Learning everyday English
Vail CO, Colorado
AVON ” In Ben Broder’s English classroom at the Avon Library, conservation switches quickly from the meaning of the word “dinosaur,” to how the word “sheeps” doesn’t exist, to the colorful English translations of “Que pasa?”
There are four students today, two from Mexico, two from Columbia, and each have noticed that Americans have several ways of greeting each other. They call out: “What’s new?” “What’s happening?” “How’s it going?” “Dude!” and “What’s up?”
They spend a few minutes on subject-verb agreement ” “he is” vs. “they are.” They read a newspaper article and talk about the difference between “extinct” and “extinguished.” They talk about how different Mexican food is in America and how in Spanish, words usually sound just like they’re spelled. English isn’t so forgiving.
Broder, who volunteers with his wife Nancy every Tuesday, always has some loose lesson plans in mind, but most classes take a life of their own, depending on who shows up and what they need help with.
“We cover things they might hear out in the world,” Broder said.
The classes, run by the Literacy Project, are free, informal and open to walk-ins, and new students are a regular thing.
There’s a new face in class today, actually ” Francisco Duran.
Broder asks him where he’s from and what he does for a living ” both conversation practice and get-to-know you information. Duran says he’s from Cucuta, Columbia. He’s finished a degree in business administration and is going through a country-hopping phase now, hoping to see more of the world.
“I’m here to work and learn about other cultures,” Duran said.
Duran came to class with Rosie McFarland, who’s also from Columbia. She’s lived in the Vail area for about 18 months and is a regular at the Tuesday night classes. She says she helps take care of a house for some second-home owners.
Her reasons for taking English classes are simple.
“The better I know the language and the more I understand, the better I feel,” McFarland said. “The more you know, the better. It makes you feel like a better human.”
Angelica Oros is a graduate student from Mexico City earning her master’s degree in human resources administration. She came to Colorado mainly to practice English. Broder says she can read and write in English pretty well ” but has a hard time understanding it in conversation.
“I’m here because I need practice with American people,” Oros said.
Fransisco Rascon is from Chihuahua, Mexico and is earning a degree in industrial engineering. He’s in the United States earning some extra money and learning English in the meantime.
“I would like to be a better person,” Rascon said. “I would like to be a policeman.”
The Broders have been volunteering for more than six years. They don’t have a background in teaching, but were inspired by their son, who teaches English as a second language for a living and is now teaching in Thailand.
“I just learned on the job ” learned a lot more English grammar along with the students,” Ben Broder said.
Students come and go frequently, depending on jobs, schools and visas. The Literacy Project night classes are a good fit for many people who don’t have much time or money, but really want to practice their English, Broder said.
“They want to do better than what they’re doing now, want to get a better job or to help their kids with homework. They’re motivated,” Broder said.