Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL). Sounds easy, right? Every English speaker knows that most of the world will assume speaking the language means you can teach the language—no matter how untrue that may be. This past April and May I participated in the TESOL that YWAM Harpenden runs. It is a 6 week intensive seminar open to both YWAMers and nonYWAMers that prepares you to be able to teach English, pioneer a ministry, and put God at the center of everything. The first week is all lectures: learning how to plan a lesson, biblical teaching principles, God in the classroom, and teamwork are only a few of the topics we covered that first week. In the second week, we began to teach.
From that moment on, I was teaching- day in and day out. If I was not teaching then I was lesson planning: and if I was not lesson planning, then I might be sleeping. At the end of the day though, my thoughts were always about teaching.
I have learned a few things during this time:
- I love teaching. I do not know if I could have made it through this course if I did not. I love my students and I love seeing them grow in their use of language. It is when one of my students get it that I realize all of my preparation was totally and completely worth it.
- I cannot do this without God. I know and understand that a part of why TESOL is only 6 weeks is so that we as students are forced to rely on God because there is no other way to get through it. And it works. Every night I went home and had to pray for new ideas because my creativity was used up during week 1. And every night God helped me to come up with the lesson for the next day.
- I am not just teaching English as a second language. I am teaching cultural understanding, thought processes, and world view. Some of the most important lessons I have taught weren’t focused on language. They were focused on how to use language to think through a problem and express yourself accurately. These are the lesson my students come to me after to tell me that this is what they needed to know. You would think that teaching English would be all about grammar and vocabulary, but that is not all. It is also about teaching them how to think with it, because the way you think changes from culture to culture, from language to language.
TESOL is a vital skill for any English speaker wanting to start a ministry in another culture. It is also the easiest way to reach out to the different cultures living in your local area. There are thousands of people living right here in England (and more in other English speaking nations) that need to learn English simply to survive. We, as Christians, have been called to show love to the whole person- physical, emotional, spiritual. Coming to a new country and suddenly not having the basic skill to communicate is frightening. My students tell me that they are scared every time they speak, because they are unsure of the words. We have the ability to help them.
When we teach them English we are:
- helping them to sort out their physical needs. EG, teaching them how to make a doctor’s appointment or order food.
- giving them the dignity of being able to express themselves.
- teaching them that they are not alone and that God loves them.
This last point is by far the most important one. It comes out in all of our teaching because it is true in every scenario.
The TESOL seminar has given me the skills and tools to help people learn English, it has equipped me to love people the way Jesus loved them, and it has prepared me to pioneer a ministry.
Photos: Lauren Malpass