Teaching English as a Second Language in Small Communities in America
There is currently a need for more people willing to teach English as a Second Language (ESL) across America. Several small communities have accepted immigrants from other countries. Although children of school age will learn English in school, the parents and grandparents struggle to learn English as they continue their daily lives and earn a living. This is a challenge as most Americans do not know any other languages as they do in Europe, so the immigrant needs to communicate in English to accomplish anything. This leaves the older generation feeling isolated and causes problems in everyday life, such as going to the bank. In most large cities, finding an ESL class is easy. In rural America, this is not necessarily the case. Immigrants have a more challenging time assimilating into the culture without this assistance.
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This post was written by our TEFL certification graduate Deborah T. Please note that this blog post might not necessarily represent the beliefs or opinions of ITTT.
ESL classes in the local community can provide a safe learning environment for mastering English. Although English grammar is relatively simple to learn, English spelling, pronunciation, and idioms can be challenging. Different languages, even those with the same alphabet as English, pronounce letters very differently. For example, even though Spanish and English are Latin-based, they pronounce J, H, V, and Y very differently. Spanish speakers, especially older learners, who have spent a large part of their life speaking only Spanish, have difficulty learning these new pronunciations. They also have known behaviors that make understanding their spoken English sentences difficult such as adding an E sound to the beginning of any word that starts with S. For learners such as these being in a classroom with others struggling with the same challenges and a teacher with the patience to help them learn new sounds can be invaluable.
Another beneficial aspect of ESL classes is that they can provide a safe environment to ask questions. When in a store, most people would feel uncomfortable asking, âWhat does that expression mean?â In a classroom setting, this question would seem entirely in place. The teacher can explain idioms and expressions and provide more details on local customs helping the immigrants understand the new world they live in.
There are additional challenges that a local class could help immigrants that an online course or a class in a nearby city couldnât provide. The first would be learning local sayings. For example, in Minnesota, they use the words âYou betcha.â Another advantage of a local class would be connections. Having other learners in the classroom with you can provide support and a non-threatening way to practice the new skills learned in the school.
There are several challenges of small-town ESL classes. The initial challenge is finding a teacher willing to commit the time and energy needed to teach the lesson. Often this is just someone willing to teach but may not have any formal teaching license. Another challenge is that these classes are usually small and have a wide range of English skill levels represented in the study. This requires a lesson plan that can engage students that speak hardly any English while not boring those who have essential fluency. With a small class size of 3 to 4, you canât split the class into a beginner class and an intermediate level. Using the engage, study, activate methodology, these challenges can be overcome with planning and creativity.
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