Steve Goble

Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)

Buenos Estente.

In 2003, a friend of mine had a particularly vivid dream that in the future I would be overseas teaching English.

About a month before I left the UK, a headmaster friend recommended that I learn to teach English as a foreign language.

Since arriving here, I could not possibly have engineered the staggering list of English-teaching encounters that have taken place in my life, purely through the doors that God seems to have opened and taken me through.

There really are far too many people to recall, many of whose foreign names I never even knew. Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Thai, Brazilian, Argentinian, French, Italian, Chilean...I couldn't have planned these appointments.

They've come to work with me – I didn't employ them though.

They've come to share my room with me – I didn't check them in though.

They've approached me in the street – whu...?

They've asked me to come over their houses and teach their families to speak English – I never advertised.

They've asked me to write letters for them to challenge the decisions of the NZ immigration department. They've asked me to represent them to the NZ tax office. Last Christmas a Chinese girl came to me in tears having lost all faith in the police to deal with the burglary and threats she'd just suffered, purely because they didn't have the patience to listen to her broken-English.

I was even invited, by a stranger (who later became Jamie), to help lead a week's bushcamp teaching illiterate children to read and write in Arapohue, near Dargaville.

The two room-mates who I made the closest friends with while here, and had the longest conversations with, were both British. And, quite coincidentally, they had both taught English in foreign countries, specifically Japan and Chile. Before he left for his next teaching adventure, Mike wrote out the details of the course that I would need to apply for.

Of course, I've also been living overseas for some time now as well.

Last week, as on previous occasions in my life, I could ignore the path that God seemed to be carefully leading me down no longer, so last Wednesday, I began a TESOL course in teaching English as a foreign language.

On day 1 we went around the room getting to know each other. We had a pretty good group, 10 including teachers. I think we all gelled on that first day.

On day 2 we watched a video called Rassias In China, in which American John Rassias attempted to teach English by mucking about and having fun.

The opening credits of this reminded me of The Steve Allen Show - Rassias wearing a comical mask, Rassias dancing, Rassias hilariously pretending to die - his theory was crystal clear. If you're having fun, you'll learn. I really hadn't expected the course to take this direction. It's a good job we all had a sense of humour!

On day 3 we put this into practice. We were told that including a simple mime with a word often made it easier to learn. To prove the point, a copy of The Beatles' We All Live In A Yellow Submarine was played, and a volunteer required to improvise relevant actions for the rest of the class to follow. Guess which mug volunteered?

On day 4 things got serious. We'd been split-up into pairs for a practical exercise. Of course, to teach English as a foreign language for half an hour required a class of non-English speakers. We had no such facilities, so we were asked to teach the rest of our English-speaking classmates at least five words in a language that none of them knew.

Hayley and I banged our heads together. What language was there that we knew, but which no-one else did? I knew a bit of French, and a bit of German from school, and had obviously picked up a few odd foreign phrases at the backpackers. But I didn't really know five good words with any authority. Hayley, on the other hand, was Welsh.

Oh, how I hoped to be able to tell my friends afterwards that I had successfully taught a class in Welsh. The comedy potential of such a claim would have been huge. We could have taught them the name of that railway station and everything.

In the end though we settled on the somewhat shorter-worded tongue of Vietnamese. The catch was that the entire lesson had to be in this language - we wouldn't even be allowed to speak to each other in English!

The first half went well. We played some video-clips of 5 animals, and we successfully taught these to everyone. Then we ran out of material.

With 15 minutes to go, it was time to call-in our 'spare' animal - the bug. I held up my carefully drawn picture of a bug and pointed excitedly to the video, which was showing a large pink animal with a snout making oinking noises. Channel 9 eat your heart out.

So I spontaneously developed the ability to draw, and we successfully winged it by adding a frog and an otter to the mix, inventing a few new learning games, and relying on the advice I'd received by email from Mike the previous night "Recap everything you can if your time's not up!!"

We got away with it anyway - everyone learnt all the eight animals' names, with the only exception being me. Yep, I successfully taught the words for pig, frog and otter without really knowing them myself! I should probably be sued for malpractice.

The final day saw some wrapping up, presentation of certificates, and some amusing examples of poor English abroad, you know: "Customers will be executed in strict rotation." That sort of thing.

Now the classwork is over, I have 60 hours of study by correspondence for the course specialisation. In fact, I have 180 hours of study as I've booked three of them.

Bhutros bhutros.

Left to right: Sharon (teacher), Hayley (Welsh), Kim (seated), Amy, Robert, Steve, Barry, Warwick (organiser), Wayne and Roberta this weekend at Onehunga Community Centre, Auckland.


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