Interview with Paul Rogers: Leading by Example Series

August 30, 2010

This series is dedicated to highlighting the impact made by exemplary literacy and language professionals who lead by example. They share their inspirational tips and stories. This week we highlight the work of Paul Rogers, creator of the Pumarosa language learning program.

What is your name, affiliation, and connection to language learning?

My name is Paul Rogers and I have been teaching ESL for more than 20 years. I am also the author of a free website for Spanish speakers, PUMAROSA.COM, which has been online for 6 years, and is now widely used.

What are your thoughts about leadership and language learning?

Leaders in our field should lead by example, not only as teachers but as language students. It is also very important to investigate the uses of new technologies as applied to language learning. And I also feel it is important to champion what I call a multi-cultural, multi-lingual approach, i.e. respecting, appreciating and learning from other cultures and languages.

In your opinion, what’s the most important aspect of a language teacher’s job?

I used to think that my job should be providing adequate and interesting lessons so that the students would be able to learn English as easily as possible. Although I still believe that aspect of the job is important, after studying your reports and articles, I have realigned my thinking! Learning languages is a life-long endeavor that is very important not only to the individual but also to society as a whole.

We must be frank and honest with language learners and tell them there is no quick fix, no fast track.

So now I look at my job as a resource and as a guide, and as an advisor and a friend. I have to say that I am more relaxed and probably more effective as a teacher now.

What are some of the projects you’ve been involved with that you would like to share?

I promote PUMAROSA and sell materials, such as workbooks.

Otherwise, I have developed a “Home Study” program for Spanish speaking adults. I teach classes in the students’ homes in groups of 4 or 5. The materials used include my texts, audio CDs and DVDs, along with PUMAROSA, You Tube and a few bilingual websites that feature popular US songs. I also show the students how to use a computer. I encourage everyone to buy a used computer for about $50 at the second hand stores nearby. Some of them went out and bought brand new computers! I have discovered that many people spend up to $100 a month in telephone calls back home. But with a computer hooked up to the internet for less than $50 a month, they can call back home for as long as they wish for free. Some of my students use a webcam, and I even “taught” a class to their families in Mexico!

What do you see as three new directions in language learning?

  1. The use of technology, in my view, changes the direction of language learning significantly. Now adult learners and families can basically learn at home without a teacher. This new development in distance learning makes language learning more democratic. Previously only a few people were able to attend classes, which were under the control of the teacher, i.e. ‘teacher centered”. Now learning can become ‘student centered’ so that mothers with children, for example, will not be excluded from learning anything.
  2. All of which leads to teachers becoming more and more like a guide or advisor rather than an authority figure. Paolo Freire would be very pleased with this shift.
  3. Distance learning programs will become the norm, with more and more community based involvement.


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