The Coronavirus pandemic has brought the sting of unemployment to many persons who previously were reliant on making a living working in areas that have been decimated by this dreaded disease.
Even more, ‘tap ah yard’ has made some desperate for contact, and the opportunity to enjoy activities which were previously taken for granted.
Some have found that their mental and physical abilities and creativeness have started to atrophy, and are desperate to get back to some semblance of normalcy from which they could benefit. Others are anxious to create opportunities to earn a living to help to pay some bills.
Rachel Collis is one of those persons who has found herself in a situation where she has been called upon to use some of her many gifts to stay afloat. Once a Government Tourism Analyst, she is now wearing her hat of Modern Languages lecturer, teacher and tutor, with the expectation that she will be able to help students who are having problems getting ready for their upcoming exams; those who need extra assistance with class work, or those who just want to learn to speak another language, and speak it well.
Collis brings a world of experience to teaching students and children the fine arts of English, Spanish and French. Her students include those preparing for CAPE at the Antigua State College to CXC and CSEC, or just primary school children whose parents want them to get a jump on their exposure to these subjects in secondary school.
“While I am preparing students for exams where they write the languages, my main focus of tutoring is teaching students to speak and read them,” said Collis. “We are finding that too often teaching languages is geared towards being able to write exams. How can you boast about getting a One or a Two, or an A or a B in a language which you cannot speak?”
Collis says that she has devised a method which she has been using for many years, in which students are taught to speak the language at native standard. “Some come to me and I am hearing Frenglish or Spanglish. This is where the language is pronounced as read in English.”
According to Collis, this method is designed to teach students the rudiments of the language, from learning the alphabet, through the conjugation of verbs, learning to hold a conversation using modern idioms, to learning vocabulary. “I teach students to teach themselves in what I refer to as taking a mathematical approach. If A equals 1, B equals 2, and C equals 3, then it follows that A+B+C must be 1+2+3 equal 6. Of course, there are exceptions outside this regular approach which must be learnt separately. After a period of time, the students become capable of teaching themselves using the rules and methods of the language. Their English also improves with learning a foreign language.”
Collis says she also teaches her students to learn songs and spoken pieces, like the Lord’s Prayer, which help them to get the feel of speaking the language.
“They learn to give greetings, sing Christmas carols, popular songs,. This works well and students feel a sense of accomplishment that they can actually speak the language in a literate fashion, or sing a song in that native tongue.”
French- or Spanish-speaking students who wish to learn English are also taught using her method. “I have had persons who came wanting to learn English, so they could fit into the society and function on the job. They come from different backgrounds, and sometimes one has to eradicate certain patterns of speech in them before getting at what is required,” says Collis.
“There is also the problem of enclave speech. If you are English speaking learning another language, barring the few classes per week for about 1 to 2 hours each, you hear English for the rest of the time until the next class. And the other way around.
We have to remember that with one or two classes per week, not much is done until the next class. In the meantime, the only language heard around you is English,” Collis explained.
There is something for everyone. Sessions are also held for adults who just want to be able to speak a foreign language for the fun of it.
“There is a lot of benefit when such sessions are held in a group. Even adults who want to learn Latin can be accommodated. Latin improves your English in a remarkable way. Now more than ever is the time for persons to try their hand at something new that could be beneficial in the end,” says Collis.
“Our young men and women have dreams of one day representing their country as diplomats, engineers, contractors, etc. It helps if they have another language they can speak well, because they are the ones who stand a better chance of getting the job.”
All sessions would be face-to-face as the preferred method for teaching the nuances of the languages. Online assignments will be given as well.