Category Archives: #teachenglish

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Deseos e Intención

Hay cosas que no debes hacer,
Y que no quieres hacer.
Cierto.

No tienes que hacer nada,
De lo que no quieres hacer.
Cierto.

No obstante.

Hay cosas que puedes hacer,
Aunque antes no lo creía.
Cierto.

Puedes hacer lo que quieres hacer,
Y no hay nada ni nadie que puedes detenerte.
Cierto.

Además.

Tus deseos son tuyos,
Y ellos forman tu propósito divino en la vida.
Cierto.

Tus deseos junto con la intención de verlos,
Son todo necesitas para volar como águila.
Cierto.

Deseos e intención pueden llevarte al cielo.

Also posted in Blog de Español

What do you live for?

I like to start my English classes with a warm-up exercise that will get my students thinking and speaking in English. Once they are warmed up, I transition into the lesson(s) of the day. Most of the time I warm up the language center in their mind with simple exercises such as, “Give me the name of a country that begins with the letter S … that begins with the letter L” … etc. Or, I might ask each student to spell a different word. Or, we might practice verb tenses that we have learned, for example we might practice the past tenses by telling everyone what we did yesterday.

But one day I decided to get philosophical on my students with the question,“What do you live for?” Several people said similar things such as “family,” “travel,” “God,“ “music,” and even “to learn English.” (I have some devoted students, eh?). As for myself, I had not thought about what I might say until the last person had spoken and everyone was staring at me waiting for my response. I thought for a moment, and then told them that I live for learning about human potential and for discovering how to live life to the fullest.

I’ve heard it said that we use only a small percentage of our potential … I am not sure how you measure that, but it sure seems to me that extraordinary things can manifest through each of us.

I love the entire genre that is variously known as self-development, personal growth, self-help, etc. Here in the Spanish- speaking world this genre is called auto-desarollo, auto-ayuda, etc. I cannot get enough of it, and since I don’t read books that often, I am usually taking this content in by listening to audiobooks, podcasts, and other audio resources on the iPods that I have with me. I even consider my Spanish educational resources to be part of this genre since they are helping me to develop personally, and helping me to live life more fully by enabling me to experience more profoundly the Spanish-speaking world. I don’t believe everything that I hear and read, because this genre is like any other genre in that some of the authors may not have the highest motives or could simply be mistaken, such as a financial advisor and author with a fancy title who is selling a lot of books with questionable if not dangerous financial advice. Each of us has to pick and choose what resonates with us.

I am listening to an audiobook right now that is one of the most extraordinary audiobooks that I have ever heard, it is by Anita Moorjani and is entitled, “Dying to Be Me.” Anita had what is known as a Near Death Experience (NDE), and in her book she shares how it has impacted her perspective and life. If you believe that NDEs are a bunch of bunk and that the thousands of people who claim to have had an NDE are all liars, you obviously would not be interested in this book. As for myself, I open to learning what I can from Anita’s story for a few reasons, one of them being that I too have had spiritual experiences that defy explanation but that have similar elements to what Anita and others have experienced. I’ve already told some people about one such experience, but this is the first time that I will write a little about it. By the way, any number of people throughout human history have experienced the miraculous, the infinite, the eternal, something that is beyond our ability to explain with human language, so while I will share a little about my experience, I will also admit that I cannot explain it like I experienced it.

One day many years ago I was with a friend and saw a vision in front of me. Since it was over 30 years ago, I will do my best to recall and explain what I saw. I was looking into a pathway of light, pure light, bright white light, as if I was looking into a pathway that led to heaven itself. As I gazed into the light I was explaining to my friend what I was seeing, and I was describing both the pathway and the destination. Since it was so surprising and shocking and exciting, unlike anything that I had ever experienced up to that time and even to this present moment, I just kept saying excitedly the same things over and over, such as:

I’m seeing a vision! I’m looking down a path of white light, pure white light … it is love and beauty and truth. I’m telling you! It is a pathway that is white and light and loving and beautiful and true. It leads right to the light!

