From August to October, two of our members spearheaded online English Language classes for our Indonesian partners. We caught up with the coordinator William to find out more about teaching English as a second language with partners in ministry.
1. Tell us more about these classes; how did it start?
The Indonesian English Class Ministry started out of a request from our Indonesian partners. This request came at a time when my spouse, Michelle, and I were in the middle of a TESOL (Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages) certification course. We had returned to Singapore after many years in the field and did this course as a retool for further deployment. His prefect timing!
From our Indonesian coordinator we realized there were 42 students interested in this English class. This meant we had to recruit teachers to conduct these classes. We crafted a flyer and received quite a good response. Out of the 30+ responses, I narrowed down the list to 10 teachers. Only 2 were members of Wycliffe Singapore, and the remaining 7 were from various churches in Singapore and 1 from Malaysia.
With the help of the Indonesian coordinator, we had each student participate in a placement test as well as submit an audio recording of themselves answering 5 questions to determine their English level. With this, we divided the group into 3 levels and 5 classes (2 beginner classes, 2 intermediate classes and 1 advanced class).
We paid for an online curriculum so the teachers could have this as a resource in their preparation of the lessons.
We began the class this year in Aug, and the last lesson will be on Oct 28, 2021; a total of 22 lessons for these 5 classes, twice a week, an hour each lesson.
2. What has been most challenging about teaching English as a foreign language?
The placement test gave us an indication of the students’ level but was not very precise. So, early on, the teachers had difficulty pitching the lesson to the students’ level. But after the first two weeks, as the teachers got to know the students and vice versa, I could tell that learning was beginning to take flight.
Another challenge we faced is that some of the students are in remote locations where the internet is not very stable, and they have to be allocated back into their breakout rooms upon reconnecting.
3. What is your greatest takeaway from this programme?
Our aim for providing this English class was to build capacity in these Indonesian partners so they will be more effective in their bible translation roles.
To see these students come in lesson after lesson and see their enthusiasm and improvement through the weeks is probably the greatest reward the teachers can ask for.
We see the students grow in confidence using the language in and outside the Zoom classroom e.g., in social media. They are no longer just students and teachers; no longer just partners in the bible translation movement but brothers and sisters in Christ. We rejoiced together with students who got married during this period, graduated from their formal and informal education programmes, etc. We also mourned with those who suffered illness, had family members pass away, etc. We have become family and look forward to the day we can meet face to face.
4. Words of advice for volunteer teachers?
Due to the students’ unreliable internet bandwidth, minimising the use of technology (other than the Zoom meeting room itself) makes classes easier on the students.
For students with English as their second language, less teaching and more practice and speaking opportunities are more useful for them.
Interested in teaching, language learning, or simply making a difference? We welcome short- and long-term volunteers all year round; bless others with your God-given gifts: serve with us.