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  (#1 (permalink)) Old
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EAL help? - October 5th 2011, 06:10 PM

Hey.

So I was one of ten chosen from year 12 and 13 at school to do EAL buddying every tuesday morning. I was partenered with this absolutely adorable year 8 boy. I mean it, he's so cute it's unreal. Only problem is he doesn't understand much at all. We were given a short story with some comprehension questions to work through with them, which is great, he can read simple words quite well, but I don't think he understands what he's reading. He doesn;t understand what I say to him either. He just nods. IF he understands or doesnt he just nods. Like, for example, I put my thumb up and said 'are you okay?' and he nodded. I asked him if he understood what I was saying, he nodded.

I asked him to describe a picture on the front of the booklet and he said something in his language (i'm unsure of what it is), I assume because he didn't know what else to say. I feel so bad for him. I mean, I'm meant to be helping him learn beter english, but if he doesnt understand what I'm saying, how am I meant to help him with reading? This term is based on the reading side of things, and it's not helping him. I even resorted to asking him to answer the questions verbally and not on paper, to ensure he understood what he was reading. I unded up pointing out the paragraph in which the answer was in, and he still didn't know, which clearly says to me that he doesn'tunderstand what he's reading.

Basically, I was wondering if anyone has any tips for me on how to improve his english more. We only meet for 15-20 minutes every week, so it's not a lot of time. I don't know what to do. I don't talk his language, and I've never been in his position, so if anyone has done something similar and has any words of wisdom, I'd be greatful for the advice. Also, if you've ever been in the position of having to learn a new language from scratch, what helped you get to where you are, and what support should I offer a boy who can't understand a word of what he hears or reads?

Thanks in advance.
Hollie.


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Re: EAL help? - October 7th 2011, 09:35 AM

Firstly, you have absolutely nothing to feel bad about. You are meeting with this boy once a week for a very short amount of time, you have no training for this, no experience with his language... It would be ridiculous to expect you to be making any great achievements with this boy - it's just not reasonable.

Are there any teacher aides or support staff who are working with these students regularly to improve their English? Talking to them might be helpful and they might be able to give you some advice.

Apart from that, I think there are two main things you can do. If his language is reasonably common, then perhaps you could learn some words or get a translating dictionary, so you can better communicate with him. Or you can use a lot of visual aids and other things that are universal like hand signs. If you are asking him a question, try to use some sort of visual aid to demonstrate what you are asking.

Honestly, it seems odd to start these students with written English. Spoken English needs to be developed first and although you say he doesn't understand spoken English either, I do think that he will understand it quicker than written English. And since you are his buddy, I think that working on developing a friendship with each other and making him more comfortable with you is far more important than answering some comprehension questions. It really sounds like he is quite shy since he isn't talking much at all, so maybe making him more comfortable would encourage him to talk more.



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Re: EAL help? - October 7th 2011, 06:13 PM

I work in a pre-school, and often come across children with English as a second language, Basicly what I do is find simple every day words in their language and use those but also use the English meaning of the word to , So say they speak French and you want to say the word computer to them it would be l'ordinatuer (sp) and then point to the object and say the word in their language and the word in English.

It works with children at work. Its somewhere to start, also he probably does understand some English, just might not understand every single word. You could also simply just read it with him and get him to repeat the words , or use google translate, and get the text translated into his language and have him read it in English as well as his home language.



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Re: EAL help? - October 7th 2011, 08:06 PM

Good for you for doing this, Hollie, there's a real sense of gratification helping the next generation. It can also be frustrating, as you see.

Your charge here might not be ready to do the reading and comprehension you're attempting, so you might need to take a step back here. Get some picture books, and go thru them with him and both of you point out what's in the various pics and name them, slowly and distinctly, have him repeat them back. Make a game of it, maybe bring some cookies so it's fun and relaxing.

Maybe your task here is to 1) Introduce a new language in a way that's fun and approachable, rather than new and scary and hard. And 2) Maybe the goal needs to be just picture naming, that's a good base for the next lucky person who gets to work with this cutie.


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Re: EAL help? - October 8th 2011, 03:28 AM

It's unfortunate you're only meeting with him only 15-20 minutes per week but that's a constraint out of your hands. Learning a language is extremely difficult, you probably cannot teach him how to speak fluently in English, so you can do a few things. First, if you're able and allowed to, work with him outside of the allotted 15-20 minutes.
Second, figure out what language he's speaking (it's difficult because there are thousands of languages). You can try to do this by going online and printing out some simple words from thousands of languages. Most are going to be gibberish to him but there will be at least one he'll respond to. For example, have a sentence of, "smile and wave", or something noticeable so you'll know which language he's using. From there, learn some basic words in that language. Most online resources allow you to hear the translated word so you can get more accurate pronunciation. You could even bring a laptop and have it give the verbal pronunciations, although keep in mind, online translators aren't always perfect. For example, google Translate pronounces "ou" (or) and "oł" (where) the same, which is incorrect.
Third, use incredibly simple picture books in English. Say or write the word in his language so he knows what the picture represents, then have him say it in English. You'll have to correct his pronunciation as he'll probably mispronounce some words. It'll be good for you to learn how to say sentences such as, "can you say ____ in English please?"

When I learned French back in grade 3, we started with words such as "il" and "elle" (he and she). Just single-words, then gradually move to more complex sentences, such as "est-ce que j'utilise la salle de bain/peut-que j'utilise la salle de bain?" (may I use the bathroom) or "est-ce que je vai a la salle de bain/peut-que je vai a la salle de bain" (may I go to the bathroom). Try to take the same approach, use simple words to label each other as boy, girl, him, her, then work your way up to basic objects and finally to basic sentences. Grammar and verb conjugation can be a real pain in the ass to teach so tackle that once you feel you're both ready.


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Re: EAL help? - October 8th 2011, 09:38 AM

Thanks for your replies guys, I'll take some of this into account. I will check with the teacher that is sorting this all out if it's all okay though. I don't want to do something I'm not meant to do, you know? I'm hoping it will get easier, it's really hard when I ask him a question and he starts saying things quietly in another language. I feel so bad that I can't understand and help him more. Your ideas should help a lot though, thank you!


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Re: EAL help? - October 8th 2011, 06:55 PM

Flash cards = win

He'll get used to english because he is being immersed in the language thus making it more familiar to him


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