Wednesday 19 June 2019

Putting TEFL to Good Use


Back in 2007, I took a weekend TEFL course and a side certificate in teaching English grammar. I was completing my MA at the time and knew I wanted to leave Cardiff after that. I just wasn't sure where I'd go or what I'd do, so teaching English seemed like a fair back-up plan. As it was, I was accepted by VSO shortly afterwards and left for Rwanda as a Sign Language researcher. I made a good friend on the TEFL course, comedian Gareth Postans, but never went on to use the training.

That was until a couple of months ago, when I was approached by one of my editing clients, the lovely Three Mountains Learning Advisors. They create excellent online e-learning courses on everything from gender-based violence to water resources management. 

I've been working as an editor for them for about a year now, so they asked if I could come and teach their staff technical English and editing skills. It's sort of training myself out of a job, but that's going to take a while, so I said yes to the challenge.

I used to teach a creative writing course a couple of years back, but technical writing is a rather different ball game. A lot of the same rules apply, grammar in particular, but the way you structure writing and the language you use is very different.

It's been really good fun and I'm getting a real kick out of how well the group is progressing. We do a lot of group editing where we project passages on the wall and work out how to clean them up. They're all quite advanced in English, which makes things entertaining as we're now at a point where we're discussing things like ethical issues in translating subtitles - what you can change and what you can't - and how punctuation and word choice changes meaning. It's got my mind working overtime. So many things you take for granted about English, but are actually quite difficult to explain. It's definitely something I think I'd like to do more of. 

We did a really heavy session on punctuation the other day, so today I introduced them to the poem According to my Mood by Benjamin Zephaniah, which helped to take the pressure off.

The office is down a suburban street in Kigali. Very green and quiet, so it's a lovely walk home afterwards as the sun is setting. The other week, I saw this beautiful rainbow.

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