I don’t recall how long this vision lasted nor how it ended … and who knows, it could have lasted a few minutes or a few hours – they say that at the speed of light, time stands still. In any case, while I was excitedly describing to my friend the vision I was seeing, all he could say to me was, “I don’t understand what you are saying, Keith – you are speaking in a tongue!”

To me a “tongue” is a heavenly language, something that does not apply to any particular religion or spiritual practice. Also, it seems to me that many devotees of various stripes have misused, misunderstood and overused that word “tongue,” so I mention it with some trepidation. For example, one time someone wanted to show me how to pray in a tongue, and they immediately knelt down and on command starting verbalizing a bunch of sounds … perhaps they were in fact practicing a heavenly language because who am I to judge, but my gut tells me that this is not something you can do on command but instead it is something that is given by God at a specific time for a specific purpose. As far as I know, I have not spoken in a heavenly language at any other time in my life.

So after I came out of the vision, I explained to my friend in human language what I had been seeing, similar to how I am explaining it to you now in this blog post. Words will never completely capture it, just like the word “water” can never fully capture the essence that is water, but nonetheless I have done my best to describe my experience. I don’t know why it happened to me at that point in my life, but what I do know is that it gives me a sense of hope and comfort and peace and joy. Moreover, it is similar to the many stories told by those who have had NDEs and by those who have had profound spiritual experiences.

As I understand it, God is Light and Love and Truth and Beauty. It follows that the names we use to refer to God are only glimpses of God, regardless of where those names originated. Names like Infinite Self and Source of All do their best to evoke awe, but again are only glimpses. The Spanish word that is most commonly used for God is Dios, which comes from the Latin word Deus, which they think came from the word Deiwos in a language that linguists call the Proto-Indo-European language, which is probably related to the Sanskrit Deva or Devi, which could have been a sound that someone uttered way back when at the moment they experienced what they believed was … God. Obviously, the word or words that we use to describe the One are inadequate, but we all know Who we are talking about. These words all point to the same Light and Love.

So, what do you live for? I could have said that I live for God, which may have sounded holy and impressive, or it could have sounded self-righteous and repulsive. But to me, to say that we live for God is obvious and does not necessarily need to be said. We all live and move and have our being in God … God is the Source from whom we came, the Source that enlivens us now, and the Source to whom we return.

What I’m asking is … What is it that makes you feel most alive? What is it that is uniquely you? What is your divine purpose for being? Or, in the words of Anita who has attempted to express what she saw on the other side — How do you express your magnificence?

We are all beloved in the eyes of You-Know-Who … so go ahead and be that which God has empowered you to be!

Also posted in #God, #religion, #teachESL

4 Requirements for Learning English as an Adult

On Monday, February 8th, we started the English program here in Marinilla, Colombia. About 70 people gathered in the local theater to hear my presentation of the program.

I started by telling the audience that after 4 years of high school French and 1 year of college French, I could speak very little French. Moreover, within a year I forgot everything that I had learned because I never used the language. As a result, I spent the next 30 years believing that I couldn’t learn a second language, although I always wished that I could … meanwhile, I continued to envy and admire people who could speak more than one language.

Then I told my audience of adults that everything changed when I started learning Spanish at the age of 48, and this caught their attention because almost everyone appeared to be younger than 48. I explained that since I learned a second language later in life, that they could too. Moreover, I told them that I have been teaching English for several years, and that I specialize in teaching English to adult native speakers of Spanish. Everyone seemed excited.

