By Jackie Nelson
A consortium of educators and former business professionals is hosting an English as a Second Language (ESL) class beginning Oct. 22 at the Hesston Mennonite Brethren Church. Cost for the class is a $10 registation fee and $10 to cover material costs after thee weeks of class.
To register or for more information call Susan Moore at 620-327-6565 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The class will be a nine-week course on conversational English, focusing on communicating with physicians, teachers and business professionals.
Susan Moore, one of the instructors and coordinators of the class, said it will be focused on communication skills in different settings. Moore has a number of professionals assisting with the class.
“We have a pretty diverse group. There is a retired pastor and educator, four additional retired educators, a businessperson, an engineer, a surgical nurse, a manager, and an avid quilter and people person,” she said.
In addition, Moore said several of the educators are fluent in Spanish.
“We are going to be speaking in English, but we have several individuals and several staff members who are fluent Spanish speakers. So far, we have people from five different languages interested in the class,” she said.
Moore said the class is designed to help those who speak some English, but may have retained a heavy accent.
“We have lots of people coming here who don’t speak English, or speak it in a way that can’t be understood. We have some excellent English speakers – but it is difficult to understand because of a thick accent,” she said.
Moore said students will benefit from the class by being more connected to their local community.
“Our goal is that people will be able to talk with teachers and communicate at the schools. They will be able ot talk to employers. If you can speak clear English, you are in a much better position to earn more money and have better job possibilities. If you can only speak your native language, and it isn’t English, you are going to be pretty isolated in Hesston Kansas – or anywhere. When I was isolated because of language, I got very lonely. It’s difficult,” she said.
Moore said not only will the course help with fluency, but confidence in speaking.
“Language growing is a slow process. It’s slow and painful. But we are going to try to make it as pleasant as possible and encourage people to come and learn. There will be a little homework, but it will build on itself. We want people to be confident in working on In addition to working on speaking skills, Moore said there will be discussion of some of the odder points of American culture.
“We will be talking about cultural difference, explaining some of the holidays we have. Coming from another culture, imagine dropping into Halloween. There are things like Thanksgiving, and even Christmas that are a little different and need some explanation. We will be talking about sports, too. Wouldn’t you like to have someone explain football? We have lots of interesting things taking place that just need a little context,” she said.
Moore said after experiencing a language barrier while traveling abroad, she understood the importance of cross-language communication.
“When I retired, I started doing volunteer work at World Impact and worked at the clinic and the thrift store. People didn’t speak English and would have their child translate for them. You can imagine how awkward this is in the doctor’s office, or even in a thrift store. It because apparent there was a real need. I’ve lived over-seas a total of nine years in countries that didn’t speak English and I know what it’s like to not be able communicate,” she said.
Moore said time in Costa Rica helped her appreciate the difficulty of full-immersion learning.
“We were in over our head when it came to Spanish. That experience helps you to commiserate with someone who is trying to learn English. The language is difficult,” she said.
Moore said in the U.S. it is evident there is less patience for non-native speakers.
“We hae the North American cultural virtue of keep your nose to the grind stone, as we don’t want to be bothered or slow down. We don’t want to be bothered by someone who doesn’t speak English. People get annoyed; you can see it,” she said.
Moore said after taking part in an ESL class in Costa Rica, much of her knowledge would translate well into a class in Hesston.
“I though, ‘This isn’t rocket science.’ We get people together and you have a solid curriculum and work on speaking English,” she said.
Moore said in preparing for the class, she and the volunteers are working on details on how many students to anticipate.
“Whenever you step out and do something new, you never know what kind of reception you’re going to have. That’s been challenging. We also have selected curriculum that we hope will fill the bill,” she said.
While the class is structured and has curriculum, Moore said it will evolve to meet the needs of those attending.
“I’m sure we will grow and gather more information. I have been encouraged by the people htat have called. It has been fun to talk to them. We have people from many different language groups that have been interested and that’s been a surprise,” she said.
Moore said the class is not focused on a particular demographic.
“A person knows if they need help speaking English. It is all up to the individual. This is what makes this group diverse and interesting. You have all kinds of people coming together to learn English. We’re focused on helping people communicate better,” she said.
Moore added the class is geared toward adults.
“The kids have English exposure in schools and with their playmates. Adults don’t always have that opportunity. I’m hoping the people who may be feeling isolated because of a language barrier will join us. Those are the people we can really help,” she