2012 Hall of Fame Nominee

Susanne Kanning

Inglemoor High School
Kenmore, WA
2012 Finalist from PNCFL

Language learning is a life-long endeavor. My passion for the German language and cultures of the countries where it is spoken began when I spent a year in Lingen, Germany as an AFS student. I never stopped trying to learn as much as possible about the language, the history, and the culture. I try to make the most of every opportunity to speak German. All of my experiences in Germany and learning German have enriched my life, and it is now my desire to share this passion with my students. It is also my hope that I can inspire them to be life-long language learners.

Integral to learning a language is learning about the culture(s) of the country or countries where the language is spoken. As an exchange student my eyes were opened to the world for the first time. I became aware of the fact that there is more than one way of doing something, and the way we did something at home was not necessarily the only or best way. As language learners we become more open-minded and flexible in our thinking. In class we talk a lot about the differences in day-to-day life, as well as the similarities. I explain what I learned from my exchange experiences, as well as have the exchange students who are at the school for a semester or a year come and talk to my students. I also have my students who are returning from an exchange experience talk to my classes. All of this with the hope of helping them embrace the idea that different cultures are interesting and something to be experienced, not just strange or “wrong”.

As we develop our skills in another language, we also enhance our understanding of our native language. Whenever I am teaching a new grammar concept I find my students mulling over the concept not just in German, but also in English. I have had students tell me that they have learned more about grammar and grammatical sturctures from than in their English classes. One of my favorite stories that illustrated this occurred during my first year of teaching. I had an outstanding group of students and some of the senior boys had qualified to compete in the State Knowledge Bowl. When they returned to school after the competition they burst into my classroom to announce their success. They were so excited to tell me that they had won, because the final question asked them to identify the verb form in a sentence. They were the only team that got the answer right. The answer was, the subjunctive!

One cannot be a language learner without learning to take risks. It is impossible to know exactly how to say everything you want to, especially at the beginning of one’s studies. Plunging in and simply trying is such an important skill to learn. It is also important to learn how to laugh and learn from one’s mistakes. Sometimes we say things that are nothing close to what we intended to say, but to laugh, try again, perhaps learn what one was trying to say, and to realize that it didn’t “kill” you is something will help you throughout life.

Language learning is so many things. Not all learners many be as passionate as a language teacher, but we as language educators can inspire all students to go out into the world to explore and experience, talking and learning every step of the way.