When I completed my CELTA (the initial training course for EFL teachers) and considered all the places in the world I wanted to travel to and teach in, I faced some, half-joking, accusations that what I was about to do aided some covert imperialist agenda. Was I a modern-day missionary, an ELT evangelist preaching Received Pronunciation, sermonising about sentence structure, bearing witness to SVO word order? Was I an unwitting foot soldier in the building of a new English Empire, annihilating native languages, crushing cultures, promulgating Western capitalist ideals?
In EFL we talk about two types of reading Extensive Reading and Intensive Reading. Intensive reading is what usually happens in the classroom: reading to answer comprehension questions or to teach ‘reading skills’ such as skimming and scanning. Extensive reading is reading for pleasure, often fiction at around or just below a learner’s language level. Ideally extensive reading texts should be 98% known vocabulary.
To learn (verb) from the Old English ‘leornian’ meaning ‘to study, read, think about’.
We tend to see teaching as an active, dynamic activity and learning as a passive one, as if the learner were just an empty vessel waiting to be filled with knowledge. But perhaps, if we look at the etymology of these words, we have not always seen it this way.