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TIME TO READ - THE

TIME TO READ - THE METAMORPHOSIS OF AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER aloud, vocabulary usage and almost in every type of exercise required in the L2 learning process. The pride I felt in high school for being such a remarkable student in my English class turned into feelings of disappointment and frustration in my higher education stage. During my first, second, and third semesters, the back row became my favorite place in the classroom. I was always ready to sit where I could not be easily spotted by teachers to avoid being questioned or being involved in class activities. I experienced many episodes of anxiety during those days. I became the “back-row boy” who would frequently go quiet during classes. It was not until my fourth semester, in the language program, that the turning point in my student career came. I had only two choices: continue being the low-profile student whose language proficiency seemed not to have progressed due to low levels of confidence, or become the student who would do something about it. I chose the latter. I resorted to an almost anti-pedagogical course of action. I made copies of a grammar book entitled, “Practical English Usage” by Michael Swam, and started to read it from front to back, over and over, every day from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. in the afternoon. I do not know if I chose this book because I was desperate and did not know the best course of action to take, or because I was developing a passion for English grammar. I guess both reasons lay behind my decision. The habitual reading of grammatical information did not enhance my English fluency, pronunciation or listening skills. However, I started to become more confident after my competence in some areas improved and this showed me that my friends in class were not perfect English speakers. More specifically, my grammatical competence made me realize their grammar mistakes and in this way, I gained more confidence. 52

TIME TO READ - THE METAMORPHOSIS OF AN ENGLISH LANGUAGE LEARNER By the end of the English program, although I was not as good a speaker as my friends were, I believed more in my potential and was ready to move on with my teaching career. Moreover, I was elected “Best Student Teacher” of the Class of 1996. This was the push factor that was needed to propel me into my future teaching career. In 1999, I worked as a teacher assistant at a non-profit language organization in Maine, USA. Four years later, I returned to work as a full-time secondary school teacher at a public school in Virginia. Those seven years in North America allowed me the opportunity to perfect my linguistic skills, enhance my teaching experience, and broaden my cultural competence. This indescribable experience prepared me for the challenges that awaited me in my home country. As a university professor I have had the opportunity to share with professors from prestigious national and international universities. Upon reflection, it seems clear that those problems I faced earlier of having a poor background in the second language, the disadvantage of my high school in comparison with other schools in the city and a low socio-economic status were only mental threats that I could overcome with a decisive course of action. Once I overcame them, my personal and professional lives were changed permanently. I am willing to share this true story with my students and all those language learners who, at any point, feel that intrinsic or extrinsic factors may undermine their learning careers, but also with those who have allowed mental limitations to take root in their lives. It is my hope that they will learn from my past experiences that they can indeed overcome those challenges and reach their full potential. 53