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Feb 17, 2008

Teaching Without Rules

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You know how to speak English. It`s your mother tongue, after all. You have more than 25 years of experience with this language and can read, write and speak it fluently.
Now, go and teach someone how to learn it from the beginning. How hard can that be, really?

Why is the plural of "lady" not "lady`s?" What is present perfect tense? How can it be "four-twenty" when at the same time it`s "twenty after four?" Do I really know what I`m talking about? Do I just pretend to know English?

Just because you speak it dosen`t mean you should teach it.
Welcome to teaching ESL with absolutely no guidance. For the next two months I need to figure out just how to pass on the language that comes easiest to me to people who use an entirely different alphabet and read from right to left. Okay so I do have some resources available; workbooks and websites and of course, the other local and international volunteers` advice.

I have now taught at least one session of each of my three English classes, which are all at different levels. From students who still say "I have 3 sister" to others who want to learn English " I can travel internationally and speak effectively." It`s really exciting for me to think that I can possibly help to improve the potential for these people in their work/lives/studies. It`s also quite fun coming up with what activities to do next.

Aside from the English classes, I have volunteered to hold a workshop/course on the subject of Advertising at Al-Najah University. This is a bit of a daunting task, and also one that brings up a few issues not only because Palestine is quite new to commercialism, and therefore advertising isn`t as prevalent as say, in Israel, but because there are other volunteers teaching things like "crisis-support through drama"... and to me that seems so much more wholehearted sometimes. I`m not slamming advertising; it is essentially about making money which is something businesses and individuals here are in need of, but there is always another side to the coin.

Effective advertising is also something particular to each culture so if I am to teach this in English and use (mostly) western examples (some local/international as well), and possibly have the students come up with an ad or three, there will need to be a fairly good grasp of the language - the plays on words, the sayings, the things we native-English speakers/writers don`t think twice about. It will be interesting!

The international volunteers have been given a new apartment across the road from the Project Hope office, and it feels great to be settling in a little, if only for a short 8 weeks. Although after the comfy hospitality shown by Shireen and her family it will be hard to adjust to feeding myself again! All 13 volunteers pitch in and cook dinner once a week for everyone and the meat-eaters now outnumber the veggies - yeah!!

I`m looking forward to and already enjoying this experience. I also have a cell phone here if any of you feel like a personalized update or an explanation to any English rules you`ve forgotten.

P.S. An article from the BBC about cooking for peace (with people`s descriptions of Middle Eastern food! Mmmm...)

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