The Power of Language

As an English teacher, I’ve always believed in the power of language.  For me, language is a gift that many people take for granted. It’s value cannot be overemphasized as it has the power to connect people in many different ways.  Without it, life would be utterly meaningless.  I’m not even eloquent enough to explain the role it plays in our lives.

Yesterday, we were quite lucky to be treated to an inspiring seminar given by Ashley Ingram.  The seminar started rather roughly as he actually seemed a bit difficult to please.  I found that I had to shut off all telephones as he very much disliked being distracted by anything or anyone for that matter. It was quite intimidating how he would call people’s attention when they started to space out. As he kept on with his talk, it became apparent to me that what he exuded was not mean-spirited arrogance.  Rather, it was his passion for his work that very naturally flowed from everything he said and did.

Grammy-Award Winning Songwriter Ashley Ingram calls on each
of us to master our speech as a means to become truly FREE.

Ashley Ingram has done years of research and now travels around the world to make people understand the power of the spoken word. Yes, it sounds simple and quite unnecessary.  After all, we language teachers often proclaim that what’s more important is that we are understood and everything else becomes secondary as we will eventually learn the language anyway.  However, he takes pronunciation to a different level.  He explains how the way we talk may actually free us from a lot of things — stereotypes, discrimination, and our own fear of success.

Now, I have to rethink everything I’ve done in my class so far and find new ways to make my students appreciate language.  It will only be through this that I will get them to strive for excellence.  It struck me when Ashley talked about how students oftentimes emulate their teachers.  By that, I realized I must panic when I receive mediocre work for perhaps it is a reflection of the way I teach.  Maybe, unknowingly, I promote that kind of work through the way I teach.

How could I continue doing work that is mediocre knowing that I have the ability to change the lives of my students by enabling them to speak out and speak out loud?  The world needs to hear their voice because their voice is as valuable as the voice of the president of any nation.

Quite rightly, I had a dose of my own medicine when another one of my students spent his last day in our school as if I didn’t need any more proof that I wasn’t doing enough.  I couldn’t help Han in the one quarter that I taught him as he was way behind his peers in terms of English proficiency.  I had to convince the higher-ups to hire a teacher so that students like him could be pulled-out from class and have 1-on-1 lessons.  Thus, I never spent enough time with him.  And, in the short time that I did, we were never really able to establish a connection such that even on his last day, I could see him doubt me when I told him that I’d miss him.  It is true that I will miss him, but I can’t fault him for feeling that we never connected as well as I have with the others.  The culprit?  Our language barrier was just too strong of a wall and I now have to admit that I probably should have tried harder…. I won’t have that chance again… I won’t have the power to tell him he mattered to me, too.  I didn’t have the words to tell him this.  My inability to communicate overpowered my desire to make him my friend.

 Language is a power that all of us must learn to use to our advantage.  Alas, I don’t have all the answers. I may never have all the keys.  But, I will try my best.  This, at the very least, I can promise.

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