The language class is one of the rare environments where unknown people meet for a short, long but intense period of interaction around common goals. With time, friendship can result of such interactions but also frustrations. Our interest in this article is what happens between the trainer and the trainee like in the examples below.

“I had an auntie who knew French yet none of her siblings could understand the language. So to keep them from reading her diary, she wrote all her private encounters in French. She spoke the language with so much passion that I made sure to learn French when I joined secondary school. However, my experience was not the best. The class so was large that the teacher always taught to finish the class rather than ensure that we understood. So when it came to dropping subjects, French was the first one off my list.

However, the love for the language stayed. I decided to give it another try at Alliance Française Kampala. My experience so far has been great and this I owe to the teacher student “chemistry.” (Student)

“During French classes, the trainee noticed that she was sad when the trainer did not come. She felt annoyed when he asked her a question and after some weeks, stopped coming to class regularly and complained that the trainer was in love with her that’s why he was asking her more questions than other trainees. When she was promoted to the next level of her class, she realized that the same emotional ties were happening with a female trainer so she started questioning herself. The only difference was that, she was not suspecting the female trainer to love her but still she was always happy to attend her classes.” (Language Trainer)

The two stories above relate to the same topic of this article: the transference mechanism during language classes. What is the transference mechanism? How does it manifest and is it possible to control it?

The transference mechanism is the affective link that grows in a relationship due to regular interactions. The affection can be positive or negative. When it is negative, it leads to frustration, complaints, negative views and misinterpretation of people’s actions. It’s what happened with the trainee and her male trainer in the second example above. When it’s positive, it leads to appreciation, admiration, and intense desire to be close to the other. That is the second experience of the trainee and the first narrative. This can be misinterpreted as loving the person (or being loved by the person) and every action can be misunderstood mostly in language classes, where a teacher appreciates a lot or is very kind toward a student of the opposite sex.

According to Psychoanalysis, the transference mechanism is unconscious, which means that we cannot control it. But we can be aware of it without explaining how it’s triggered. We can see its effects without understanding its causes. The interesting thing is that we can live with it without hurting ourselves or others. When the effects are well managed it can contribute to understanding who we are and, what type of persons attract us or are attracted by us. These are some ways to cope with the transference mechanism.

Reflect on what you feel. You can write down what you feel towards the person. It will help release the energy. Don’t make the mistake that many trainees often do by narrating their emotions to someone. It then spread like a wildfire in the class, then outside the class. It can damage the trainer’s image because you are confusing love, sex and transfer. Finally, it can leave you in confusion also when you will realize it was just a crush.

Be realistic. It’s good to make the difference between what we feel and what can be achievable. You will surely notice that the trainer appreciate every student that do well in an assignment, even people of the same sex. If you push your analysis further, why don’t you think the trainer is in love with student of the same sex as well?

Avoid contacts after classes. This is a good tip to help your emotional excitement calm down. Since it is the class contacts that create the emotion, it will come down after if you spend a long time without seeing the person. This include, avoiding personal whatsApp interactions, email, SMS, phone call (if you need help during your homework, ask a classmate or wait to get help while in class).

Be positive. Amazingly, transference can be transformed into good outcomes. You can be shocked by to see the type of person that can move your heart or leave you cold. Have fun with that….it’s part of being human.

You can read more  on the link bellow about transference and its opposite mechanism, the counter-transference where it’s the trainer who has emotional attraction towards the trainee with the same manifestations.

Hervé-Boris Ngaté, Psychologist/Language and Cross-Cultural Trainer



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