Travel is fun. It can be relaxing, educational, inspiring and more! For language teachers, however, travel can be much, much more. For many language teachers, the opportunities to practice their target language (TL), is rare. While many of us may have chance to use our TL in our everyday lives, it is often at a surface level. Travel, on the other hand, opens us to a world of possibility to learning and practice, which we bring back to our classrooms in both planned and unplanned ways.
1. Brush up on your language.
Whether or not you use language in the classroom every day, I would imagine your TL could use a bit of a brush-up. Speaking classroom language to 8 years old (in my case) is not ensuring I maintain my language skills. Many of our classroom conversations are limited; travel expands the topics of conversation, challenges our language negotiation skills, and often pushes us out of our comfort zone. It is also a great reminder of what our students go through everyday as we acclimate to new vocabulary and situations.
Google image is great, but there is nothing better than photos you have taken on your travels. In using personal photos, you have a deeper connection to the material, but also you share a bit of yourself with your students. The internet’s reach is only so deep when it comes to cultural artifacts. A real menu from your favorite restaurant in Colombia provides much more than authentic language; it allows you a chance to share your experience.
Sharing cultural products in class is common. Helping students to connect with the perspectives and practices associated with these products, however, is often difficult. I often find I don’t have a strong connection or understanding of the cultural products I share, and therefore have a difficult time sharing the deeper culture with my students. By experiencing these products and practices first-hand, however, I have a greater insight to the perspectives and practices that accompany the products. The products can come alive!
Travel affords us the ability to make connections all over the world. Whether connecting with travelers in your tour group or locals, these connections create a deeper and more meaningful experience. From restaurant choices to information gathered, a local can share a lot more about a place than a guidebook can. Further, networking with locals can provide a wider audience for our students’ work. Connect with a school or teacher in your travels, or even just a resident, and you have expanded the reach of your students’ language.
5. Bring the excitement back.
At the elementary school level, students do not have much choice in their travels. They do, however, have choice in how they perceive travel and the importance of language in their travels. As students mature, they have more opportunities to see the world, whether through study abroad, class trips, or spring break. If students see their teacher’s excitement around travel, it encourages them to see the world and be open to new experiences and cultures. As language teachers, we owe it to our students to encourage them to expand their horizons and explore!
Travel is one of my favorite pastimes and has opened my world to so much. It is not only important for our students, but for us as teachers. We teach our students to be open to new experiences and to push their comfort zone each and every day. We owe it to them, and to ourselves, to do the same whenever possible.
Psst! Here are some extra tips I’ve used for finding good fares:
- Plan ahead. Many airlines put their flights on sale 361 days ahead of time. If you time it right, you can generally get the flights you want at the price you want, especially if you are using miles.
- Compare websites. Whether the airline’s home site or a conglomerate site, do your research!
- Travel in the off season. If you are looking to a country with generally temperate climates, or you don’t mind hot or cold weather, you can travel during off-peak times. My husband and I travelled to Spain over the winter holidays and paid half the mileage of high season. We didn’t get a suntan, but we had a fabulous time anyway.