the nikku

reflecting on ESL/EFL and its relation to faith

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Volunteer ESL

On Saturday I had the opportunity to volunteer at an ESL program at a
nearby Baptist church. The program is rather small but respectable.
There are only two levels, a high and a low level class, but both use
good materials and modify them in an effort to make them even more
useful for their students.

The neighborhood is mostly Chinese, and the students are mostly Chinese
as well. They are mostly older students (60+) some of whom have lived
here for nearly 20 years but have always lived and worked in the Chinese
part of town and hence use little English.

The lessons seemed to be useful for the students. In the low level, the
lesson was about occupations. They could use these words to talk about
themselves, their children, friends, relatives, etc. in simple
sentences. In the high level, the lesson was about marriage ceremonies
and customs in the US and China.

In the low level class, the teacher was an older man from the English
speaking congregation. In the upper level class, the teacher was a man
who had taught English in China from the Chinese congregation. Very few
of the students go to the church regularly.

The focus seems to be on speaking skills, but both teachers seem to lack
training on pronunciation mechanics. Of course since they are volunteer
teachers, the pieces of their lessons also sometimes seem to lack a
clear purpose. As a volunteer, I want to find a way to politely make
suggestions without over stepping my bounds or embarrassing the teacher.

UPDATE: I went to the program on Wednesday and was delightfully
surprised to find about four teachers teaching about 40 students. The
activities were slightly more varied with large group, partner work and
small group work. Some of the students from Saturdays also come on
Wednesdays. I was glad to see them again. :)

One of the teachers had been to Taiwan for a two weeks teaching English,
and she gave me the contact information of a missionary turned English
teaching materials maker whose materials they were using. Evidently
this is the same material used in public schools.

There was also one Japanese student there. I was talking to her partner
about the typical pronunciation problems for Chinese speakers. I looked
at her and said, "Kaori, I know you're not Chinese, but that might still
be helpful." She smiled. When we talked later I found out that she had
recently married an American and moved to the States. She mentioned she
hadn't met any other Japanese people since she moved to LA, so I invited
her to a nearby Japanese fellowship that I know of. We'll see how that
turns out.

Even though it will only be for a short time, being involved in this
program has truly been a blessing!


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