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Challenges for Learners in GeorgiaWhen I first signed on to move to the country of Georgia and teach english for a year, I knew I would be facing many expected and unexpected challenges. As I settled into my new home and began to establish relationships with my school and my students, I began to recognize that Georgian students of english faced a very specific, sometimes unique set of difficulties, and I knew that, to be an effective teacher in this country, I would need to understand these the nature of these challenges as much as possible. The most obviously apparent challenge for Georgians is the simple fact that the Georgian language does not use the Roman alphabet. Before any student could even begin to understand the simplest written word or set of instructions, he or she must become comfortable translating from Georgian characters into english ones. To complicate matters further, Georgian is a purely phonetic alphabet. Each letter always sounds the same, every letter is always pronounced (no silent letters) and there are no letter combinations such as ?sh? or ?ch?, although they do have individual characters which make those sounds. For a beginning student of english in Georgia, it can be very surprising and even frustrating to learn that the letter ?C? has two completely different sounds, that there is no way except practice to figure out which sound is correct for any particular word, and that both of those sounds are also represented by other letters in the alphabet ? ?K? and ?S?. To a Georgian mind, ?C? is a completely redundant and unnecessary character. Additionally, there is no sound in the Georgian alphabet for either ?F? or ?Th?, and learning to form these completely new sounds can be very trying for some. In the areas of grammar, troubles can arise from even the earliest Beginner lessons. Georgian has no articles such as ?a?, ?an?, or ?the?, and also their language does not differentiate for gender. ?He?, ?she?, and ?it? are all the same pronoun. Therefore, even a relatively simple sentence such as ?She is a girl? can present challenges to the new speaker. Georgian also has a very different grammatical structure from english. For example, prepositions do not exist; instead, there are suffixes tacked on to the end of the relevant noun. Therefore, ?I am from America? becomes ?Meh var Amerikidan,? with ?-dan? serving the function of the english preposition ?from?. As of yet, I have discovered no simple or across-the-board solution to helping beginning students past these difficulties. Instead, I have found it is most effective to simply listen to my students. If I make myself truly aware of their strengths and weaknesses, then I put myself in a position to be able to alter and develop my ever-changing lesson plans and ideas. So far, all of these questions have been addressing relatively simple differences in grammar, syntax, and phonetics. However, as I was to learn very quickly, the challenges of teaching in Georgia span much more wide-reaching areas as well. The established culture within a Georgian school may well be shocking for even experienced Western teachers, and for a new teacher in a foreign environment it can be little short of terrifying. I have, in all good-natured seriousness, used the word ?feral? to describe my students. To say that discipline is a problem is putting it extremely mildly. In a Georgian school, it is perfectly acceptable to interrupt the teacher, to get out of your seat, to carry on conversations during the lesson, to draw ponies or princesses, or even to fight. The teacher has no true authority beyond what the students themselves are willing to grant her. Particularly with younger students, their attention span is virtually nonexistent. Due to this hopefully very specific environment, many student-led activities such as pair work are simply not feasible. In my Georgian classroom, I often need to personally hold the attention of every student or the room will immediately break down into chaos. Even taking a few seconds to help an individual student with diction means that I will have a minimum of five students out of their seats by the time I turn back around. One of the hardest things for me to come to terms with is the rampant and largely accepted cheating that goes on continuously. Even Georgian teachers have told me that it is not cheating, it is ?helping,? and everyone does it. Another aspect which was hard to get used to was the attitude towards homework, which is sporadically assigned and then never checked for completion or accuracy. The reasons that things have progressed so far in the Georgian education system are multifold, but stem in large part from a heavily male-dominated society where over 90% of teachers are female. However, regardless of the cause it is unfortunately now deeply embedded and it is unrealistic for me to expect that students who have behaved this way for years will suddenly sit and be quiet simply because I ask them to. My initial attempts to correct homework were met with hostility by both teachers and students, and my efforts to corral cheating were blocked at every turn. However, rather than allow myself to succumb to frustration, it is far more practical and effective to adjust my own methods and expectations, in order to be the most efficient teacher possible within the boundaries presented to me. Despite the myriad of challenges presented both inside the classroom and out, I have enjoyed every day that I have spent in the company of the Georgian people. My students are not quiet, but they are nothing if not enthusiastic, and my entrance into the classroom is often met with cheers, or at the very least a boisterous chorus of hellos. This school year, I am working with grades 1 through 6, and I keep them engaged with plenty of songs, visuals, and making them laugh, often at my own expense! Mine is often an atypical classroom, but it is never a boring one. It is the most rewarding feeling in the world when you realize that your students are, in fact, learning, and that you are the one helping them along.