For the most part the family that Sarah and I are working with understand a fair amount of English. The four of the family members who are college aged are the ones that speak the most with us; while the mother, father, and grandmother do not know English… or so it seems.
As Sarah and I spoke with the children of the family the the two eldest ones seemed to converse the most while the two younger sisters smiled, listened, and nodded. This was true too in terms of the grandmother and mother. We had confirmed already that the father knows no English.
In observing I came to an understanding that maybe as a whole they knew more English than I had thought, and they were just too shy to practice conversing. This is when I began to simply ask them what certain things were in their apartment and eventually I began to find how much English they really did know when they would respond although with very strong accents. Later they informed me of English they had learned while in the refugee camps; however, it was very differently pronounced from how Sarah and I spoke.
I’ve come to realize that these individuals are very intelligent people but just like me they are shy and all it takes is patience, encouragement, and friendship to get them to open up to the possibilities that await them.
Since we changed families, we’ve met our new family twice. Both times we had the same experience as Margaret and Jason, in which everyone in the family would stop what they were doing and gather around, even if we were just helping the young kids with homework. Last time, though, some of the men in our family started playing a guitar while they watched. We’re going back tomorrow and we’re going to bring some instruments – a guitar, a tambourine – and see if after the ELL/homework, they want to play with us. Only two of the women in our family speak English, and both times they’ve mostly been preoccupied with things that needed immediate attention, like having us help fill out job application forms for their family and neighbors, so we weren’t able to talk much about music. We hope that it’ll interest the whole family, since no one needs English to enjoy music. Also, the young boys in our family showed us lots of pictures of comic book heroes and villains that they like. We were thinking of printing out coloring book pages of Ninja Turtles and helping them fill out the speech bubbles, as a way of making ELL fun for them.
When Jason and I last visited our family, we tried to do something different. We had been helping our family with ELL because they asked for our help, but it seemed that whenever we arrived everyone felt like they had to stop whatever they were doing and come sit at attention to learn. I think it started to make ELL seem like a chore to them, a sort of tense activity, instead of something that could be done in a casual, fun way. Jason and I also realized that we weren’t learning much more than what we had initially learned aabout our family just by going and teaching ELL. So we decided to share information about ourselves with them. I had just been home that weekend to celebrate my mom’s birthday so I brought them some things that we had had at the party and explained to them that it was my mom’s birthday. I showed them some pictures of my family and they were really eager to see them and to guess who was who. Right away the room just felt more relaxed and they realized we could do other things than just focus on ELL. Jason and I also brought along an oxford picture dictionary and just talked about how winter was coming up and it would get really cold, and whether they had seen snow before. We were wondering if they knew what to expect! Then the mom made coffee and popcorn and we watched some Ethiopian music videos. It was definitely a nice break from ELL.
As Katherine mentioned in her last blog, taking our family outside was a great idea and turned out to be a successful way to teach English. The two females in our family have very basic English speaking skills and Katherine and I felt as if they were hesitant to learn more. However, when we started our evening walk along the lake their eyes grew big, curious of the names of things surrounding them, and started asking questions. We also began to learn that they knew a little more than we thought they did. Going on this walk aloud all of us to become closer with one another and not be shy about speaking this new language. The male in our family knows English very well and so I went ahead with him on our walk, while Katherine taught the females more. I learned that he really wanted to continue his education. No one in the family had started classes through the agency and I really wanted them to take advantage of what the ECAC and Truman College had to offer. I was frustrated because they didn’t know much about the courses. The next morning, the father and I went to the ECAC only to find out that no one could start classes until they went to the clinics. And they couldn’t go the clinic until they had been here for over a month. Finding this out was very frustrating and disappointing to my father because his family would have to continue to wait…
Our first meeting with our family was the most awkward experience in my life…and I completely lost faith in my social skills. However, slowly things started picking up. We started working on English and trigonometry!!!!!! Slowly we are starting to have more fun as well as getting to know other family members. As a thank you gift for inviting us to their festival we decided to share a bit of our culture with them and we brought our family food from my country. At first they were just a bit confused scared of the way my food looked but we managed to convince them that it’s really good. We had a feast with Bhutanese and Polish food and to their surprised they said they really liked it, or at least they were good at pretending. We also managed to come up with a good method for them to teach us about their culture. We are using youtube videos of different songs from Bhutan and Nepal and between them they explain to us what is happening in the video and what things mean. It is a good practice for English and very fun way for us to learn more about them. As the semester progresses a question comes to mind, what will happen next semester? I hope that despite our class coming to an end in december many of us will plan on continuing visiting our families. I really would like to continue because we are developing a lovely friendship with our family.