Monkey Sí, Monkey Du

2 Mar

“…and they’re not in too many zoos because of their sexual behavior. Their sexual behavior is too human-like for most of us to be comfortable with.”   This quote is taken from the beginning of a lecture by Susan Savage-Rumbaugh on the vast parallels between the bonobo and man; (the talk is hilarious and can be seen HERE) one is which being this species’ remarkable capacity to understand human speech, which is seemingly better than some of my homo sapien English students. Regarding language acquisition,  Savage-Rumbaugh and her researchers have concluded that “…the most important thing for permitting bonobos to learn language is not teach them, it’s simply to use language around them because the driving force in language acquisition is to understand what others that are important to you are saying to you. Once you have that capacity, the ability to produce language comes rather naturally and rather freely.” To me this suggests two things: 1) We cannot force somebody to learn something. The successful absorption of knowledge must be willful or originate from the students’ sincere curiosity. 2) As language teachers, we must keep in mind the significance of speaking exclusively in English, especially in a manner replete with emotion and gesticulation. Although many may not see our profession in this light, we are essentially entertainers who generate the biproduct of intelect. I think bearing this is mind we can help deconstruct the classic dichotomy between student and teacher and gain our pupils’ respect, making them genuinely intent on understanding us when speaking our native tounge.

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