“Goodbye to ELTOC” by Adele White, September 13, 2018
The first thing I want to do is emphasize how enjoyable and personally rewarding being a volunteer with ELTOC has been. ELTOC’s work is invaluable to those who cannot get to ESL classes. In two cases, my students had infants to care for and no back up for babysitting or running their households never mind mentioning transportation to get to classes.
In my current and long-standing assignment, my three students work seven days a week. They are not here tonight as their shop only closes after the last customers are served. That is often around six p.m. or later. Then, with only one vehicle, they head home which sometimes includes a grocery stop and a bank stop to deposit the business receipts.
The English evaluations that ELTOC carried out on the students were superb. Thus, the tutoring materials and support I was provided with were invaluable. On a one-on-one basis, students were able to ask for precise help in learning vocabulary for specific situations that they needed or might encounter. For a new student even going to the grocery store can be a daunting experience, especially with one or two wee ones in tow.
With my first student, role playing, targeted vocabulary and two field trips to the grocery store were undertaken. In the first trip, because of my student’s trepidation, I led the interaction with the cashier. The second trip was for my student to actually make a purchase on her own with me there only as a confidence booster.
Tutoring English itself has been interesting and infuriating by times. The fun part is the interaction you have with your students; the infuriating part is the English language itself. As your mother tongue, your base premise is that the language is really quite simple if a little quirky here and there. Of course, there are the usual hurdles such as the “th” sound which is difficult for some. And the absolutely crazy pronunciation of words such as laugh or cough, given its spelling. Teaching the variation of the pronunciation of the “g” and “j” in our language only complicates the issue as two g’s in garage come into play just adding to the confusion.
As most of you tutors know, I could be here all night highlighting the anomalies of our language. But on a personal note, I have to say that my students quite consistently drop the pronunciation of the letter “s” often at the end of words, but frequently inside words as well. I felt I was on solid ground here and said vociferously “you must pronounce all your s’es. So, a little word of advice; don’t make any categorical statements with respect to our language as there will always be an exception. The following week when I was driving my students back from a field trip they very proudly told me to turn left onto ISSSland Park Drive. Humble pie on my menu again.
Now the last thing I want to touch on is the old saying “cast your bread upon the waters and it will return to you.” This is probably an understatement when it comes to volunteering with ELTOC. In the years that I have volunteered, I have learned so much about the Vietnamese and Karen cultures. It has also broadened my horizons on what new immigrants go through on coming to a new country.
The ties that I have made will not end at the termination of my volunteer work and for these ties I will be forever grateful to ELTOC. To me, this is the best and only thank you that I ever hoped for. I wish the board, staff, tutors and students every success in pursuit of their goals; every one of you is doing a fantastic job.
Adele White, Volunteer Tutor – September 13, 2018