Have you ever had to learn a foreign language? Think about what was most challenging for you in this process. Was it the pronunciation, the grammar, the verbs? Did you learn it just to pass a class, or did your context force you to use it in ways that allowed you to become more proficient?
Here in Colombia there is much emphasis on a national level for people to learn English. The Ministry of Education is looking for ways to improve English teaching programs in the schools as English is now officially part of the curriculum. There are hundreds of native English-speakers that have come from around the world to work in schools as volunteers. Most people need to have a certain level of proficiency to graduate college and to get a job once they do graduate. For years, one of the ways we as the Colombian Covenant Mission have supported the Covenant schools here in Colombia has been in helping to support their English programs. A few years ago, the Covenant elementary schools in Barranquilla requested that a short-term missionary couple focus on helping them to develop an English curriculum for the students and improve the English teaching by the teachers. Sam and Kassie Posladek served this way and helped to build such an important relationship with the schools, which we continue to strengthen today. One of the ways this relationship continues to grow is with the visit from teams and people who can help the teachers reach their goals of learning English and being equipped to teach English to their students.
We had hoped a team would be able to come and serve in January, as teachers are still in the process of preparing for the new school year and requested more support in English. The team was unable to come, but God provided the opportunity for Katie and two other missionaries, a couple from the USA who have worked in Education for many years, and a young woman from Medellin who has studied advanced levels of English to travel to Barranquilla and spend two days with the teachers. The four Covenant elementary schools have 21 teachers and each teacher is responsible for teaching English to two groups of students. This is intimidating for many of them, as their English is very basic. Still, they are so incredibly open to learn, practice and improve. They want their students to have the best educational experience possible, despite all of the challenges that they face given that many of the schools are located in difficult low-income neighborhoods.
So for two days we worked on pronunciation and phonics; we worked on sight word recognition; we learned new vocab, songs, and games. And we had fun doing it! To give them an opportunity to use English and interact with native English speakers is highly valuable to them as they have stated that their goals for their students are to develop a love of the language and be able to speak it with confidence and correct pronunciation. So they are modeling for their students what it looks like to overcome fear of learning a foreign language. The more interactions they have with teams, visitors, and native speakers, the more opportunity they have to actually use English. We pray that we will be able to continue to support these schools in Barranquilla and the others that are in other cities in Colombia in this way. We are thankful for the churches that have been faithful in sending teams and developing relationships with these schools and teachers.