They say that a teacher never forgets his/her first class. I am no exception and I know that I won't ever forget my first students I taught as a TEFL (Teaching English as a Foreign Language) teacher in Cape Town. They were a class of four students from Chad – Ibrahim, Abdel, Hamza and Ali.
Whether the sun was shining, or the heavens were pouring down sheets of rain, these fours students traveled to town every morning to their English class where they were taught an hour each day. My respect and admiration grew for these students because I had never seen such willingness to learn.Hamza, Ali, Ibrahim & Abdel-Wahid
With Journalism being my field of study for four years, one would think I’d be comfortable and at home with the English language, yet it never ceases to amaze me. Teaching English as a foreign language also made me realize how much we all take for granted in terms of our everyday language usage. If you are reading this, you are most likely English-speaking, and you’re able to comprehend whatever I’m writing, right? We don’t often think of it, but English is such a complicated language. Think of this - Why is the past tense of ‘read’ ‘read’, yet the past tense of ‘buy’ is ‘bought’? Even our spelling is bound to confuse non-English speakers! Think of words like ‘night’. Who’s to say it’s not pronounced ‘neegt’? And where’s the rule saying that the ‘gh’ of the word is silent?
The level my students were at was Beginner to Elementary. In one specific lesson, I decided to teach the five senses (see, hear, smell, taste and touch). When I asked one student to show me his ears, he pointed to his nose. This was such an eye-opener for me, and I soon realized that I had to start with the very basics, despite the fact that my students were in their 20’s.
Everyday I drilled them, teaching things like ‘eyes’, ‘nose’, ‘mouth’ and ‘ears’. Can you imagine my pride and joy when by the third day they were even able to tell me where their wrist and ankle was! On top of that, they learnt which sense is associated with the specific body part. I was beaming like a proud parent!
This month, my column is for Ibrahim, Abdel, Hamza and Ali who taught me that nothing is impossible and that if you put your mind to something, it is certainly achievable.