This year I've been teaching French written composition for final year students, oral classes for the same year, and 2nd year oral classes, and I've been teaching translation from German to English for final year. I've also been involved in a course called "Translation: theory and practice".
I teach both French and German language, the active use of French spoken and written, and translation from German into English. I feel rather privileged to be able to do this, since teaching able and motivated (though even the able need motivating very frequently) young linguists at university level is probably one of the nicer roles and teaching. I was lucky with the teaching that I had, and I think what I, we, attempt to do is to permit students to go as far in their language learning as they wish to do, so we give them access to the exactly the same tools that I had 30 odd years ago; a majority respond to that, and become very very sound linguists. One of the delights of being a non-native teacher is that you continue to learn new things about the language and the culture (in the broadest sense) constantly, and I attempt to transmit that enthusiasm which I still feel to our students: I don't find French and German any less weird and wonderful and fun than I did 40 years ago.
I don't have any special beliefs about teaching, though it is nice to make things as interesting as it possibly can be, and give students access to things that we particularly like. I do like to make a classroom atmosphere as light and laid-back as possible, as people need to be relaxed to learn well, and after all learning a language is meant to be fun (as well as being difficult and requiring lots of patience).
I really enjoy teaching oral classes. The ones we do here are pretty much entirely pair work, so that every student gets as much opportunity to speak as possible, and my role is really just creating the conditions for that to happen. 25 minutes talking is composing an awful lot of text!
One thing that I absolutely love is colloquial language, which is something that I didn't really learn at university. We consider that colloquial is just as important as the more formal language – 10 years of language learning isn't a lot of use if you can't understand a French or German person of your own age. One delight of colloquial language is that it goes on changing, so you go on learning new things.
So, I teach French and German language, so I will make this a linguistic biography. I originally come from North Shields, a town about 10 miles away from Newcastle, so I grew up surrounded by Geordie voices; my parents were kind of Geordie middle-class, but their language is very different to that of most in Shields. And then from the age of 8 I went to posho school in Newcastle and encountered there, probably not really realising it at the time, children whose parents were lawyers, university lecturers and so forth. So in a way, I reckon I grew up in a kind of trilingual way, so transition to foreign languages wasn't much of a transition.
But the first spur – yes, you can start a sentence with "but" – to learning French came aged 9 on a family holiday to Alsace, when I managed to get lost in a forest. Having avoided being eaten by bears or wolves or the wicked witch, I managed to use my dozen words of French picked up on that holiday and a previous one to get myself reunited with my parents. Sort of stuck, the importance of language.....! And then from 11 at school French as a first language, and from 12 German as the 2nd, and then ultimately to university. I reckon I was taught pretty well, though the style wouldn't be to everybody's taste. Some time in Germany, a spell as an assistant in the Rhône Valley and later a couple of years in Paris cemented the languages.
And then, an entire career in teaching languages, initially in secondary schools, where I learnt an awful lot about people and what works well in classrooms, and for the last 20 years teaching modern languages students French and German language to degree level. And enjoying it.