All students are different but I find myself teaching two people with a vast difference in knowledge. It has been a challenge but it has also been very fulfilling.
I am currently tutoring two women on the opposite age spectrum. On one hand, I have a tech savvy 24 year old university student in South Korea studying Pharmacy. Her English is very good even though she has not spoken it daily since she was 6 years old. She attended Kindergarten in the US and lived in California and North Carolina for a few years. We are able to carry a full conversation only stopping when a new word pops into the conversation. That is when I am most happy – I get to teach her a new word. It only takes once and I know she understands it. At 8pm my time it is 10 am her time tomorrow and it took some getting used to, but we like the schedule. Monday – Friday we meet for an hour on Zoom and it is very satisfying for me.
Then there is my sweet grandmother student. She is in her 60s, healthy, smart as a whip and owns SEVERAL successful businesses including a beauty salon and a restaurant. In the restaurant alone she has 40 employees under her belt but her English speaking skills are not good. She has tried taking English classes but they are either too elementary or takes up too much of her time with little yield. So her best guy friend introduced us and we have only managed to meet twice in person thanks to the ever present COVID pandemic. At my suggestion, he has bought her first laptop and yesterday we reviewed how to use a computer and mouse. It will be slow going, but I think teaching her Zoom will mean we can meet more often and that will be good for her busy schedule too. She reads English well so that is a help.
While both women have different needs, I feel that I can assist both of them through conversational English. I love grammar and teaching the proper rules that make English what it is. However, I find in ESL unless you are a young student, it is not as important to begin with grammar. Most adult students are eager to communicate confidently and speak fluently. They get so caught up on grammar rules that they don’t really get to practice conversation as much as they would like.
So, with these two at least, I am taking a different approach. We converse about life and whatever they are interested in. I find that when I asked the grandmother about her daughters she spoke for a solid 10 minutes albeit in faltering English, but I was able to hear where she was weak and what she already knew. Before that I could not get much out of her. It would have been a shame for me to teach her out of an elementary book – it would have been insulting even.
The college student really opens up about civil rights, LGBTQ+ communities, theatre, Kdramas and what types of alcohol we like. Casual conversation really helps her brain to let go and talk freely. Funny enough most of the words she was not familiar with were French derived like niche and couture. Some of the simpler words like dress shirt was hard for her because there are words in Korean that have been adopted to stand for dress shirt – like 와이셔츠 (waisyeocheu) – it phonetically sounds out what is close to white shirt.
I am enjoying tutoring them both for different reasons but I think I have already decided that I will not take on any more older clients. I love them but I don’t think I have the time to devote to them unless they are in a group setting. Maybe I would go to a Korean Church and teach them that way, but one on one – I prefer the college kids. Because of the time difference I will not be able to accept too many from SK directly but as word spreads in the Korean community I am hopeful I may get Korean students who are studying in the US. Whatever happens, it’s been nice to try out my teaching chops again.