English As a Second Lanugage - Unlocking the Mystery of English
Ask any of our refugee parishioners and they'll tell you that learning English is key to getting a job, going through their mail, communicating with their children's teachers, making a doctor's appointment, understanding directions, talking with their landlords, buying a car, and knowing which bus to take. They need to be able to speak and understand English in just about every area of their lives. For many who have had very little formal education or can't read or write in their native tongue, it's an almost impossible task.
In response to this need, St. Leo's offers opportunities to increase their English proficiency by providing two English as a Second Language (ESL) groups each week.
Organized by our Parish Nurse, Mary Beth Batsch, our Burundi ladies group meets on Thursday mornings and stays through lunch. An ESL teacher is on hand to help them learn how to cope in their new home. They discuss everything from healthcare, reading and following medication directions, childrearing, hygeine issues, recipies and how to read them, to how to fill out job applications.
The Saturday morning class offers a more individualized approach. They have a fairly consistent group of students and tutors that show up every Monday evening. There are essentially five instructors that come every week: Whitney, Samuel Dunlap, Jennifer Sands, Micah Cleary, and Kimberly Albers, who are aided by additional volunteers, including some from our partner parishes. The class has anywhere from 4 to 11 adult learners in attendance, all of whom are from Burundi, the Congo, and Central African Republic. Their main languages are Kirudni, Swahili, and French.
Each week, class begins with a check-in. They learn how each other's week went, or talk about cultural traditions around a certain holiday or season. They discuss one or two American idioms, or colloquial expresions in a large group, such as "piece of cake," "take it easy," or nevermind."
The large group then is divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced English speakers. If there are enough volunteers, they will try to provide the beginners with one-on-one English lessons on alphabet, phonetics, vocabulary, and simple sentence construction. The intermediate group typically works in small groups of 2 or 3, expanding their vocabulary, learning more complex verb tenses, and building confidence in their speaking abilities. The advanced speakers work as one group on more technical grammar and conversational skills (this is an interesting group to sit in on, as they are able and willing to hold more in-depth conversations).
They have gone on two "field trips" thus far, one to the library, where they applied for and received library cards, and another to the grocery store, where they identified different fruits and vegetables. The intermediate group took a grocery list and did a scavenger hunt of sorts to find all the items on the list while simultaneously comparing brands for the best prices.
Progress is measured through individual tutoring logs, which tutors fill out for each of their students, noting the activities, material covered and sugggestions for next week. If a tutor or student is not present one week, teachers can check the logs for what needs review and continued work when a student returns, thus keeping the student progressing.
As in so many other areas of ministry here at St. Leo's, God provides what we need as we need it - and we are very grateful.