Is learning English always a nightmare, or could it actually be fun? In Taiwan, students are required to study English as early as grade 3. Facilitating student interests in English and building a solid foundation could dictate the learning curve of young students for a decade or longer. TCU English volunteers teach English to the children of Bei Chang Primary every Monday, Tuesday and Thursday. With the addition of 6 international students this year, the children had great fun communicating with them in their English and vibrant body language, and even proposed to teach them Mandarin! Overall, it was a delightful English lesson.
Brother Steve Lin from TCU had been leading TCU students to tutor at Bei Chang Primary since early 2010, and it is now into its 6th year. “Bei Chang Primary is located very close to our university. By tutoring at Bei Chang, we are building a platform where the university students could consistently help with the academic work of young primary students. We are grateful for Bei Chang Primary to offer the opportunity for our students to contribute to the community.” Steve said.
The children who are participating in the English tutoring program are selected from grade 4, 5 and 6, by their class instructors. These tutoring sessions are carried out in one-on-one or one-on-two setting. “Because of these tutoring sessions, our students who had no interests are now excited to learn English. These university students teach English with games and storytelling, so the children won’t be afraid of it, or giving up because of bad grades.” Said Yuan-Fen Wu, the director of academic affairs, Bei Chang Primary. She believes it is crucial for children to fall in love with English, since it is an international language that they have to be familiar with in junior high, high school, college, and even at work. She is very grateful that these university students are willing to spend their noon break for the children of Bei Chang.
There are currently 40 English tutoring volunteers this semester, 6 of them are international students from Indonesia and Japan who can only speak simple Mandarin. The children, excited by the unfamiliarity, are particularly eager to attend tutoring sessions. Indonesia Graduate Student A-Le taught English to his little friends at Bei Chang by starting with questions revolving around daily life. “The children are curious about how I got here from Indonesia. It is by plane, or by ship? I then decided to continue with the session by introducing transportation. I also teach by using the items I can find around me, like erasers and bottles and so on. I would then write the names of these items in English, while they write it in Mandarin.” A-Le said. He enjoys tutoring at Bei Chang, because the children are always so passionate and eager to study, and because the children love to teach him Mandarin, so the progress is mutual.
“Big bro makes English fun. He plays games and tells stories. I am glad he is teaching us, and I will study hard!” Said Hong, a 4th grader at Bei Chang Primary. He loves his tutor A-Le. Even though A-Le can not speak Mandarin, they communicate via body language, and that just makes English study so much fun.
It is the third semester of tutoring for Sun Hsin-Ping, one of the organizers of TCU English tutor volunteer at Bei Chang. “I have my own nightmarish experience when it comes to English,” Sun said. “Grade is not everything. It is crucial for children to like English. With motivation to study, they will continue to learn no matter what.” Sun took a back seat because of the addition of the international students this semester. “The children are more interested about new faces, so I decided to let them take the stage and assist when needed,” she said. “As long as the children are happy about learning English, everything is worth it.”