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[icon] ESL! - Alex R.
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Subject:ESL!
Time:12:27 am
On Monday evenings, I'm helping teach English! I have one student, Ana, and she's from El Salvador, lives here with her husband and kids, and works as a night janitor at Google. It's a program done by the Building Skills Partnership group, working with the janitors union and the Goog.

A bunch of the non-English-speaking janitors get a little bit of paid time to study English, one evening with a tutor (eg, me), and another one in a classroom setting. The BSP people seem really rad; I like the coordinator, she's Colombiana and bilingual and chill. They make it clear that what we're doing is very learner-driven: the point is for the students to learn the English that they want to learn, so they can feel comfortable doing it and make progress. (many of them haven't had much formal education, and are variably literate...)

So my first one-on-one meeting with Ana was earlier this evening. We talked (mostly in Spanish) about learning English and how it's hard, but we'll do it anyway. She's super motivated, but a bit afraid. We're working on writing a bit too. Interesting moments from today included her honing in on the weird Germanic features in English: think/thought, fireman/firemen, and all the bizarre sounds like "th" and "w" at the front of "want". (she tends to approximate an initial 'w' with a 'g' ...) Also, learning new phonemes seems really difficult -- hearing differences in vowels where Spanish doesn't have one of them seems hard. And makes me want to try learning a tonal language.

Any thoughts on language learning for a mature adult? I just ordered The Cat in the Hat, and suggested that she try listening to the radio in English to get a better sense of the sounds...
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sajith
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Time:2011-07-12 04:11 pm (UTC)
This is super awesome. Helping someone learn is one of the best things you can do with your time. Have a lot of fun!
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oniugnip
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Time:2011-07-13 05:50 am (UTC)
Thanks! :) I think it'll be fun. Although I'm only signed on to do it for as long as I'm on the internship, and that's a quickly dwindling number of weeks...
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gregh1983
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Time:2011-07-13 12:07 am (UTC)
Also, it'll help to imagine a vowel in front of the 'g'

Yeah, this is sort of how I figured out syllable-initial "ng" (and a few other things) in Thai. I think I started with the English word "singer" and then gradually chipped away at the beginning of it until "nger" felt natural. Maybe your student could do the same going into English, with you there to provide feedback on when it starts to sound "right"?
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oniugnip
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Time:2011-07-13 05:49 am (UTC)
Neat! Yes, good suggestion!

(do you speak Thai?)
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gregh1983
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Time:2011-07-13 01:34 pm (UTC)
Very very little. I've slowly acquired the ability to speak and recognize about 60 or 70 words, plus enough reading to sound most things out (exclusive of tone). It probably all sounds wretched, though, because it's hard to keep up with it by myself.
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oniugnip
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Time:2011-07-13 05:48 am (UTC)
Totally in agreement about focusing on recognition at first. It'll be a big improvement when she can reliably get from audio to phonemes to tokenized words.

Linguist senses tingling! The deep question: are CL practitioners better, worse, or just nerdier language teachers, all other things being equal? Mike has done quite a bit of ESL teaching...
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(Anonymous)
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Time:2011-07-14 02:27 pm (UTC)
What an excellent thing. Both you and Ana deserve congratulations for making the effort!
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(Anonymous)
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Time:2011-07-15 02:29 am (UTC)
You should ask your grandfather for some tips. He's been doing this for years- and with people whose language he doesn't speak.
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(Anonymous)
Subject:granstan on ESOL
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Time:2011-07-18 12:22 am (UTC)
Hi Alex - Granstan here. I am also teaching in esol. My current student is a 66 year old Romanian fellow Educated as an engineer and spent past 20 years in Israel. He is Orthodox Christian, but his wife is Jewish. Very interesting past history. He can communicate in English, but wants to improve his speech. We have great conversations.I'm learning as much as he is. I've been doing this for the past 15 years and have had many wonderful students. Some from Southeast Asia and several from Latin America. Even had one lady from Iran- very savvy.Have had several become citizens.
This keeps my mind active. See you in a few weeks
Love, Granstan
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oniugnip
Subject:Re: granstan on ESOL
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Time:2011-07-19 07:28 am (UTC)
Hey Granstan! :)

What a beautiful thing to do for so long! Your students are really fortunate to have you.

Can you recommend any particular exercises for getting used to the sounds of English? I suspect it just takes a lot of listening and speaking, and gradual improvement.

Looking forward to seeing you! Hope you'll bring your dancing shoes and swim trunks! *hugs and love*

Edited at 2011-07-19 07:29 am (UTC)
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[icon] ESL! - Alex R.
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