Learn American English as a Second Language

03/02/2012 12:37
by Peter Lindo
Peter Lindo - Learn American English as a Second Language
Greetings. My name is Peter Lindo and I have been helping international students learn American English at Bell Language School since June 2010. Bell Language School is a fantastic place for international students to come and learn American English because it has dedicated teachers who are very knowledgeable of the language and who come from different backgrounds and locations within the country. The faculty is very friendly and eager to ensure improvement in the language learning goals of the students who come to seek their education in the U.S.A. The school itself is conveniently located in the heart of Brooklyn, a world reknown location within the United States famous for it's history, ethnic diversity, and probably the richest source for English Language learning one can hope to find. Such a diverse melting pot of people contributes to an immense sharing of knowledge, cultures, spiritual traditions and political ideologies, which therefore helps to enrich the English language itself and augment the English speaker's ability to express themself extremely well. Students who come to Bell Language School have a unique chance to learn American English in ways that often surprise them. Lively conversation and laughter is most often heard in the school, which in turn promotes a fun, stress free atmosphere conducive to learning English as a Second Language.

I am originally from Bermuda but relocated to Brooklyn to receive my education in the U.S.A. I earned my M.A. at Brooklyn College and my TESOL certification from the American Tesol Institute. I lived in Ecuador for one year in 2001-2002 as an international student affiliated with the Youth for Understanding (Y.F.U.) I empathize with the students who may at first feel bewildered in their new environment; drowning in a sea of English as I too felt like I was drowning while sitting in a classroom in Ibarra with more than thirty very curious students all eager to communicate with someone who could only say, "Hola". I am still improving my Spanish since learning a second language well takes life long dedication. I believe that learning another language is one of the most rewarding things a person can do with their time and is fundamentally connected with improving the knowledge of their own mother tongue. I know this because my acquisition of Spanish, albeit very challenging, has earned me lifelong friends and opened a new world to me here in New York City.

My job at Bell Language School is to make sure that the students who enter my classroom learn American English, which includes proper grammar as well as the vernacular spoken in day-to-day conversations and popular culture. I teach High Intermediate to Advanced English. I'm always impressed with the solid foundation of English the students receive from the Basic Levels and I am eager to have them speak at an even higher level and understanding of the language. As an English Literature major, I love and cherish my native tongue and all it has to offer and so do my best to pass on what I know in a classroom setting that always builds on what is known by both student and teacher, and which constantly seeks to promote more understanding and facility of speech. My personal philosophy to learning American English is "Each One, Teach One", and so I like to promote learning as a collective mission and not a competition. We are to help each other learn with patience, a willingness to laugh at our mistakes, all while cultivating a spirit of good humor and serious study. A learner who is tense, anxious or uncomfortable may filter out many important elements of English acquisition and so I prefer my class to have camaraderie.

It does my heart good to interact with students who hail from Russia, Ukraine, Belgium, Turkey, Japan, China, Brazil, Italy, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Israel, Spain, India, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Vietnam, Honduras, Azerbaijan, Germany and many other countries sitting and focusing together to build a camaraderie by all sharing one basic thing in common: a desire to get an education in the U.S.A., learn American English, and to better understand the culture. America has major influence the world over, both positive and negative, and it fascinates me to learn about all the different perspectives concerning America that the students bring to class. With so many different backgrounds and languages in my class, I do my best to impart my knowledge of American culture while keeping in mind the need to be culturally sensitive to all the different students. So, I learn as much as I can from them about their countries and cultural heritage while sharing my personal conviction as an American to support the U.S. Constitution and the right to life and liberty as the unequivocal base of American culture. I enjoy presenting the principles of the Constitution to my students and having them read, study, understand and discuss the spirit of it enshrined in the language and why I feel it is so important, especially in these turbulent times. The First Amendment makes it clear that nobody should ever fear to speak their mind, whether popular or unpopular. In my class, mutual respect and tolerance of other's views is the norm and this I feel promotes better learning and communication. American English is rich in idiomatic expression and I always begin classes by studying a couple American idioms at a time. I'm so happy to hear students using the idioms I teach in class when I least expect them to and always at the best moments of conversation. Native English speakers appreciate it very much when students who learn English as a second language use idiomatic expressions such as, "That would make me as mad as a hornet!", "What's up", or "Times Square was chock-a-block and it took forever to get a hot brew at Chock Full o'Nuts".I personally study English word etymology and I find it useful in better understanding an array of new English vocabulary, even words that may already be familiar. I'm proud of my students when I teach them the Greek or Latin root of an English word and then later, when a new word comes along with the same root, they automatically have a good understanding of what the word means. Words carry ideas, which help to build conversation, and so I am constantly eliciting what the students already know and having them figure out the meaning of words in their context.
I am a big fan of comedians such as George Carlin, Rodney Dangerfield and Dave Chappelle and often use their jokes in class. Humor is sometimes difficult to convey to English learners but when taught right adds a valuable insight to the students about American Culture, especially because the comedy touches on social situations and daily experiences all people can relate to, such as politics, religion and culture. I also like to incorporate music into my classes, especially reggae music from the 1970's, Nina Simone, John Lennon, and the Beatles. Students constantly ask me the meaning of slang that they hear on the NYC subway and in the street, and it gives me a chuckle to hear them use it. I explain it to them and practice with them the appropriate times to use formal speech and slang and to know when to code switch. I enjoy using poetry in my class and like to have students create short stories, express their likes and dislikes, and use homophones and reduced language correctly. I also like to incorporate my knowledge of different dialects of English. Since I grew up in a part of the English speaking world heavily influenced by American, British and Caribbean English, it is only natural for me to pass on my knowledge of English in all it's aspects.

It is always my hope that I have helped guide the E.S.L. learner one step closer towards achieving their goals and that what I have taught helps to broaden their perspective and train their ear to the natural, fluent speech of a native speaker who communicates to them clearly, thoughtfully and inquisitively, for I too desire to learn from them.