Guest Blogger: Maris Reid, from MyLinguista.com
As ESL teachers, we strive to create a safe and inviting space for our students to practice in. We welcome thoughtful questions and we offer constructive feedback that fosters discovery. And, in turn, our classroom becomes a language hub, or the center around which students’ language practice revolves. Outside of class, however, ESL learners tend to stick to more familiar linguistic landscapes, frequenting locales where they know their native language is spoken. In other words, it’s as though the farther they step away from the classroom, the less time ESL learners spend actually interacting in English. While maintaining one’s first language is important, it very quickly becomes a crutch learners will lean on instead of practicing their English skills. So, how can teachers help their students keep making progress when many students are most likely to spend the summer months away from consistent communication in English?
Language learning does not have to be put on hold after the final bell of the school year rings and formal ESL classes are on hiatus. Teachers can encourage their students to join or create a community ESL Meetup. Becoming a member of a community Meetup group is a great way for language learners to continue making advancements.
A ESL Meetup group mimics the composition of a classroom setting. A native speaker facilitates the exchange, but as the members commonly have different language backgrounds, English acts as the thread that links the group together. Learners can then engage in meaningful interactions without all of the usual academic formalities like finishing homework and studying for exams. After all, it is summer, and our students need a break, too!
Many ESL learners contend that, outside of class, they don’t really have a network of English conversation partners to practice with. In joining a Meetup group, English learners are also presented with another opportunity to create new connections within their community by widening their circle of friends. Now, they will have other ESL learners to explore the community with, and they can hold one another accountable to speaking English.
So where are a few places learners can find ESL Meetups?
1. Meetup.com allows users to search for all kinds of group activities happening in and around their city. The location of the Meetups found on this website can vary—from local cafes to artistic performance venues, these Meetups are sure to inspire casual conversation in practical, everyday situations. It’s free to sign up, and learners can easily share the Meetup details with friends and family via email and social media platforms.
2. Local libraries often host free classes during the summer months to keep the community engaged. Encourage students to drop by and ask about the course schedule—they can even get some summer reading done while they’re there!
3. Many cities are also home to various ESL centers. TESOL-certified (or soon-to be- certified) teachers will volunteer their time and skills as a way to give back to their community. When students sign up for group conversation classes here, they will feel comfortable knowing that the group leader is someone who has a background in how to teach English to speakers of other languages.
An ESL Meetup provides a place for learners to make mistakes. It also proves to students that they are not alone in wanting to improve their English skills. Before long, ESL learners will begin daring to strike up more and more English conversations outside of their group.