesn’t sleep enough, doesn’t control stress, and doesn’t do anything active outside of workouts.

With both ESL and fitness, some effort will lead to some improvement, but the more one puts into it, the faster and better the results will be. Plus, there’s the spiral factor: are you spiraling up or down? Not seeing results can lead to a downward spiral, leading towards giving up on health & fitness, while experiencing success motivates one in an upward spiral, leading to more effort and success. Which direction is your health spiral going?

No comments:

Post a Comment