Continuing Education

Language Liaison: Talking with Instructor Louise Morehead

Continuing Education instructor Louise Morehead can trace her love of language back to a particular point in her Imagechildhood; when she was taken not only with the speech of another culture, but to the universal language of music. “A combination of musical training and a wonderful language-learning program in my elementary school provided me with key elements that would facilitate many of my adult activities; among them, learning languages,” she recalls. “I believe I was in fourth grade when dear Miss Johnson began pushing her Spanish-teaching cart of tapes, headphones, colorful posters, and a tape recorder to every classroom in the school. Pupils throughout the elementary school benefited from 15 or 20 minutes of Spanish every day. Songs, skits, sayings, poetry, and the good old Hola, Isabel! dialogue livened up our classroom.” She says by the time she reached high school she was well-qualified to take on the more serious and advanced Spanish classes the highly-rated New York Metropolitan Area secondary school system had to offer.  

Morehead ultimately found herself on a path to a successful career as a language instructor, interpreter and translator specializing in multi-cultural awareness, sensitivity and cultural acclimatization. As such, she’s had ample opportunity to closely observe how we learn languages and refine the most successfully means to teach them. In the case of her tenure with North Seattle College Continuing Education, she’s gained great insight into how native English speakers adapt to a new language (in this case, French) and non-native speakers tackle English.  Commonly, both ESL learners and French learners are faced with discovering a foreign language,” says Morehead. “In turn, the two languages in question, English and French, share a great many characteristics. Another locus of commonality can be found in the learners of the two languages, themselves: we are rarely knowledgeable of the phonemic factors of our native languages, and at times, we are barely more aware of the syntactical elements that make up English and French, similar though they may be.”

Take, for example, the notion of liaison in French,” she elaborates. “Within the French sentence or utterance, words are linked together as much as possible, so much so that an utterance in French may sound to the non-French-speaking ear Imagelike a ribbon of speech, or one long word-stream made of many barely distinguishable sounds. Imagine the surprise – and often disbelief – when learners discover that the words in North American (NA) English sentences are linked in a manner and proportion similar to those of French!"

Morehead says one of the biggest challenges facing someone learning a new language is in casting off their accent. “While I have the pleasure of initiating learners into French thus ensuring the best possible pronunciation of French at the earliest learning stage, the ESL learners whom I instruct come to my classes at an intermediate level of skill thereby, at times, necessitating remedial pronunciation work and accent reduction. I find that rectifying pronunciation after an undetermined period of learning can be many times more difficult that instilling correct pronunciation at the true beginner stage.”

Students planning to take one of Louise Morehead’s language classes can look forward to an instructor who puts her students’ long-term success first and foremost. “I cannot help but think of ‘new students’ as freshmen, first year students, or very young people,” she says.  “While the ESL classes that I instruct may have many learners whose first experience of continuing education in the USImage may be one of my ESL classes, these are not particularly young people, and this is not a first-year or freshman course. The classes, ESL Speaking & Listening and ESL Reading & Writing, are heterogeneous in that learners come many different language pools, are of various ages beginning (mostly) at 18, and of various levels of skill – intermediate to advanced.”

When it comes to teaching her native language or the language of another culture, Morehead has honed tools to hurdle challenges and put the student at ease. “In both cases, teaching French and teaching English as learned languages require a variety of techniques,” says Morehead. “Listening and speaking, repetition and drills can help drive good pronunciation at the beginning stages if practiced regularly prior to reading and writing the new language.”

Learn more about Louise Morehead’s classes, Intermediate and Advanced ESL—Speaking & Listening, French I: Encore! and French II: Discovery French.

Photo Credit# Louise Morehead
Photo Credit #2: Universal English College_cc_2.0
Photo Credit #3: HansaCanada.com_cc_2.0