This is me while doing my ESL tutorial via Skype. Not that good-looking, right? But I compensate by asking my students to tell me about their day, that is if the subject of choice is Free Talking. I ask hypothetical questions if the subject of choice is News on the Web — a case of what ifs, that is. In case of grammar lessons, I encourage the student to ask me questions on the different usages of almost similar answers to questions like, “I Don’t Agree”, “No” or “I’m not sure”. All of these seem pretty easy. Operative word: SEEM. Just like photographs, things do not always appear to be what they seem. HAH!
It takes knowledge and a lot of practice to teach a second language accurately — one that isn’t your mother tongue. And, it takes patience to teach the second language to make your student understand and able to use the language in the manner that this student when she speaks it would be understood. Most challenging is, with a time pressure of 25 minutes at least, to 50 minutes at the most per lesson, it takes a lot of creativity to get the student to enjoy, remember, and apply the tutorial.
I taught my first group of ESL students a lifetime ago. They were a group of refugees from Southeast Asia who escaped from communism and were staying in a camp north of Manila. I was only there for a week but it gave me a lesson in life about how lucky we are here in our country to have English as the medium of instruction. The students had 0 knowledge of English and you really had to begin a lesson using sign language – informally as we were not graduates of any sign language schools. It was my first time to teach ESL and the trainers were all Americans. They have imparted so much information and the skills I developed in that one week, I still am able to use till now.
My second group of ESL students were my own countrymen. I was employed by an agency that was sending out caregivers to Canada. College English was a little different from ESL. I had to secure ESL books from the Thomas Jefferson Library to make known to my students that what they learned from their academics are really not enough to help them when they were already in their new country. It was good that then, I already lived in the United States which gave me first hand knowledge of how Americans spoke their native language — as I said it was a little different from English 101 and 102. I remember asking them, “What would be your reaction to “Okay, bounce.”
My third group of ESL students was almost 7 years ago, this time, a group of Koreans who came over to Manila and enrolled at the Mapua Institute of Technology Continuing Education Center. I was with them for six months. The institution had ready-made lessons so it was easier to teach the course. Unfortunately, I had a mix of students. At one class, I had college students and at the other class, I had professors. It was enjoyable though because at that time, K-Pop was becoming the fad here in Manila and here I was having a first-hand experience dealing with this group of people.
When I was still in the academe, again a lifetime ago, I actually already handled foreigners who were cross-enrolled at the college where I taught. Imagine a Chinese national or a Japanese nun with very limited knowledge of English taking up a lesson in Philippine History. Quite challenging, right? Bring it on with the fact that they were with your regular group of Filipino students who were taking up Science, Business or Arts degrees – how did I manage that? Well, the students were curious about their foreigner classmates and they were all just willing to render assistance with any difficulty understanding English or understanding Philippine History. And for that was I ever grateful to those wonderful students.
Anyway, as I wrote in one of my first few blogs last year, “Come, eat my house; I cook my wife.” and “Pardoname, pero pregunta, si?” Be it a second or a third language you’re familiar with or actually know by heart, you always have to be thinking on your feet. That’s just how it is, really.