Then I explained the following 4 requirements for learning English as an adult:

  • MAKE MISTAKES – You have to be willing to make mistakes. This is very important to the process, and you cannot learn how to speak English without making many mistakes.
  • BELIEVE – You have to believe that you can speak English. But even more than believing that you “can” speak English, you have to believe that you already speak English. Tell everyone, “I speak English.” Visualize yourself speaking English … at some point you’ll stop translating everything in your head and start thinking in English.
  • INVEST TIME – For the next 3 months, you have to spend 2-3 hours every day studying and practicing English. If you don’t have that much time, you have to make time … and to do that, you may have to sacrifice something else in your life (e.g. television, sleep, etc.).
  • WORK – During your 2-3 hours of daily English studies, you have to work. If your mind is not tired after three hours of studies, you are not working.

The first two requirements were well received … the second two requirements, not so much. So I explained to them that I am not a magician that can magically teach them English, and I also told them that there is no magic pill for learning any language. If there were a magic pill, I would take it. As a result, if you want to learn a second language you must be willing to put in the time and effort it takes … coupled of course with belief in yourself and the willingness to make a lot of mistakes.

Fellow volunteer teachers who I have recruited to help me include sixty-something Bob from the U.S. who has been travelling the world for 10 years … Cameron from Holland, and fresh out of high school … Colombian native Emilson, a young guy who is eager to show his fellow Colombians that they can do it … and new recruit, Santiago, another young Colombian who can show the way. Currently we have 4 classes every day Monday through Friday, consisting of both a beginner and intermediate class from 8:00 to 9:00 AM and from 6:00 to 7:00 PM. I am teaching all the “intermediate” students, and the other teachers are teaming up to teach the beginners. Currently we are averaging about 80 students a day, evenly spit between the morning and evening classes. Often several students will linger long after class talking with each other and wanting to learn more, which means that we have to ask them to leave because other groups want to use the rooms and/or the facility is closing.

By the way, since I assumed that most of the people who were at the municipal theater on opening night knew little or no English, I decided to speak in Spanish and without using notes for virtually the entire 40-minute presentation. You, too, can learn to speak another language.

Also posted in #EFL, #ESL, #learnenglish, #teachESL, #TEFL

Marinilla

One month in Medellin convinced me that I needed to pick one neighborhood in the big city to live and spend most of my time. Medellin felt much bigger than I anticipated, and all the people and traffic and noise made it difficult at times to enjoy the city. Also, my efforts to establish a community English program did not materialize. Meanwhile, I had the good fortune of being offered the opportunity to visit Marinilla, a town that is about 1.5 hours from Medellin by bus.

I liked Marinilla instantly. It is a town that is filled with generations of hard-working and friendly campesinos, or country folk, who take pride in their community. People move away, but inevitably come back. Most of the people in Marinilla are Catholic, and the town is fairly conservative … however, there is a thriving artistic community that also gives the town a progressive feel. It is about the same size as our town of Prescott, so it is big enough to have some conveniences that I enjoy without being too big.

So it was that as I walked in Marinilla that first day, I kept saying to myself that I could live here. I returned about 3 days later to explore more fully that idea, and on that second day I meandered into the courtyard that houses the local library, the Office of Tourism and Culture, and what is called the Casa de Cultura (i.e. House of Culture). As I stood in the courtyard, I said out loud “I think I’m going to be teaching English here.” Call it a mystical experience or whatever you want, but I just had this sense that this was the place where I would establish the English program that I had planned for Colombia. In the first office I walked into I met Francisco, who is the resident artist and whose paintings are beautiful, and I explained to him that I would like to offer free English classes to the community. His eyes got big when I said that, and the next thing I know he is introducing me to the Director of Tourism and Culture, and the next thing I know is that we have about 60 adult students who have expressed interest in starting English classes next week. I’ve also met the city’s Educational Director as well as the newly elected Mayor of Marinilla, and I have people stopping me in the streets to ask me if I am that English teacher that they’ve heard about, or to tell me about when they tried to learn English, or to tell me about someone they know who is learning English, etc.

