At the end of last week, our church sponsored a ELM (English Language Ministry) worskshop as beginning training for members to start an English as a second language ministry to recent imigrants to the St Louis area. It was also to serve as training for some who will go on a short-term missions trip to Juarez, Mexico, on the Texas border this summer.
I attended the workshop, and I found it interesting and helpful. First, I was fascinated with the concept of teaching adults English by using the same method toddlers use to learn the language. I guess I was fascinated because we have a toddler at home, and I could readily see the parallels. Our toddler girl is a fourth child who is a few years younger than #3, so she hears English spoken a lot more than the others did. From what we can see, it seems all of the additional exposure she gets has made her learn more quickly. She speaks in complete understandable sentences much of the time at 21 months old. This is definitely earlier than her siblings. Our foreign students are supposed to learn English in the same way–by hearing it spoken over and over again in different contexts.
In our workshop, as our students we had 3 Liberian refugees who are now located in St Louis. It was great to have actual non-English speakers with whom to practice. I also had the opportunity to try to communicate with one of the Liberian women when I picked her up at her home in South St Louis to drive her to the workshop. It was difficult to have a conversation, but I appreciated her friendliness and patience with me, despite my slowness in understanding.
I came away from the workshop anxious to see our church start its own ELM, and, hopefully, I will be able to be a part of it.