Community Volunteers: Teach English as a Second Language (ESL)

julian

In today’s entry, Julian Omidi discusses the rewards of volunteering to be an English as a Second Language (ESL) tutor in your community.

One of the most rewarding pursuits for community-based volunteers is teaching. Every major U.S. city offers dozens of such positions through the public library system. Whether you live in Miami or Anchorage or anywhere in between, there is almost certainly a library volunteer program that could use your help as an ESL teacher/volunteer.

Teaching English as a second language to foreign immigrants, most of whom are newly arrived, is a great way to help those in need and to make your community more productive. For the majority of immigrants, job choices are extremely limited when they don’t speak functional English. Fluency is usually not the goal of these programs, but what linguists call “functional literacy” is.

Here are a few things to keep in mind if you decide to take on the challenging and exciting task of becoming an ESL volunteer teacher/tutor.

• Libraries will train you. You do not need to be a certified teacher in your state to work as an ESL volunteer. Just be ready to take about 10 to 20 hours of prep classes (some online) before you are allowed to step into the classroom.

• Your classes will include a mix of people from various countries. Typical groups you might end up teaching will include recent arrivals from Mexico, Somalia, China, Korea, and India.

• It generally takes about two or three months from the time you sign up until you are in the classroom teaching.

• Expect very small classes, most of which will not have more than six students.

• Library volunteer programs will give you everything you need in the way of books and supplies, but you might want to invest in a few inexpensive pocket dictionaries to cover the various languages your students speak. That way, you will be able to look up a word or phrase now and then when the course materials are insufficient.

• Learn to speak slowly and clearly so your students can understand and hear the words they already know. Practice using simple sentence structure and common words.

Helping immigrants adapt to their new country is a rewarding way to invest your time as a volunteer. As a bonus, you will likely acquire many new friends during your stint as an ESL teacher, and you’ll learn a great deal about other cultures. Sign up at your local library if you are interested in this kind of volunteer work.

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi, along with his brother Dr. Michael Omidi and mother Cindy Omidi, are advocates and co-founders of numerous nonprofit organizations, including Civic Duty and many others.

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