Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Can I Borrow a Cup of Sugar?

Like a character that wakes you up to tell you their story, I have so much to blog about.

Tonight was the last meeting of the ESL class I've been helping out with. And it's taken me all this time to figure out why I love ESL. It turns out my reason is very similar to why I love fiction writing.

It strips humanity down to its most basic elements. People who used to be teachers or medical aides or other professionals in their home country are reduced to simple communication. And this is okay. In fact, it's encouraged, because that's how people improve.

Two weeks ago, the professor told the students that their final exam would be a five-minute speech about someone who's very important to them. She said the student could write the speech, but that they should practice it beforehand so they aren't standing in front of the class and staring at a piece of paper. She said getting a native English speaker to listen to them practice their speech would be really helpful, because the native speaker could help with correction of word choice and pronunciation.

She said something like, "Maybe you can knock on your neighbor's door and ask them to listen. I know in San Diego we don't always know our neighbors, but this could be a way for you to meet them."

One woman from Somalia said this would be challenging, because although she sees her apartment neighbors often, they seem hesitant to talk to her. The professor said this would be the perfect excuse to start a conversation with them.

And I could completely picture it. This woman in a beautiful dress and headscarf, knocking on some reclusive person's door. And the Somali woman giving a speech where she is grasping for the right words, her pronunciation terrible because she's nervous. And the neighbor standing in her doorway, stunned the entire time.

And I thought, yes! This is why I want to teach ESL. I want to make these types of happy meetings occur.

No comments: