Maria and I are getting to know each other. Last week, instead of having our weekly tutoring session at the La Familia Center, where we usually meet, we met at my house. Perhaps the setting had something to do with it, but it felt especially comfortable and we seemed to have lots to talk about.
Our session lasts 1.5 hours and I usually begin by just having a chat with Maria. We talk about jobs, family, events, whatever we feel like. I try to be gentle when I correct her structure and usage. I tell her that during an ordinary conversation, I would never interrupt and correct the way I do. I think she gets it, because after all, the whole point is to help her communicate more clearly in English.
We could go on chatting forever, but after a few minutes we move on. The last few weeks we’ve been reading children’s books and I never cease to be impressed with many of the more difficult words Maria recognizes and understands. The pronunciation is more difficult for her. She has been living and working in an English-speaking place for many years and she has a large English vocabulary. For her, the tough part is structuring sentences and pronouncing words in a way that is clear and understandable.
My Swedish exchange student listened in as Maria read aloud. She has trouble with past tenses that use “ed.” She says what sounds like lookid or watchid. Anna told her to think “t” when she sees “ed.” Now she says lookt and watcht—major breakthrough!
I choose children’s books with a limited amount of text, plenty of interesting pictures and story lines that I think are as meaningful to adults as they are to children. It makes for a good time for both of us. Last week we finished reading The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton—my all-time favorite children’s book. Reading it with Maria made me realize all over again how beautifully it is crafted and how difficult it is to tell a good story in a strictly limited number of words. It’s an oldie, from the 1940’s, but it has stood the test of time and the plot line is as appropriate today as it was back then.
Then we move on to the text/exercise book that focuses on life skills. This week’s lesson was on invitations, offers and excuses and how to offer, accept and/or decline them.
The time flies by. It is a time of the week I look forward to. And, I have a new friend!