Greg’s Blog: English as a Second Language

Last week we scratched the surface about starting a class for English as a Second Language, ESL. This week we are going to look at what it would take to start an ESL class here in our church. First, we must consider our location and demographics. When we look at statistical data relating to the population and particular groups within it in our surrounding areas what do we see? Is it multicultural? The Villages have people moving here from all over the United States and speak different languages. What about our Church, can you see a multicultural audience? I do. So what do we need to start reaching out to our community? How about an ESL class?

It will take planning. We must decide if we are going to teach English as an evangelization tool or just a social service. Then we must put a team together. We will need an administrator to establish and direct the program. A strong lead teacher and other teachers who will be willing to teach or substitute.

The administrator and teachers will have to put together a curriculum, decide how many classes and their levels, the duration of the classes, and whether or not to charge for them. The administrator will also need to provide some basic training for some teachers. Maybe a course on ESL, SLA or TESOL may be needed for some teachers. A kit of teaching tools that could be borrowed such as lesson plans, exercises, flash cards or other activities in case a teacher does not show up for any reason.

Pre-think what to expect as far as students’ needs. Research must be done to find out where community resources can be found. The program needs to be ready to answer questions such as:

* How do I gain citizenship?

* How do I enroll my child in school?

* How do I obtain a copy of legal paperwork?

* How do I obtain health care?

* Where do I go to register a vehicle?

* How do I apply for employment?

Pre-think the what if’s. What if they bring their children to learn English too? What if they need child care or transportation? What answers will the church give them?

When everything is ready to go the church needs to take some more steps like advertising and pre-registration. Advertising can be done with flyers, word of mouth, internet or the local paper. A date for pre-registration needs to be set and if the church knows anyone who speaks a foreign language they need to invite them to help communicate and register new students. Next the church will have to determine the level of English the student will be in, beginning, intermediate, or advanced, (this will also be determined by the courses available). When determining the class student some questions to ask may be:

* How long have you been speaking English?

* Have you studied English in school? If so, for how long?

* Do you use spoken and/or written English in your job?

* What can you tell me about your family?

* What can you tell me about this picture [any common scene]?

If the students cannot answer basics questions, then they should be in the beginning class. If they have studied some English and can speak simple sentences, then intermediate classes would be good for

them and so on. Sometimes self-selection based on their personal assessment maybe appropriate.

Class structure should be the same. A handout of the basic class schedule with key contact persons and basic procedures should be handed out the first day and made available to everyone. This may turn into class advertisements. Plan on starting with announcements and an opening prayer. This will prepare them for other church programs like Bible Study or Sunday services. Maintain flexibility is another key. The only thing that does not seem to change is change itself. In other words, be ready for change. Students may drop out, drop in, miss classes and return later.

Other plans will be times for breaks and fellowship. Plan a party at the end of the class. Invite the whole church to help out support and build relationships with them. Relationships are one reason why you started this program. The other is to introduce them to Christ and you cannot do that without a relationship. Once they finish their class encourage them to go to Bible study or a discipleship class in English so they can continue to use and practice the English language.

In Christ,