In my classes I have a wide variety of backgrounds and talents. The older students are really motivated to learn as they see the benefits of adding English to their resume whist the younger ones are here because their parents sent them.
My older students are a real joy. Several have their master degree so are used to studying – one is a sport science high performance coach who is very involved with the football teams. All his literature is in English and he says the best papers are all written in English and he’s even had a couple published himself in international journals. He can read well but his speaking leaves much to be desired which is the case with the vast majority as they are taught grammar at school and how to read but have next to no speaking or listen practice opportunities which is a shame.
It’s a stressful time for students in two of my classes as they are preparing for exams on 3rd December which come from Trinity College in London. I had not realised but in Spain it is mandatory that they pass English at the B1 or B2 level in order to graduate with their degrees. So bottom line is they may have finished all their University studies but need the precious piece of paper in English in order to finally receive their degree. Apparently this is a system that came in a few years ago.
A big part of the exam is conversation so I’m learning a great deal about each of them as they practice their chosen topics. They are certainly a diverse bunch including artists, teachers, lawyers, engineers, musicians and more – the one thing they all have in common is the burning desire to speak English so as you can imagine we have some very lively conversations with interesting vocabulary – last week one group pronounced “Michelle will learn to speak Spanish before we can speak English”. It’s very difficult for them when they are surrounded by Spanish speakers and there is definitely a lot to be said in support of classes that are multi-national with no common language except English.
My skills as an ESL teacher have grown enormously as this is the first class I have ever taught that shares a common mother tongue which makes it very easy for them to slip back into their mother tongue with classmates. There is certainly never a dull moment in the class which is what makes this job so interesting and I see real progress in the students very rapidly.