EFAC Australia

Kaye and Ian Malcolm

Kaye and Ian Malcolm write about starting free English classes in a local church, for the benefit of those who appreciate an English speaking context accessible to those whose first language is not English.

Essentials:: Tell us about how the idea of English as a Second/ Additional Language at Karrinyup came about.

Kay and Ian: Well, having spent periods abroad, we know what it’s like to be in a foreign-language speaking environment. After a period teaching in China, we had the opportunity of welcoming many Chinese students to our home when they came to Perth for further study, and we could see how much they appreciated getting into an accessible English-speaking context. As linguists, we could see how further training would help them.

Essentials: How did you go about getting it up and running?

Kay and Ian: We talked and prayed about it with interested friends within the congregation and brought a proposal to the Parish Council. The idea was that we would offer free English classes in the church facilities for one morning a week. The only charge would be $4 for morning tea. With the help of a core group of teachers we would offer classes at a range of levels, during school terms. Once the proposal was approved, we put publicity in local newspapers and on shopping centre notice boards.

Essentials: What helps and hindrances did you encounter?

Kay and Ian: We were not the only church offering this kind of service, so we benefited from being in contact with other groups. We also found useful resources online, and we took advantage of university libraries and language bookstores offloading stock to enable us to build up library resources. Once we got started, the regular attendance soon grew to the twenties, though we needed to cope with the fact that the same people didn’t necessarily come each week. One complication which arose was that some mothers wished to bring their babies or small children with them. We accommodated this as best we could, though decided not to extend our service to child minding.

As the work got known we had wonderful support from volunteers from the church who provided practical back- up. There were also offers from qualified people outside of the church. We needed to explain that, as this was intended as an extension of the church’s ministries, it was important for us to have a team who shared our Christian commitment. Some ESL/EAL ministries use the Bible as the main teaching resource. In our case, we initially invited people interested in exploring the Bible to stay on over lunch after the three-hour class for some overt Christian instruction. A new development is for individual teachers to spend an optional 15 minutes after the lesson concludes looking at the biblical implications of themes raised in the lesson or pursuing biblical storytelling.

Essentials: What are one or two encouraging stories?

Kay and Ian: We found it encouraging that some people who came to us on Friday took the opportunity to go to a class in one of our associated churches on another day of the week. Some also showed interest in meeting in a home on another day of the week for an “easy English” Bible study. At the Karrinyup church, when there were special events for Christmas and Easter, some of the students came along. We were impressed that one of our students was prepared to travel by public transport 90 minutes each way to come to our classes. One special production by the students was a collection of articles written by them under the title Write around the World, where they contributed descriptions of the places they had come from. One of the great outcomes of the English classes was the sense of community which developed. We would go on end of term picnics, and some of the students invited teachers to meals in their homes.

Essentials: What do you think the value of ESL/EAL ministry is? What opportunities does it present?

Kay and Ian: Our experience shows without a doubt that this service meets a need, both for language help and for social interaction on the part of the people who participate. It also draws out gifts and abilities on the part of church members and helps to make the church accessible to people who might not otherwise have contact with it. Above all, the value of this ministry is the opportunity it presents to share the gospel in life and word.

Essentials: What is the next step forward for the ministry that you hope to see it take?

Kay and Ian: Given the option to stay on after the lesson and consider biblical implications, nearly all the students are taking it. The enthusiasm to continue with this is strong. With interest in the Bible growing we are thinking and praying about how best to meet this welcome demand.