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my teaching experience as a Spanish teacher for immigrants

18 January, 2011

I have worked as a volunteer with an NGO, Caritas, located in Llodio for about a year approximately. The students of this institution were basically Sahrawi and Moroccan from 20 to 50 years old. Some of them had been living in Spain for more than 5 years but most of them for only 3 months. Most of the students didn’t know how to read or to write in Arabic. The motivations and the choice to come to Spain were different for each student. They were in a situation of social exclusion so the Basque government tried to help them. To qualify for such aid, immigrants had to attend Spanish courses. Therefore the class attendance was mandatory.

We were three teachers working at this center, all of us volunteers which is commendable but unfortunately without any specific preparation regarding the teaching of ELE course. Also the center itself didn`t have the infrastructure needed. For example we had only two volumes with special material for more than 50 students. Also we didn`t have any audio or video material and of course we didn’t have computers.

However, the three teachers we were going to the center every day for two hours to teach to our classes. Those who elaborate with the material came into contact with other humanitarian organizations like Red Cross or the training center for adults EPA. All of the volunteers gave much attention to the specific necessities of their students and tried to help them with making social contacts, accompanied them when they had to do make arrangements, very complicated for students etc. In general the work of the volunteers was always admirable.

I believe that because of very limited resources and also because of lack of training for the volunteers the institution started having problems: classes became tiring for students who were forced to come to the classes because they were obligatory and then they failed to attend the classes until the end.

The students who continued their studies of Spanish in the institution didn’t make much progress and none of them finished the course for several reasons, some of them because they preferred to get a more practical training such as courses of INEM
,others because they changed residence etc.

Is there a solution?
I think it is important for the volunteers to receive some specific information about ELE. It is not necessary to have a big training. Maybe just a small guidebook would be enough.

Also the university students of philology, educational sciences, translation or touristic can help to organize the courses in a better way. There could also be some credits for this group of students in return of their volunteer work.

It is also important that the NGOs start working together. The working materials can be ordered and provided in cooperation. Another thing is that all administrations and social contacts should be easily accessible to volunteers who know which possibilities exist for their students. In many occasions the Spanish teacher at an NGO is not only a teacher but usually he serves as a social worker, a coordinator between the student and the social contacts, civil centers etc.

As they say, the time and the effort of a volunteer aims to a comfortable performance against the social exclusion for the immigrants.

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