Update: English Language Skills for NGOs

“You know when you came here I couldn’t express myself and now I’m talking!” The goals of HasNa’s English Language Skills for NGOs were not only to improve comprehension and grammar skills but also to help participants gain confidence using English.

We inaugurated HasNa’s English Language Skills for NGOs in Diyarbakir, Turkey on May 9th, 2011. We were English teachers in Turkey as Peace Corps Volunteers in the 1960s. Our Turkish was rusty, but we welcomed the chance to teach again in Turkey, to see some of the southeastern region, and to further the goals of HasNa.

We taught English for three weeks to 20 staff members of the Development Center, one of HasNa’s local NGO partners in the region. Class was held nightly from 6-8:30 PM at the English First language school following a full day of work by the participants. The classroom setup presented a challenge to the interactive style of U.S. language teaching, resources were limited, and the students were tired. Nevertheless, the participants caught on quickly to exercises with partners and team work and responded to the active communicative goals of the course.  We used dialogues, role play, word bingo games, the phonetic alphabet—all to get the students using English.

We planned lessons daily at the Development Center offices and were taken sight-seeing in the historic area on the weekends. We had a chance to visit historic sites and Philosophy in Diyarbakir—the six kilometers of 3rd century volcanic rock walls encircling the old city were quite impressive as was the centuries old and still active Assyrian Orthodox church. The nearby cities of Sanliurfa, Harran, and Mardin were wonderful to visit with participants in the course. The Turkish elections were an added bonus. Sound trucks blaring music drove throughout the city. Flags from the various political parties decorated the streets. The Development Center was next door to the headquarters of the most popular political party in Diyarbakir, so we even saw some candidates walking the neighborhood.

The students and the host families were all warm and welcoming and the food was delicious. We are now communicating with some of them by email—in English. We made good friends and after three weeks it was hard to say goodbye.

By Pat Lowther and Kathy Scruggs