ESL - I am a volunteer teaching refugees and need tips

Discussion in 'General Education' started by TomAtlanta, May 30, 2012.

  1. TomAtlanta

    TomAtlanta Rookie

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    May 30, 2012

    I am 62. My only experience teaching ESL was 35 years ago in Taiwan teaching conversational English, and more recently volunteer reading tutoring a 9 year old boy.

    I am now in a program that pairs me with an individual refugee. The program has very little funding and I don't get any guidance. I have a 32 year old woman from Burma. She studied some English before she came here. She has been here 3 years, worked in a restaurant and has understandable English. She seems smart and very motivated. She is taking a class where they teach grammar and all the usual stuff you learn in a class. My thought is that the most useful thing I can do for her one on one is lots of conversation.

    I spent some time in Guatemala and Costa Rica a few years ago. I did one on one conversational english classes and I was amazed by how fast I learned. Those years in high school spanish seemed like a big waste of time compared to 8 weeks of one on one conversation.

    Please give me your thoughts and any tips you can.
     
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  3. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    May 30, 2012

    I have found that Dave's ESL Cafe (you can Google it) is an incredible resource for people who work with English Language Learners. You might want to start there.
     
  4. TomAtlanta

    TomAtlanta Rookie

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    May 30, 2012

    Thanks. I just checked it out. It looks interesting.
     
  5. TomAtlanta

    TomAtlanta Rookie

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    Jul 2, 2012

    Today I was working with two refugees who have only been here a few weeks. One was a man about 32 from Bhutan who is here with his wife and child. The other was a single woman age 28 from Burma. Their English was good enough for us to talk about life in the USA. I had to speak a little more slowly and clearly than with my friends, but they had pretty good understanding.

    I told them they should try to make friends with Americans so they could practice their English and learn more about the culture. They both seemed a little disturbed, and asked "How do you make friends with Americans here?".

    I had no idea. I ended up asking the teacher above me and she had no idea. I think this is the biggest problem for new refuges. They can make friends with people from their own country, but it is very hard to make friends with English speaking Americans who were born here.

    Any ideas I might share with them tomorrow?
     
  6. Shanoo

    Shanoo Habitué

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    Jul 3, 2012

    While I was in university, I also volunteered to help refugees with their English. Two nights a week I worked with children, and one night a week I worked with their parents.

    The biggest thing you can do IS bombard them with conversation. Talk, talk, talk. Try and find ways to talk about things that they may not run into on their own. One of the women I worked with knew she had to go to the bank, so on top of our regular conversation, we practiced what that would be like. We practiced talking to her sons' teachers. Things like that.

    In terms of meeting friends, I think it's hard as an adult. Could you suggest joining something? A city sports league or an exercise class? A cooking class, maybe?
     
  7. onestepcloser

    onestepcloser Companion

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    Jul 3, 2012

    I think immersing them in conversation is a GREAT idea. It sounds like they're already taking classes on things like grammar and writing, so helping them with conversing, understanding humour, etc. would probably help a lot with their self-confidence and their conversational abilities. I agree that it seems immersion makes a big difference.

    How about going on outings to different places they will have to go in general? This will teach them different skills (i.e.: using the library, using the bank as Shanoo mentioned, ordering or buying things, choosing the right kind of language for your audience, etc.). I think having a lot of actual conversation - maybe pick different topics you guys can discuss or look at a short TV show episode together and talk about it to help explain certain cultural things - would be useful for them. Explain why you're doing it too so they see the purpose for what you're doing. This is really awesome of you.
     
  8. Linguist92021

    Linguist92021 Phenom

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    Jul 3, 2012

    It might be hard for them to make friends with Americans, but they should try to speak as much as they can. If they go to the store, just simple greetings, simple questions can go a long way, it's already a huge step if they try to communicate. Maybe a neighbor? go to a park, walk around on the regular basis, there are lot of regular people there usually (dog walkers, moms with their kids, senior citizens,etc.) After a while they see them there, they might be open to small conversations.
     
  9. TomAtlanta

    TomAtlanta Rookie

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    Jul 4, 2012

    Thanks everyone. Great ideas.
     

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