It began with foreign languages. Actually it began with the movie While You Were Sleeping that I saw when I was 14 years old. Sandra Bullock’s character wanted to visit Italy so badly that it made me want to learn Italian. And then I started high school and began learning French. A year later and I had learned enough HTML to attempt to make a website. I was typing all of my notes from French class anyway, so why not put them online so others could benefit from them too?
And so it continued throughout high school, undergrad and graduate school. I added more languages and linguistics resources from my university courses. People offered to write tutorials for languages I had never studied. I gladly put them online because I know there is someone somewhere who wants to learn that specific language and cannot find any other resources for it – or at least, not any free resources.
I became more and more frustrated at the lack of free language learning materials, or at the lack of quality. Most books cater to travelers and don’t teach the real language that is spoken. Even after ten years of searching, I’ve still only found a few that teach informal language and slang. I’ve known for a while that the internet is the best tool in language learning, yet I could not find many sites that offer informal language either. Where are all the native speakers and why are they not teaching us their language? Teach us the pronunciation, the slang, the idioms, everything we need to know to survive in your country. I can only do so much with my limited knowledge, and frankly, it’s draining my energy to feel as though I need to teach every facet of a language that I don’t speak perfectly.
Then I began the English assistantship in France and continued increasing my ESL plans and materials. Again I was frustrated by the lack of information available about the program. I wanted real advice, real anecdotes, real facts, real data. So I created my incredibly detailed Assistants Guide, hoping to ease the stress of future assistants who wanted to know what they were getting themselves into. Even teaching English in the US, I could never find exactly what I wanted online, so I allowed others to download everything I’ve created for my classes and private students. What’s the point of creating plans to only use them once and never look at them again? Other teachers will appreciate the gesture of free resources, I thought.
And now I’m focusing on expatriates in France and everyday life. Everything I’ve gone through, all my experiences, could possibly help one person in France and that’s why I do this. I want to alleviate the frustration of figuring out French bureaucracy. I have been there. I know how exhausting it is. And I want to help, not for monetary gain, but because I wish someone else had done this for me – and maybe, just maybe, it will inspire others to do the same.
Sometimes I feel overwhelmed. I’m trying to teach things that I’m not really an expert in. But no one else seems to want to do it. No one else wants to share their knowledge or resources. Creating websites is increasingly easy, and everyone has something to share, something to teach; yet I still have trouble finding websites that are completely free or that have specific and correct information. Either they charge for premium content or they just exist as a placeholder for ads. There is very little on the internet nowadays that is worthwhile unless you pay, it seems.
Why should those with money have access to a better education than those without? What is so wrong with the free exchange of knowledge and ideas? Whatever happened to teaching for the simple joy of helping others learn?