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You Tryna Learn English, Tho

Why You Ain't Never Gone Learn in a Professional Setting

Meu nome é Cassia. My name is Cassia.

Do you see the girl in that picture above? She doesn't look like she talks the way that title reads. And sometimes she doesn't. Sometimes she gotta switch it up for work, school, for "other" people, and environments. 

Hi. I'm Cassia. I am an English Teacher and tutor in Atlanta, Georgia, USA. I recently took to the online platforms to reach even more students and, you know, try to make a greater impact on the English-learning world. I teach students from many countries of different genders, different ages, and levels of English. However, there is one specific thing (besides the thirst for English fluency) that all students desire: informal English. 

"Teacher, Cassia, I really want to learn informal English." 

"Well, we're speaking pretty informally right now."

When I learned Spanish (and from what I see while learning other languages) formality is based on the age of the people you are speaking to and their job titles. However, in the USA...you are most likely to get the same level of attitude from the cashier at McDonald's no matter who the hell you are. Who can blame her? She has to be there and you have the freedom to come and go from there. We measure how formal a conversation is by the usage of "bigger" vocabulary.

I was having a lesson with a wonderful Brazilian lawyer and pastor I met through ITALKIE. His English, by all definitions, is advanced. He can read, write, and speak fluently in English. Yet, he was feeling unfilled, as so many learners do. 

He said, "I was watching a movie, but I still don't understand what they are saying." 

I consider a few in my head. "What kind of movie?" 

"I don't remember, but there was a basketball court scene..." 

Okay, so a black movie. AND DING! Ah, you mean slang. You wanna learn slang.

This type of language gets generalized as informal (and it may very well be a subset), because people of other countries don't know necessarily how America works. Or doesn't work at all, I mean, we're literally shut down...

Now, hear me out: today is different from yesterday. What do I mean? When I was in elementary school, they made students take speech therapy classes because we "didn't" speak English, basically. They really tried to reform a dialect that is colloquial for me and so many people. I mean, I know how you want me to talk, and eventually, it becomes something we learn to turn off and on automatically depending on the setting. Today, using slang is not limited to the black community but has become wildly embraced by so many other groups of people within the country. (Some call it cultural appropriation, I say who really cares? It's less work for me when everyone is being acceptive. Eh, separate issue).

 But...the scholars that these foreign students are booking and hiring to teach them that same dialect will never speak that way to them.

That basketball court scene of the young, black dudes playin' ball, you ain't gone ever understand. Cause those guys ain't gone be your English teachers. They not gonna be hired by the companies you searchin' thru. I mean, that's probs why they STILL on the basketball court with nothin' to do but play ball, anyways. You get what I'm sayin'?

The companies that hire English teachers want "educated" individuals. Even if your degree isn't in English, they will STILL take you over someone who is patient, empathetic, curious, hard-working, and attempts to speak many languages for personal growth, as well as a way to walk in students' shoes... (no, I'm not bitter, Japan).  They want people who speak "proper English." And I get it! It's for good reasons. Plenty of people are learning English for business purposes and...my colloquial English? 

Ain't gonna cut it.

And all those movies that foreigners want to enjoy so bad are made by people who do not need movies to entertain themselves. They have money to go and have as many experiences as they want. No, those movies are for the broke people like me who live vicariously through the characters for one to three hours and escape the monotony of not-very-good but expensive vegan shops, extremely terrible roads, and the fake people that moved here to pursue acting, get cultured, or work in marketing. Not to mention they are clogging up the highways, raising the cost of living, and making my 10-minute drive to my mom's house into a 45-minute commute. I digress, again.

Aha, I know I'm goin in, but don't worry, I'm certified. I teach English for young learners, students, beginners, as well as on the business level. I get it. However, most people want to travel. They want to make friends, but they don't understand them. They know the words coming out of their mouths, but something is just not quite right. 

No, this is not an ad #SupportMe, but this is why I really enjoy teaching on ITALKIE. It's a space to just speak and learners can ask questions and diverge from the plan and it's fine. We can talk about heavy subjects and they learn to express themselves in English with corrected grammar or have the freedom to say "Hey, how would you say this?" I enjoy it, because I keep learning, too. 

Got me writin' these long ass essays 'bout what I found.

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