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Language is Cake

Aya Wafik | 16th March, 2016 Back to Blog

“Language is cake”. Interesting? This is a metaphor used among language instructors. I haven’t written articles since a long time due to a writer’s block; however, this metaphor enticed me to analyze and write about it according to how I see language. How can language be possibly like cake? Throughout the article, I will be tackling the matter from my perspective as an English teacher.

A good cake is surely delicious, but in order to have a perfect cake, you need to leave it in the oven for some time. You cannot expect a cake to be done in one minute, can you? On the other hand, if you leave the cake to be baked for too long, it will certainly get burned. In both cases, the cake will not be edible, right? The same thing goes with languages. The student should not expect to grasp everything about a language in a semester or two. Some students get too confident about how good their English is, which leads them to make more mistakes than the regular students are making in average. In this case, teachers should be there to guide the students and make them understand that it is always good to have ambition and self-confidence, but patience is also needed to get the results desired. Other students are not making the amount of effort needed to accomplish anything in the language. They think that English is not important in their future lives, and this is happening most when they are having a dream career in mind that is away from languages like being a fashion designer or a footballer. When they grow up, however, they discover that in our modern world, the English language is compulsory for achieving the tremendous success they have always dreamed to have. Here is when they decide to learn the language properly no matter what the cost is. Unfortunately, it is not always easy to reach a high level in languages with older ages. Hence, it takes them folds the effort they needed before to learn.

Like any food, a cake can be extremely delicious but the way it is presented to you is the factor that makes you decide whether you want to have a piece of it or not. If the cake is not having a nice shape or color, you will be repulsed, and you will decline the offer of having even one bite.

In another situation, if the cake is looking great but the first bite proves that the taste is not good, you will be reluctant to have a second bite even if you are so hungry. The presence of both content and technique is essential in the educational process just as the presence of both taste and presentation is essential to make you eat a full slice of cake or even a whole cake. Hence, teachers need to ensure that they maintain a good balance between technique and content. In a study conducted in 1993 by Harvard researchers Dr. Nalini Ambady and Dr. Robert Rosenthal, students were able to accurately predict the teachers who were really good and those who were really bad by observing them for 6 seconds only! Can you imagine that? The key there was the fact that they were actually paying attention to the teachers themselves disregarding the content. Presentation, style, body language, voice tone, and other techniques played the main role in the students’ judgment of the teachers. However, you, as a teacher, must not disregard the content, as this content is actually why children are there at school. Some teachers fail to utilize techniques in class which turns the 30 or 45 minutes that they spend with the students in the classroom into the most boring time of the day for them. Another group of teachers gives more effort in using educational techniques than in delivering content. In this case, all the glamour of the activities and techniques is gone in vain. In both previous situations, one factor is outweighing and smothering the other which results in a rough ZERO outcomes. Therefore, as mentioned earlier, keeping high techniques along with high content is considered as the formula of success for teachers.

What are the main ingredients of cake? The answer is: flour, sugar, baking powder, and oil/milk. If you don’t add the ingredients in proportion, or if you miss one of these essential ingredients, the cake will either be too hard, too soft, tasteless or flat. In fact, it will no longer be a cake. The language also consists of four skills: reading, writing, listening, and speaking. If one of these skills is considerably less than the others or is completely missing, the language speaker will be having an ill language with no harmony, which can severely limit their academic, professional, and even personal growth. Here, the teachers have to provide the student who is having difficulties some more of their time. They need to analyze the reason behind the lack of progress in this particular skill while considering the personality patterns: visual, auditory, and kinesthetic. Sometimes it requires hours of research before being able to know how to fix the ill part in the shadow of the student’s personality type. It should happen in a way that connects the missing part with the strongest sense that the student has, as well as gives them the support and motivation needed to perform and learn well. For example, assuming that the student is kinesthetic and is having problem with the spoken part of the language, the teacher should give that student the confidence that enables them to speak louder and without hesitation. Another example is the visual student who is having a problem with the listening skill. In this case, the teacher needs to dedicate more time for videos to train the student to connect what they see with what they hear. When the student succeeds in that, the teacher

should gradually reduce the percentage of visual effects in proportion to the auditory effects, and stimulate the imagination until the student manages to deal with the listening skill separated from actual visual helpers. Writing problems need more focus on the beauty of language.

Finally, just as it’s always nice to share your cake with others, it is also very good to share the knowledge with others, not only with your students but with your fellow colleagues as well.