Send them to us! Email email@example.com
This time we am very happy to share some volunteer writing. Hilary Parkinson wrote a beautiful letter to the powers that be about saving LETC’s funding. It appears here, in a slightly modified version.
The woman that cleans my office. The cooks where I buy lunch. The young people hurrying around Dupont Circle. The nanny who works for my friend.
After teaching 6 classes at Language ETC, everyone looks different to me. Any of them could be one of my students. Someday, they might be sitting in my class. They might be people who work all day, and then go to class for two hours in the evening, four nights a week. They might be people I will get to know and care about.
I love DC, with its monuments and cherry blossoms, but Language ETC is my favorite place in the District. In the teacher’s lounge, no one is bragging about their jobs or salaries. Volunteers are coming up with games, plotting lesson plans, or conferring about a student. Every class has two teachers who teach together, and these teachers communicate with 3 other sets of teachers. It’s a group effort.
In a city that can be obsessed with power, Language ETC is about giving power away.
What kind of power?
The power to communicate with your child’s nursery school teacher. The power to take a written test and join the Army to start a career as a mechanic. The power to talk with your coworkers, so the chef who only speaks English will tell you how much you’ve improved.
This kind of power is empowerment. It improves the lives of people who need help, and it improves the lives of those who give help. Getting to know other people in a personal way across social and economic lines is a rare thing in DC: Language ETC is a special place.
This past Tuesday, as my teacher and I put our classroom binder back, we were excited about our lesson. We could see improvements already, just three weeks in. Students stood up confidently to participate in a spelling bee. They asked us questions in English. They asked each other questions in English. They had fun.
I know you’ve had a long and busy day. But so have all our students.
2200 California St., NW
Washington, DC 20008
Located in Our Lady Queen of the Americas Church
Monday – Thursday 9 am – 8 pm
Friday – Sunday 9 am – 4 pm
PROGRAMS FOR SUMMER 2010
English (ESL) $60 All levels
Monday — Wednesday 6:30 pm — 8:30 pm July 19 — August 25
Tuesday & Thursday 10 am — 1 pm July 20 — August 26
Saturday & Sunday 2 pm — 5 pm July 24 — August 29
Computers (in Spanish, 6 classes) – Intermediate $125
Monday & Thursday 6:30 pm — 8:30 pm July 19 — August 5
Saturday 9am — 11 am July 24 — August 28
Saturday 2pm — 4 pm July 24 — August 28
When asked “How has your life changed as a result of working with Language ETC?”, Maggie Hagan-Brayton, our Spring 2010 intern, had this to say:
“Language ETC has opened up my eyes to a part of D.C.’s population that I probably wouldn’t have had much interaction with otherwise. As a college student, it’s easy to get caught inside the bubble of campus, but my time volunteering at LETC has allowed me to meet many incredible people and experience things that can’t be taught in a college lecture.”
Anne Hoffman, our 2009-2010 Literacy*AmeriCorps member answered:
“My life has changed tremendously since beginning to volunteer with Language ETC. When I started teaching Basic A in the Winter of 2009, I was immediately taken with the spontaneous evening energy. It was palpable, work had finished and everyone was here for one reason: to learn or to teach English. But within that reason there were thousands of other needs and motivations.
Language ETC is also a social space where students can come and enjoy learning together. It’s a melting pot or a salad bowl or whatever metaphor we’re using these days to characterize American immigrant life. But when so many different expectations, backgrounds, and languages come together, there seems to be a rule shift. People open up more, they get flexible. And a space develops for a conversation between what’s past – origins, old ways, a life left somewhere else – and what’s possible- what students and teachers can become through learning and guiding, giving and receiving.
Volunteering with Language ETC gave me a human understanding of the immigrant experience. It allowed me to access my own empathy as I remembered my life abroad and the challenges I faced. Now that I work here, I have a new role as a guide, and not just an educational facilitator. My goal is to continually offer stronger classes to my students, as well as to strengthen some of LETC’s educational services. This shift has made me a more effective educator. The responsibility has given me a radical opportunity to help people improve their lives.”
What about you? How has LETC changed your life?
This is open to students and volunteers. Send stories of how LETC has changed your life, and we’ll post them periodically on the blog. As always, send submissions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Elias Lozada is an Advanced student from Venezuela. Here he writes about cultural confusion and being his family’s “personal translator.”
Being in a different environment or in a different place is hard enough, and being in another country where no one can understand you is extremely confusing. Even if you can speak some of the language a situation like this can be scary.
The first time that I felt out of place was in the moment that I got onto the plane and the flight attendant asked my brother and I “You guys are brothers?” I couldn’t articulate anything; I just nodded my head. The rest of the flight was easy, I only talked when I asked for my meal and it was simple, I only had to say “Burrito please”. After we did the transfer in Miami, I pretended to be asleep through the whole flight and that way I didn’t had to talk to anyone.
My first day in the U.S I had to act as my family’s personal translator, and I have to admit that it was very frightening. Every time that we walked into a store, they would said to me “Preparate” or get ready. But every time, I was lucky enough, and in the stores there was always someone that spoke Spanish, until the day that I ran out of luck, we went to a cell phone company, one of my dad’s coworkers wanted to buy a phone, this time, there were no Spanish speakers so I had to translate. One of my biggest fears was not being understood by the lady that attended us. I had never talked in English to another person because the way that I learned the language was a little unconventional; I learned in my room, watching American shows, (who said that television doesn’t teach us anything?). It turns out that my pronunciation was good enough and the lady understood me, but my ability to translate prices and numbers to Spanish, not so much. I confused some of the prices and when the lady gave us the flyers with all the correct prices was when I realized that I had made a mistake, no one said anything to me but on the inside I felt really stupid, the only thing I could do was learn from my mistakes.
Day by day I have been gaining more experience speaking to other people in LETC and my confidence to speak outside the classroom is definitely increasing. Even though sometimes I feel overwhelmed in class by all the technicalities due to my lack of formal training, I have managed to pull through. With effort and a lot of practice I been getting better and better, improving my pronunciation, learning new vocabulary and how to write some of the words that for a long time I been hearing in television but I had no idea of how to spell. Although I think I’m always going to feel out of place, it’s important to learn the language to be able to understand a different culture and gain different experiences in life.