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Church offering English as second language classes

8/21/2014 - West Side Leader
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By Pam Lifke

Crosspoint Alliance Church’s English as a Second Language classes also include a social component, with organized events for students outside of class. Students recently participated in a vocabulary workshop on baseball terms, shown below right, and an art class, shown above.
Photos courtesy of Crosspoint Alliance Church
FAIRLAWN — When Crosspoint Alliance Church Elder Bruce Lyman did a count, he found more than 3,200 internationals living within a 3-mile radius of the church — and the idea for an unusual outreach program.

Crosspoint Alliance currently is accepting registrations for its second semester of English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. The church trained its first volunteer teachers and began its first semester of classes in January.

The first classes, taught on Monday mornings and Thursday evenings, attracted more than 40 students, most of whom were women, Lyman said. About a fourth of the students were Chinese, and the remainder of the class was made up of people from India, Brazil, Germany, Japan, Mexico, Peru, South Korea, Spain and Taiwan, he said.

Some of the students were family members of visiting scholars at The University of Akron and some were family members of employees of Bridgestone or Firestone temporarily assigned to this country. Others were permanent residents, he said.

What they had in common was a desire to learn to speak the language and to connect with people around them, he said.

Many of the students were stay-at-home mothers with school-age children.

“The kids do great because they’re immersed in [English] all day,” said Lyman. “But when the teenagers get home from school, they don’t want to talk to mom, and when the husbands get home, they want to talk in their native language,” giving the mothers little chance to practice their language skills, he said.

Most of the students had English grammar courses in their native countries, Lyman said. While many were proficient at reading the language, they had difficulty making conversation. It’s good to be able to read English, but, “It’s much better to know how to talk to somebody at the grocery store,” he said.

The classes are geared toward adults, but Lyman said younger people, including a couple of exchange students, have attended the classes.

New students are interviewed by an ESL teacher to help place them in one of six levels of classes. Prospective students are shown pictures and asked to describe what the people in the pictures are doing, Lyman said. Their answers allow the teacher to guide them to the appropriate class. “If they get into a class that’s too hard, they won’t come back. If they get into a class that’s too easy, they won’t come back,” Lyman said.

A secondary goal of the program is to help the students forge friendships, Lyman said. Students have the opportunity to mingle during the 15-minute snack break during each class. Lyman said he expected students to gravitate toward others from their country and speak in their own languages, but was surprised when the group stayed together and continued to speak English. That started him thinking, “Wouldn’t it be great to have other opportunities” to forge friendships and practice language skills?

So Lyman organized events for the students outside of class. Students did a vocabulary workshop on baseball terms followed by a game of Wiffle ball on the church grounds. The lessons were followed by a group outing to an Akron RubberDucks game, Lyman said. Many students experienced bowling for the first time on another group outing, Lyman added.

Lyman said he expects many of the students who attended the ESL classes in the spring to re-enroll and spread the word to other internationals.

Word of the program is spreading. Lyman said representatives from Woodridge Local Schools contacted him when teachers were having problems communicating with mothers of students who emigrated from Uzbekistan. The Muslim women were uncomfortable meeting in a public place, so Crosspoint sent four female ESL teachers to work with the group in their apartment, Lyman said. The group soon outgrew the apartment and moved to meeting space at the nearby Summit County Educational Service Center, Lyman said. “It’s been an amazing thing. Our ladies are having so much fun working with them,” he said.

The church sponsored training for ESL teachers in January and earlier this month. Among those trained were groups from Christian and Missionary Alliance (CMA) churches in Willard, and one in Tallmadge. The Willard church began its ESL program in January, and Lyman said he expects the Tallmadge program to begin this fall.

Registration for the classes is ongoing. Thursday classes are 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. beginning Aug. 28. Monday classes are 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. and will begin Sept. 2 (a Tuesday due to Labor Day). Free child care and tutoring for older children are available during the Thursday evening classes.

Class materials cost $33. Students may register on the church website at www.crosspointakron.org/register-for-esl-classes.

Lyman and his wife, Jean, who also is involved in the ministry, have been English teachers for North Akron’s Urban Vision. Lyman also is a substitute teacher for several local school districts.

Crosspoint Alliance Church is a member of the CMA. It is located at 855 Rothrock Road in Fairlawn.

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