LINGUISTICS & CULTURE
|Data:||12/JUN/2010 3:25 PM|
|Assunto:||So you want to start an English Club|
Conversation Partners - This was a program at UC-Riverside. A native speaker would meet with from one to four non-natives.
--I found 1-3 to be the idea ratio. Less, and the conversation can get dull, there are lags in the conversation, etc. More, and participants do not have enough opportunities to talk. Everyone must talk!
--It's a bit of a problem to teach English conversation to speakers of different languages within the same group. It's easier to have all Portuguese-speakers or all Spanish-speakers than it is to work with one Japanese speaker, one French speaker, two German speakers, etc.
Japanese-American Community and Cultural Center
--All participants were Japanese speakers. Something very unique here was that there were several rows of tables. We'd have Japanese speakers on one side and English speakers on the other. The ratio was about 2:1 or 3:1. After chatting for about ten minutes, the leader would ring a bell, and the learners would move to their right to the next table and a new teacher. It certainly gave students exposure to new accents, personalities, etc.
--Teachers need to be prepared with topics to discuss. Examples could include:
----------What is your favorite movie?
----------Have you read a good book lately?
----------Tell me about your family?
----------Would you like a pet?
--The meeting of the conversation group had two parts. After about 90 minutes, the "formal" session would end and most participants would go to a nearby pizzeria where the "informal" session would take place. Students and teachers sat where they chose, left when they chose, etc. The teachers did not pay. This was a simple way for students to show their appreciation for the teachers' time.
English Club of Gramado - The learners spoke varying degrees of English.
--I always had a native speaker guest. He or she would talk about something of interest to him/her. It soon became clear that I had to limit their time. Many wanted to talk for an hour. Well, that's nice, but the students are there to learn, they need to talk too, and they can't talk if someone is giving a long speech.
--When students know in advance something of the background of the speaker or the nature of the talk, they can come with prepared question. In Brazil this often happened to me when I visited a class. The students would take turns asking me questions. The speaker should be warned that some questions may be very personal or in bad taste. If prepared in advance, the speaker will be better prepared to handle them. At one or two such meetings, for example. I told the students they could ask me about anything but politics. So, I established a rule. I was there to help with English and not to argue politics. In one classroom I had a guy ask me about American breasts. If we had all been men, fine. But I think it was an improper question to be asking in front of young girls.
--Often I was the only native speaker. I would break the group into subgroups of about three or four people, placing in each group someone with a higher level of English. This worked out well for everyone except the best speakers. They were talking with students with limited English. To learn, students need to practice with people who speaker better English than they do.
--Local newspapers were contacted and almost always wrote about the club. And the newspaper loved photographs. The stories in the newspapers helped get new members.
--People were suspicious because the meetings were free. If they were free, how could they be good? I think this is very Brazilian. Also, it's part of the Gaúcho character to be suspicious of new things. I was told that the club would become more popular after a couple years. First, the Gaúchos wanted to see how things went. People in the street often said how excited they were to be able to go to an English club, but few people actually went. I don't mean this as a joke; if I'd charged money, more people would have attended.
--Avoid meeting at churches. People who do not attend that church will probably not attend club meetings held there.
--Avoid meeting at restaurants. Some people will not have the money to pay for anything and will feel uncomfortable.
--Start on time and finish on time. It's better to begin at 4:00 PM with three people than wait until 4:30 PM when ten people may or may not be present. In time, people will be there at 4:00 PM because they know that is when the meeting begins. And don't acquire the reputation of having long meetings. People have things to do elsewhere.
Odds and ends:
--I went to English schools where I was well received. I never got a member for the English club from an English school! I think the problem was that I was seen as competition. Others told me that the schools were afraid that their students would realize how badly they spoke English and how little English was spoken by the teachers of the school. Fact or fiction?
--The club in Curitiba has had lots of success with a theater group. Maybe some members in your club would like to meet and sing together. Encourage "sub-clubs".
--Be very careful about criticism. Many people say they want to be corrected, but correction just makes them feel uncomfortable and inept.
--Here's a website that you may find useful: http://www.englishclub.com/english-clubs/english-club.htm
--You'll need to decide how often to meet. Some clubs prefer once per week, others once per month.
--Try to meet as often as possible in the same location. If the meeting is constantly changing locations, people will get confused, miss meetings, and lose interest.
--The club needs a "Master of Ceremonies". Once the club becomes more or less stable, have elections.
--A bulletin is a great idea.
When I think of more things, I'll let you know.
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