Friday, May 23, 2008

A new experience for The Millbrooker

Back in April yours truly spent an intense couple of days in Exeter, huddled with eighteen or so others into a windowless hotel conference room. The purpose of this was to learn the first rudiments of teaching English as a foreign language.

The course appealed hugely, and so I took things to the next stage. After all if you're trying to change career in middle age just getting on with it is something of an imperative.

Some readers will know Rupert (sadly I have no photo of him, but I'll put that right in short order) who has lots of contacts in the EFL world courtesy of his job in Plymouth. I collared the jovial (and occasionally inebriated) Molesworth dweller on the Cremyll ferry a while back and just asked if he knew if there was much demand for EFL teachers in this area. He reckoned there would be plenty and said he'd keep an eye open for work experience for me.

The man has come up trumps. As a result of his efforts I spent yesterday afternoon at a marvellous organisation for refugees in Plymouth, helping a properly qualified EFL teacher called Ann in her class of ten Kurdish men.

The class is mixed ability: one or two clearly working with great dedication to learn the language; one or two not even literate in their own language but trying very hard to understand English; most working diligently towards a level of "survival" English.

I have a new hero in Mahmoud who arrived in this country two months ago and has been "dispersed" to Plymouth. He had not a word of English when he arrived but can now hold a decent level of conversation. He attends every English lesson available and spends a lot of his time whilst watching TV jotting down phrases or words that he doesn't know or that interest him and then looks them up. If he still doesn't understand, he asks Ann at the next class. That's serious dedication, and it's paying off for him.

Mahmoud's home study method led to an interesting discussion about the word "gonna", which he'd seen in song lyrics. Ann explained that it's ok to say "gonna", but not to write it (unless you're a pop song writer of a certain ilk, I suppose).

I had a whale of a time helping with gap fill exercises, presenting a short piece about understanding personal information and discussing the difference between driving on the left (as we do) and having a right-hand drive car (as we do).

What a great way to make a living; I'll keep studying and doing work-ex until I can.

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