I’ve been teaching an ESL class on Tuesday nights. (It’s just one student – is that a class?!) We meet at the library, where no food or drink is allowed, and I think this is the first time I’ve ever tried to learn without a cup of tea or coffee in my hand.
When I first met my Hungarian student, I was scared. I had been told (via email and in the slightly unclear email-way of a harried 60+ year-old), that the student was Low Intermediate.
I had expectations.
My TEFL course did inform us that the categories were not so good. That everyone has a different idea of what it means to be a “Low Intermediate.”
My student (I’ll call her Aniko) could barely tell me why she was taking the class.
She told me her name. She told me she had come from Hungary two months earlier (although she said ‘in two months’ and it took me a while to figure it out). She told me she was in America.
And I was horrified because I thought our lessons were one hour but they were two and this Hungarian woman was staring at me with big brown eyes.
~ ~ ~
Now, seven weeks later, we have only one class left.
We’ve worked on:
- past, present, and future time expressions (This one is TOUGH. How do you explain ‘awhile ago,’ or the fact that we use ‘this morning’ to describe something in the past?)
- letter-writing (because I love it so much…no, because it’s necessary)
This last one may seem silly, but let me tell you, it is hard.
I have her watch clips from movies and then fill in the blanks to see if she can hear what they say, if she can tell what should be there.
[If actors are any clue to how we Americans usually speak, we speak way too fast, way too jumbly, and way too idiomatically.]
Last night, I had her watch clips from ‘Pride and Prejudice.’ I think I was a little ambitious; the British accents and vocabulary were extremely difficult to follow. We had to watch each one at least three times, and in the end, even after she got every question right, she put her head on the table and said,
“English is hard for me.”
I almost patted her short hair in sympathy.
Yes, English is hard.
Let’s watch a little more ‘Pride and Prejudice.’
Perhaps that is my response to too many of life’s problems.