Everywhere we go in Costa Rica, people are eager to learn the English language from a native English speaker. As we have developed relationships with our neighbors, business owners, and the average, everyday person at the grocery store, farmer’s market or restaurant, the requests to us for teaching English has never died down!
Realizing that teaching English classes was one of the best ways to get to know people better, build closer relationships, minister to them and improve our Spanish at the same time, our weekly free English classes began. If we had had any idea of the turn-out the first night we opened the doors to our class, we would have had a camera ready to commemorate the moment. It was the most beautiful thing we had ever seen! Over 75 people were in attendance, ages 4-70, standing room only, eager to open themselves up to a whole new experience that many of them would never have the opportunity to participate in otherwise.
With most of the children that attend school, English classes are part of the curriculum. Unfortunately, unless the children come from wealthy families and enroll in a bilingual school, the little bit of ABC’s and 123’s that they get in their English class are the equivalent to the class you were required to take in high school to get your foreign language credit for college! Having them go the extra mile to learn was such a wonderful thing to witness! Several of the adults, however, could not even read or write, yet they were there with ‘bells on’ and huge smiles hungry to learn with their ears and mouths!
Classes take place in one big room that is the ‘salon’, or grange hall, if you will, that is connected to the neighborhood Catholic Church. Being in the neighborhood makes it accessible to anyone as most people will be walking to the meeting, and don’t have transportation nor the money for the bus into town for a non-essential trip. There are still always a few faithful, eager students who make their way from the neighboring town of San Ramon to participate in the classes and further their education.
Dividing the students into groups, it is a family affair to meet the needs, desires and educational levels of each of the attendees. The bulk of the group are in the beginner’s section where we start at the base of language. Class participation is encouraged as we teach the beginners in Spanish (okay, a lot of ‘Spanglish’)! The encouragement that they receive when they hear that our Spanish isn’t perfect, but that we are willing to try, has created the most amazing, fun, teachable atmosphere you could imagine! Our Spanish improves every week as they help us in ways that they don’t realize are really raising their language skills to a whole new level. Their excitement, participation and growth each week is astounding.
The intermediate group deals with more advanced vocabulary, verb conjugations, and conversation. The best part about that group is being able to open up conversation with testimonies about The Lord, why we are in Costa Rica, and sharing truths as we get to know each other. The Bible is the best textbook for all of that!
Advanced students assist with the other two groups putting what they know into practice in real time, real world types of scenarios. As the sessions get more advanced, they begin to practice translating for the beginning class. It is a wonderful transition for the beginner students to move from hearing ‘Spanglish’ to hear the dialog in real life situations while having the backup of translation for even higher functioning and learning. Several of our advanced students have gone on to get jobs as translators for mission organizations, businesses involving tourism and call center work, while others have joined us for our bilingual bible study and sometimes even get called on to translate there – they have become like part of the family!
It is such a good reminder to realize that no matter what you do, you have an opportunity to reach out to others. Meeting needs and being available opens the door for God to move in people’s lives and yours as well! Remember, we are all missionaries and can share the love of The Lord no matter what we are doing! Find your passion today and let your light shine for Jesus!