Exactly five years ago, I was in my 20th year teaching ESL and EAP. Instead of celebrating this milestone, I was making plans to leave a career that I had loved. Unfortunately, at that time, I had no idea about teacher burnout or more specifically, the warning signs. I had slowly lost interest in my work, stopped caring, become cynical, and even had a few unprofessional outbursts with colleagues. The warning signs were there, but I did not see them. Nor did my colleagues who had known me for several years. Burning out for me was a slow burn—like the feeling you get from holding onto a rope in a game of tug-of-war. I knew I was slipping, yet I couldn’t get a grip. It was painful but I could no longer hang on. In December 2015, I finally left a career that I had loved for twenty years.
Q1: How did you learn L2 pronunciation?
Q2: Do you have some negative pronunciation learning experiences?
Let me start this article with my own answers to these two questions. To Q1, I would answer that I learned about minimal pairs and practiced them in language labs in high school and university. I would describe the lessons as mechanical drills of discrete items, and that was everything I did in class as far as pronunciation is concerned. Well, it was in the seventies, when teaching based on behaviorism was still the norm in language classrooms in Japan. To Q2, I should say, “Yes.” One of my university conversation teachers had me stand up in class, just me. He demonstrated pronouncing /s/ as in “Sue” and /ʃ/ as in “shoe.” Then, he made me practice them many times, with all the other students listening to the awkward interaction between us. I couldn’t aurally distinguish between the two sounds. Obviously, I was not able to produce them as he wished.
It might seem a bit, well, odd to make jokes about depression, a mental illness that is not particularly known for its sense of humor, but let’s tune in to the wisdom of John Moe, someone acclaimed for his lighthearted approach to depression. John Moe and his team lambast depression in all of its bizarre manifestations with each episode of their podcast series. The podcast series’ inaugural episode was released on December 12, 2016, and the final episode aired on May 25, 2020. Yes, the series has sadly come to an end, but the entire four years of archives remain available to listen to for free on their website. For the purposes of this review, I picked out two episodes I found intriguing: “Depression’s Eleven Big Lies EXPOSED!” and “Imposter Syndrome: True Tales, Tricks, and Tactics for When You’re Feeling Fraudulent.” I approached listening to this podcast as a teacher, a brain nerd, and as someone who has fought their fair share of battles against depression.
We all experience sadness from time to time. That is part of being human.
What is your impression of depression? Take a look at the meme below (author/artist unknown). Many people assume that people with depression experience extreme sadness. That’s true, but there is more, too.
We have all heard stories from teachers about how one of their students suffered from depression…and that student took his or her own life. Or maybe you have had that experience yourself. One of your students dying by suicide might not happen often, maybe only once a career, but for anyone who has had that experience, the refrain is always the same: “I wonder if I could have done something. If only I had known.”