Number one for English language teachers

Yo, Ho Me Hearties!

Type: Reference material

In her fourth diary entry, Willow Vanderbosch writes about an unusual teaching and testing situation.

life jacket

Teaching on a resort island produces some unusual teaching situations. There has been great concern for improving the launch section’s English skills. They in turn are the most difficult to give classes to because they are always needed in the boats for arrivals, departures, diving, snorkelling safaris and so on. Admittedly I haven’t really seen any improvement in the last five months.

The latest request from the management was marked high priority. The launch section was to learn a new safety speech down to the last man. To complicate things, some of the guys can’t read a word of English.

Class time

I moved the class onto one of the boats to authenticate their experience. The sea was quite choppy and loud. The guys were too quiet. Waves crashed into the boat through the open back. I rolled up my now wet trousers and made them practice the speech again and again in pairs. We practiced more visual demonstrations in addition to the speech. They had problems waiting for the cue: 'Please watch the following demonstration,' before putting on the life jacket, or they’d say, 'Please watch the following demonstration. Thank you for listening.' (This was not actually followed by a demonstration).

Five people successfully memorized the speech and demonstrated it for all. They were excused from the rest of class.

Exam time

To give a true test, I had to ride with one boat crew to the airport, then wait a couple of hours and return to the island with a different boat crew.

The first speech giver had the misfortune of having his first time with fourteen people (and his teacher) on the boat. Everyone paid the most rapt attention I have ever seen to his announcement! The words came haltingly and painfully or else in a landslide.

'My name is…', deep breath followed by a gulp,  'In… case… of… emer… gen… cy… please…follow…thedirectionsgivenbythecrew. The boat’s emergency exits: left, right…' there was a prolonged silence. Everyone leaned forward with upturned faces to catch his next words. He was starting to panic. From behind his shoulder I whispered, 'Lifejackets' like a nervous parent backstage. His whole body sighed in relief. 'The lifejackets are ‘bove you. Thank you for listening. Simplysitbackandrelax.'  He then turned around and fled to the front of the boat muttering in Dhivehi. Everyone laughed. My heart went out to him.

On the return boat, the speech was given in the calmest, quietest part of the harbor with the engines off. The speech giver is a very small and fine-boned man who looks like a (very dark) pixie. He had been warned before that he was too quiet and couldn’t be heard over the engines and the waves, so this time he belted it out. 'GOOD EVENING LADIES AND GENTLEMEN!' He shouted the whole thing flawlessly and ended with such a big grin that he got a spontaneous round of applause from the passengers. My heart burst with joy.

Five hours and two boat rides for four three-minute tests, and only fifteen left to go!

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