Monday, June 1, 2015

Teaching English as a Foreign Language

Part of what we are doing here in Mwanza is to increase the educational level of the Bible School students, not only in spiritual subjects, but in practical subjects as well.  My wife, Julie -- known here as "Mama Anna" -- (married women are often referred to by the name of their eldest child), has been teaching a beginner's level English class.  Our daughter, Susanna, goes with her each day as her in-class assistant.  There is a limited amount of spiritual material available in Swahili, so many of the pastors desire to learn English in order to have a broader range of material available to them.  Mama Anna's English class is an important addition to the other subjects that are being taught here.

The remainder of this article was written by Mama Anna to share both her background and experience in teaching English to the Bible School students since we have been here.

     "When I was first married and had two children, a newborn and a toddler, God gave me an opportunity to teach a young man from Afghanistan how to read English.  I would put my newborn in a baby swing, and my husband watched our toddler while I went through the alphabet, then advanced to teaching him words, then sentences.  Now I am pleased to know that this student is now attending college.  What a privilege that God allowed me to be a part of this young man’s life in a significant way!  I thank God for giving me this opportunity to teach language to a foreigner.

     I realize that God has given me the ability to relate with foreigners well.  For one thing, my parents adopted my sister, Barbara, from the country of South Korea when she was twelve years old.  So I had the experience of watching her learn English, and she showed me the Korean alphabet.  Having Barbara join our family was very influential in my life.  We also had foreign students stay with us various times, and became friends with a Vietnamese family immigrating to America after the Vietnam War.  Before and after getting married, I worked at a children’s home which took care of children from many different countries.

     When my husband began coming to Tanzania in 2011 to teach Bible school students, I didn’t imagine that I could come also, but I sure wished that I could join him on a trip.  Then God surpassed my wildest imaginations, and we were all able to come together as a family, (except our oldest son, who had just turned 21 years old), for six months in 2013.  We also had a friend from church join us on this trip.  I was amazed at God’s provision.

     I was interested in teaching an English class so I brought a few basic language books and made some flashcards. I was not sure how to teach a class, but was willing to try.  I told the pastor I was willing to teach English, and ended up with two small classes.  I used the chalkboard a lot, and basically tried to teach English grammar, some pronunciation, and some songs and prayers.  I found that the beginners in the classes were not picking up what I was teaching, so I found it quite stressful.  Then I was told to make a test for one of the classes, and it was evident that half of the class had not picked up much English from the teaching.

     When we returned to Kentucky, I decided to get some training on how to teach English as a foreign language.  My husband and I found a three month on-line course based out of England, and I applied myself to learning some teaching skills with the faint possibility of being able to return to Tanzania.  I am so thankful that I took the course because God performed another miracle in our lives, and we were able to return to Nyakato Bible School in Mwanza, Tanzania, to seek God’s call in our lives.  So this time I was prepared to teach English to some students.

    The Bible school began in February, and the pastor here gave me opportunity to teach the students.  They come for three sessions of three months for each session.  This first session started with nine students, then two students joined after a month, so it now has eleven students.  When I began teaching these students, it became evident that most of the students were beginners in English.  So I began with very basic concepts, and found the teaching very challenging.  I was so grateful for the training I had received, and utilized more student interaction and practice in pairs and groups.  Even though I am not a natural in teaching, especially leading a group, I find that I am able to teach as I rely on the Lord for direction in making lesson plans.

     My daughter, Susanna, is assisting me in this class. She helps me by demonstrating the language point I am teaching each day, helping the students practice the new skills, and aiding me in teaching them songs.  She often talks with the students out of class, since they stay in a dormitory right next door.  They have told Susanna that she teaches them English outside the classroom, while her mama teaches them in the classroom. 

     The family helps in teaching by drawing pictures for some of my lessons.  I don’t have the gift of drawing, not even stick figures, but my husband and our children are all artists.  So I tell them what I need, and they draw pictures for me.  This week I was teaching words describing “feelings”, and they all had a lot of fun drawing some pretty crazy faces depicting various human emotions.  I thank God for this opportunity we have in teaching the Bible school students English this year."

May the peace of Christ be with you,
Brother Nathan and Mama Anna


Anonymous said...

Very interesting. And a worthwhile project. Still praying daily for you all. Keep up the good work!


Fr Francis Wardega OFM

SD said...

Oh, Mama! I wish I was there with you!

nancy john said...

i dont know why english is that hard to learn(probably because there are a lot of different meanings for one word) but as a native english speaker it seems easy.

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