English is a Beautiful Song

Brian Riefler - Ecuador

November 26, 2012

I am surrounded by many beautiful sounds. In the morning, the crowing of the roosters awakens me. In the afternoon, traditional Kichwa music pervades the Cavernas Jumandy water park through the speakers. In the evening, the pitter-patter of the rain drops against the tin roof of my room lulls me to sleep. One sound I did not realize was beautiful to Ecuadorians is that of English. On the first day of teaching my English classes, I asked my pupils why they wanted to learn. Most of the responses I heard were related to a desire to communicate with tourists from the United States and Europe. The one response that struck me was “I want to speak English because it is a beautiful song.”

My students’ willingness to achieve their goals is inspiring. I teach English three days per week, one class in the morning and another in the evening. My work supervisor told me that classes should be one hour each. They sometimes however last one-and-a-half or even two hours because my students are so eager to learn. I thus have to improvise a lesson plan because I only planned to teach for one hour. Creating lesson plans is difficult because I am not sure where to begin teaching the enormity of the English language. So far, I have taught colors using skittles, nationalities through role-playing, the alphabet, and time. In the picture above, my host mother is acting as the pope, and the students have to guess that she is Italian.

Many students already have some background knowledge which is helpful. However, they struggle with pronunciation. For instance, one student accidentally said “sex” rather than the number “six.” I try to remain as patient with them as they have with me. I make mistakes too. For example, when my host uncle asked me in Spanish how I was, I apparently responded toro bien (the bull is well) instead of todo bien (all is well); I did not enunciate the d at the end. As my Spanish improves every day, I hope my students’ English likewise gets better. My family likes to play English music on their computer, and they frequently sing the choruses of Imagine by John Lennon (“Imagine all the people”), Lemon Tree by Fool’s Garden (“I wonder how/I wonder why”), and Kansas by Dust in the Wind (“I close my eyes/Only for a moment and the moment’s gone”). I am confident in the future they will be able to sing all of these beautiful songs.

Brian Riefler