by Fred Crotchfelt, VEP Board Member and Tutor
My student Gustavo Castro is from Colombia.
Gustavo, as with many students, was very tentative engaging in conversation when we first met. For an immigrant, being able to engage in conversation with Americans is very important. It is a critical part of building their confidence for day-to-day “participation in America”. As with most immigrants, even those who have a fairly good vocabulary and generally understand English, talking in English to others can be a very frustrating experience.
The confidence students receive through our program by talking to someone (their tutor) who will not judge them or make fun of them or act like they cannot understand them, and who continually gives them positive reinforcement through words and actions, is immeasurable.
BUT . . . when a student is asked, and agrees to, speak in front of a group the confidence level increases exponentially!
That’s why, when I asked Gustavo to speak to a “new tutor” training session about his experiences and he agreed, we were taking a really BIG step to improve his confidence level. When an international student who is just learning to string words and sentences together is able to speak English in front of a group of people it is very empowering. It engenders confidence in being able to feel more and more a part of our society. Gustavo did very well and he has spoken to several different groups. Typically he is asked . . . and has to respond . . . to questions, and that creates an enriching speaking dialogue.
For many students, there are not opportunities to speak to groups. As tutors, we should make every attempt to allow our students to speak in front of people and groups. Working with the VEP Speakers Bureau can give you and your student these opportunities.