Written by Gaby Coopershmidt
English, even though it isn’t a formal language in Israel, gained its place in the Israeli society as one. The English language is a common factor between the many immigrants in Israel that are trying to communicate with the locals, without knowing the others tongue. The situation of the Darfurie refugees isn’t different. Although the differences between their native language – Arabic and Hebrew, the common and official language in Israel aren’t big, communicating in English is the second best option in a western developed country like Israel.
The Borgo people association (Borgo is one of the ethnic groups in Darfur) recognized the need for educational system that will improve the communication abilities in English of the Borgo and other Darfurie refugees in Israel. As the rooftop organization of the Darfurie community in Israel, Bnai Darfur is committed to help each group and initiative. Therefore Bnai Darfur started to help the Borgo people in organizing English courses. Bnai Darfur volunteers found teachers and resources such as teaching books, a projector and writing materials.
The joint effort of Bnai Darfur and the Borgo people association bared fruit and the they were able to organize 3 classes in gradual levels – ABC, Beginners and Elementary. They intend to open another 3 classes for advanced levels once the students in the current levels will develop the required language skills.
The courses take place in the Borgo community center in 23th Shivat Tsion st., Tel Aviv. The center, a small patio converted with the help of local communal entrepreneurship, for the use of the neighbors – mainly immigrants and refugees. Beside the English classes the center resides other courses and social gatherings for the community.
The Beginners class is being taught by Emily Guthrie, a young American student that studies for her MA in conflict resolutions at the Tel Aviv University and volunteers on her free time with the community. Emily created the syllabus for the class herself. It contains materials from English textbooks and English learning websites. The class started in March and takes place twice a week. There are 7-12 students each of the days, depends on their workdays.
In a small and crowded class, Emily sits with seven of her students and read an unseen about the city of New York. Every student at his turn reads several lines and Emily verifies pronunciation and explains complex expressions. After they finish reading, the students answer together with Emily some questions about the unseen – how many people live in New York? Who were the first settlers of the city? What is the common transportation? This class’ topic interests the students who wonders and asks Emily about the life in the big city on the east coast of the USA.
After the reading part, it’s time for the weekly challenge – tenses. It’s the dread of every new language student. The differences between the tenses can trouble students of any level, but Emily knows exactly what to do with her students. She writes sentences on the board and every student in its turn, matches the right verb to the right tense with distinction between regular and irregular verbs.
The last part of class is practical. Emily asks that every student will come to the board and write what he did yesterday while paying attention to grammar and tenses. Its visible immediately that the classes are obtaining their objectives. After only two months of the Beginners class, the students are writing whole sentences in English in an almost flawless matter, some even in joined up writing.
Emily ends class and asks her students to repeat today’s lesson and read again the unseen so they continue to improve their reading skills. Emily tells that she enjoys volunteering mainly because the students themselves enjoy learning. They ask questions, very curious, want to learn as much as possible and of course, doing all of their homework. Emily’s students understand that beside the practical need of communication at their workplace of home, the English language is a window to new sources of knowledge and self-development, a new world and a better future.