I don’t want to speak too soon, but it looks like this little English project that God put on my heart might be a success. And when Francisco expressed concern about the program growing bigger than he or I imagined or could possibly handle, I contacted a few online expat groups to seek volunteer English teachers, and it looks like there are 4 people who are going to commute here from Medellin to help out. I sure hope they show up. You’ll hear more about this English project in future blog posts, but before I end for today I would like to tell you the amazing story of how I found my apartment here in Marinilla.

In contrast to Medellin where there are for-rent signs everywhere, I have never seen one for-rent sign in all of Marinilla. Everywhere I went for a week or more, people would tell me how difficult it is to find an apartment for rent in Marinilla. As a result, I contemplated looking for an apartment in the nearby town of Rionegro which is a much bigger town … however, I did not feel at peace inside about that. So, the night before I would make the 1.5 hour trek from Medellin to the Marinilla/Rionegro region yet again, it became clear to me that since I would be teaching English in Marinilla, I wanted to live in Marinilla … even if it meant living in a hotel. So I abandoned my plan to go to Rionegro that day, and went to Marinilla instead.

When I landed in Marinilla I decided to try a different approach, and this time I went to the other side of town away from where most of the apartments are located. I had not walked very far from the bus stop, and I was standing in front of one large apartment building looking up at it when some guy walked by, but when I asked him if he knew about available apartments, he said that he did not live in Marinilla … but nonetheless, he pointed to a little tienda a block away and said that they seem to know a lot about the town. So I went to the tienda, and when I asked the owner if she knew of available apartments, she flat out said “no.” However, at that very moment she was giving change to a customer who looked at me and said, “Are you looking for an apartment?”

This is where it gets amazing. So Jose walked me to his apartment which is 2 blocks from the central park, took me inside and showed me his studio apartment … he just happened to be moving out that day, and all his stuff was packed and in the middle of the kitchen. So then he asked me if I needed anything to furnish the place, and I said of course because I have nothing. So he told me he would sell me his stove and gas canister as well as his bed, and he told me the price and I of course said “Okay!”. However, at that point we had not even spoken to the landlord … so he asked me if I knew someone local who could vouch for me, because if not I would be out of luck since all business in town is done by connections. So I told him no, but that the AirBnB lady in Medellin where I am staying would vouch for me. So Jose told me not to worry because he would vouch for me, and he cautioned me not to tell the landlord that we just met on the street 20 minutes ago. So then he had to run some errands, and he told me to meet him in the park at a specific time. When he returned he said that the landlord was now home and that I needed to be prepared to pay both him 420,000 pesos for the bed and stove, and to pay the landlord the first month’s rent in CASH. He also said that we needed to hurry because the landlord was waiting for us. At that point the thought flashed across my mental screen that me, the naive gringo, was about to give away about $230 USD in cash to perfect strangers. So Jose walked with me to the ATM, and I had to make two 600,000 peso credit card cash advances (since there is a per transaction limit), and then we stopped at a tienda to ask for blank receipts that both Jose and the landlord could use to give me a receipt for my payment, and then we walked back to the apartment with my wallet bulging with pesos. We met the landlord, and Jose explained that I was a friend … Carlos the landlord looked like a very successful and wealthy 40 something old guy, and seemed like a real nice person. Carlos handwrote a receipt for me and I gave him 350,000 pesos in cash, then Jose handed me the keys in front of the landlord. I told Carlos how much I appreciate the opportunity to live there, and that I hoped he would study English with me (to which he smiled and replied, “We’ll see), and then Jose and I walked up to the apartment. I paid Jose 420,000 pesos in cash, and then he left to go get his friend who has a car. Twenty minutes later Jose returned with his friend in a little beat-up Toyota or something, and I helped him load his stuff in the car and he was gone. I had left Medellin at 7:30 in the morning, and by 2:00 PM I was alone in my empty apartment two blocks from central park AND ON THE SAME STREET AS THE LIBRARY WHERE I WILL BE TEACHING ENGLISH!!!!! And get this — the monthly rent is 350,000 pesos … about $105 USD. Simply amazing … and I feel truly blessed by all of it.