Teaching is Learning and Learning is Teaching

I was as a language course student in New York in the summer of 1989. I remember our host family father correcting me when I tried to borrow money to my friend and he in turn wanted to lend some money from me. “Guys, you’re mixing up. You borrow to get a loan and lend to give a loan.”

In Finnish there is only one word for this, “lainata”. You use this one word and deal with suffixes to determine whether it is giving or getting. That’s why it was hard for me to separate “borrow” and “lend”, sometimes still is.

Fast forward 20+ years. These days I work quite a lot with Dutchmen. Like us up here, also they use subtitles instead of dubbing their movies and TV shows. Probably one of the reasons for why they know their English quite well. That’s why it first amazed me when they mixed the words “teaching” and “learning”. Or rather, they would use the word “learning” to mean both learning and teaching.

Then it hit me. It was the same phenomenon I faced as a teenager in my language course. In Dutch the word “leren” is used for both learning and teaching. So no wonder they mix it up sometimes when speaking English. First I thought it’s weird. Teacher teaches and the learner (student, pupil) learns.

On closer inspection, the Dutch are right. Typically you cannot teach without learning something yourself, nor can you learn without teaching the teacher something. It’s a bidirectional process.

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