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English Is Not a Dead Language Anymore

Myself, Bertha, and Gabriel aka the bodyguard
It started out as a simple idea: provide English classes to the community. After all, it is part of my job as a volunteer. The teacher I work with Gabriel was very excited and has always wanted to start a community based program. He loves English, understands its value in the workplace, academia, and travel, and has been promoting the language for more than 16 years. Now with the help of a Peace Corps Volunteer, he has the support to get the job done. However, he got more than he bargained for by underestimating the community's desire to learn. Word spread about my nightly English classes for adults in the neighborhood. The first class 5 people came, the next 17, then 35, 55, and finally 75! There I was, the Gringa, trying to teach the numbers from 1- 100 to 75 people in 1 hot classroom. There was a mixture of housewives, college students, teachers, and local thugs eyeing my laptop. The kids warned me about the unsavory characters and offered to walk me home in order to avoid any problems. It was quite the diaster; a segment from Boston Public or Dangerous Minds.

The next day, I told Gabriel about what happened and that we had to find a way to limit the number of students and keep shady characters out. The next night, he offered to be at the school's gate with a list of accepted students. He also had the help of two school security guards. As I was teaching, motivated housewives, college students, and professionals from the neighborhood, Gabriel and the security guards were dealing with an angry mob shouting they wanted English class from the Gringa!  Fortunately, Gabriel doesn't look like a regular pencil neck teacher and he had two armed men next to him. By the time my class was done, the frustrated crowd had gone home.

Now, things have calmed down. Last night, I had a great class with 15 members of the community asking each other what do you do and where do you live? I love to hear them speak English. Most of them had English classes in school but, have never spoken it. They learned some grammar and vocabulary as if it were Latin. It is good to know that English is not a dead language anymore, at least in Barrio Nuevo Bosque de Cartagena, Colombia. 


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