As the start of another school year is fast approaching, a quick look back to the last one ought to be useful. Last year I made my debut as an English teacher with the association Piso Thrania. This group of volunteer language teachers has been teaching Greek and English to refugees and other immigrants for years now and they are rather well-known in the neighbourhood. In the first classes people were sandwiched in the rooms. They were so many.
I remember giving examples about things that are nice to do and ‘going to the beach’ was among them as far as I remember. And then an Afghan man, from deep inside the Eurasian continent, asked: “What is this “beach”? We tried to explain in other ways, noting sand, sun, sea, swimming, lying in the sand… The man’s face remained politely blank until he asked: “What does “sea” mean?”.
We said it’s a lot of water and retreated. Neither of our languages had an overlap in this particular niche. For me it somehow pinpointed the difficulty of teaching with images – either mental or real – our mental landscapes look different and sometimes they might be too different. Nevertheless, despite their shortcomings, images can be very useful in explaining grammatical concepts.
Gathering all the tenses on one page and one timeline for instance turned out rather nicely. It was difficult to say, whether the students directly benefited from it or not, but it was helpful to use, their two teachers in terms of getting a quick overview over the material.