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Monday, February 08, 2010

Padawan Learner

Jan 30/10

"Quiero lo!!!" I want it!!!! she said, looking into my eyes with determination. It would be a day or so later that I would realize that I was looking into the eyes of my padawan learner.

OK! Hold it! Back up! She wants what? Who is she? And what's this about a padawan learner? Alright, I think I'd backtrack abit to and give you some background on what is going on. A padawan learner by the way, if you've ever seen star wars is a child or an adult who is in the training stage to be a jedi knight and learning from a jedi warrior. What does this have to do with me? You'll understand after I've done explaining.

So I've been continuing to work on plans to make the english language available to the people here. This has involved emails back and forth between me and the leadership as well as alot of thinking and praying in my own personal time. It also involves alot of chatting with folks within the church branch at Centro to assess their needs. After much thought, I've decided against running group classes to teach them english. Instead, I'm going to go back to North America and make the people chapters super happy by buying a ton of workbooks the people can use in their own homes. Then I'm coming back here and distributing it among the people. This sounds easy but it is actually not. English is most desired language on our planet to learn right now and because of that, there is a ton of material available...both good and bad. Not only do I have to find the right material but when I do, I have to decide how much of it to order. There are days where I feel like I'm spending every other minute in my chapters shopping cart changing the quantities and items. But at last I think I've got it right and am now satisfied with what I plan to bring from North America.

The reason I have decided on group classes is firstly because I have no experiences teaching group classes. Secondly, because group classes actually don't work very well. If you want to learn a language, every website you go to will advise you against going to a group class. This is because there are people that learn fast and people that learn slow and everyone learns in different ways. You don't get personal attention in those classes. Also being Argentina, I might get a class one week where one person shows up and a class next week where 10 people show up. There is no consistency and ultimately, no one is going to learn much of anything. And unfortunately here in Argentina, group classes or intensive courses are the only way you can learn another language. Or through private tuition which is 40-60 pesos an hour which most Argentineans are unable to afford. This is why most people here cannot speak english. They don't have the money to and they don't have the time to go to group classes which don't do them very good the ones that actually do sign up for group classes.

But after lots of chats with the people at Centro, it seems to be a general feeling that workbooks and compact discs are a great idea. People don't have to leave their homes and they can set their own schedule of when they want to learn. What I have told the leaders is that I think that if I can get a good amount of people here with enough english knowledge to say "Hi, my name is...." That would be good enough. And then it would be good to have one or two leaders who actually have a basic working knowledge of english, enough to have a conversation and be able to guide tourist and visitors and make them feel comfortable and at home.

It was only a day or two after I had a brief conversation in the washroom with a lady named Evelin that I realized that I had finally found my "padwan learner". She is a cell group leader. In fact, she helps lead the same cell group with Marisa, the one that I was a part of first when I came here. She and Marisa are good friends. I do want to teach Marisa english and I will whenever she wants and she is ready. And that is the key word here......ready. I think Marisa like everyone else would love to learn english and is open to it. But for Evelin, it goes a step further than just wanting to learn english and being open to it. When I talk to Evelin, I feel something that I haven't yet felt with anyone else.......hunger. Evelin is hungry to learn and in being hungry, it actually has made her ripe, ready, and eager. When I was speaking with Evelin, I told her that I felt that a majority of people have a deep desire to learn english and as I was speaking to her, I felt like my words were resonating with something deep within her soul. Like Gladys, it's something that she's wanted for a long time.

In the english speaking world, it is very much the same when it comes to the language of spanish. In our world right now, the three most popular languages are english, spanish, and the third being french. And there are many people that would say "Oh, I would love to learn spanish!" And I'm sure they plan on learning some day. But what seperates people who talk about wanting to learn and people who do learn is this..........HUNGER. I tell people that learning a language is fun and rewarding but at the same time intensive and challenging. Don't start unless you have passion! Because if you don't have passion and if you don't have hunger, you'll quit before you've ever really getting your feet wet in the language learning. It takes alot of patience, time, and discipline. You have to be consistent and commited. And it's important to never get satisfied with status quo or at the level that you are at.

I know how easy it is to get lazy. I've hit a level where i can live, work, and have relationships in a spanish speaking country. I was in the middle of Argentina here when Rocket Spanish (one of the programs I used to further my spanish), released an advanced course. It happened around the time of my birthday. Part of me wanted to be lazy and be like "Why do I need to study any further?" But I knew that attitude would be the death of potential as a language learner. So I bought it and began digging into all this advanced material right here in the middle of a spanish speaking country. And you know what? I have no regrets! I had so much fun fine tuning all my skills and it's made my conversations with my friends all the more richer.

Hearing the tone in Evelin's voice, I knew I needed to look no further for the leader that I would choose to spend time and attention on to equip them with the language of english. She has the passion and the hunger and the desire to see it through and spend all those hours needed to conquer this new language. A few days ago I wrote an article on tricks to learning english. In it, I share all my experiences I have learned as a language learner as well as an english teacher. But I have designed it for people who speak spanish and want to learn english. In it, I show them all kinds of tips and tricks and shortcuts they can use to master this language and things that they should expect and be aware of when they start learning a new language.

Only there was one problem.......the whole article is in english. So it's not going to be very much use to any of my spanish speaking friends at this point in time. But it was during a delicious steak dinner at restaurant nearby that the idea came to me. Why don't I ask if someone who is a native speaker and bilingual to translate it into Argentine spanish? Then I can simply cut and paste the words and send it to anyone!!!!! Wow! Argentine beef must be good for the brain! How else am I getting these brilliant ideas over dinner? So after I finished my meal, I raced back to my computer and asked my wonderful friend Elizabeth if she didn't mind translating it into Argentine spanish. She is someone who has also made this trip a breeze as she was the customer rep who I dealt with when I first got in touch with this program and she did an excellent job of arranging things. Since then, she has actually had several major job opportunities open up to her and I could not be more happy for her. It brings me joy to see someone as wonderful and positive as Eli doing so well and she deserves every good break that she is getting :)

But back to the story. So Elizabeth gets back to me a day or so later with the first part of my article beautifully translated into Argentine spanish. I was beyond pleased and I've told her to take her time and there is no rush. Her being a language learner herself and having studied english for 10 years, she is one person who's advice I consider valuable in creating and correcting the article and making it appropriate for people wanting to learn english. So as of today, I sent Evelin a few things to get her started. I sent her the portion of the article that has been translated. As well I forwarded her a copy of my email to the co-pastors with my idea on getting english going at Centro. As well, I wrote her an email to let her know that I think that she's the right person I am looking for to get grounded in the english language and that I do see and feel the passion and desire that she has in her voice when I talk to her.

During our brief conversation in the bathroom, that's when I explained to her about how North America, the mentality is a little different. Because our lives are complicated and busy, alot of people opt to study at home with a workbook or some compact discs program. I mentioned that I was going to go back to my country and bring back a ton of things to help the people here learn english. And that's when with passion and desire in her voice she uttered the words "Quiero lo!" I want it!

As a language teacher, I cannot even begin to fully explain to you the warm glow I feel on the inside when I see and feel a fire on the inside of someone to go after a new language. I think I'm really going to enjoy having a "padawan learner". She's going to be a fully fledged "jedi" in no time!

Amorous Alpacas

Amorous Alpacas