Center For Language Education-SUSTech | SUSTech English Corner: Authentic Language Development
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SUSTech English Corner: Authentic Language Development

SUSTech English Corner: Authentic Language Development

By: Matthew Jellick


Within the confines of a classroom, seated at desks with books open in front of them, students learn the rote educational abilities which will prepare them for tests, while underlining the skill sets which will in turn prepare them for the next level.  This is the foundation of education and a compass which will likely continued to be followed for the foreseeable future.  Yet in the nearly 17 years I have been working with ESL learners, time and time again I have found that it is authentic experiences outside the classroom which solidify linguistic development, highlighting the notion that language is cultural and that learning it should take the form of engagement over function.

On Saturday night, I had the opportunity to attend the student-led “English Corner” held at SUSTech’s Book Bar.  Taking place over the course of nearly two hours, I participated in language-themed games, demonstrative activities and group collaboration on English lessons which created an environment more engaging than any PowerPoint shown in class ever could.  The students had created an atmosphere – on their own – which highlighted the excitement which true learning can bring about, taking place outside the classroom yet with all the indicators that knowledge was being fostered.

The English Corner meets about once a month, run entirely by a group of motived students who understand the value in this second-language attainment. With planning and execution, they provided an authentic learning environment, on a Saturday night no less, for about 25 other students who came and participated.  As a teacher of the Staff here at SUSTech, I too try to incorporate authentic learning practices into my classroom, and was happy to see that at the undergraduate level too these ideas were being followed.

Standardized test scores will not be remembered by anyone other than statisticians and rote memorization practices do not develop the full potential of the student.  Yet when learning is conducted in a manner which demands creativity and knowledge is obtained through experience then true education is taking place, as is the case with the students at SUSTech’s English Corner…