Students helping peers to learn English

JOEL MAXWELL
Last updated 13:00 22/02/2013
Kapiti esol
KAPITI OBSERVER
Conversation starter: From left, Airi Hara, Ayaka Nishino and Sapphira Murray in the Otaki College English for speakers of other languages class

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Senior Otaki College students are using the simple art of conversation to help their peers master English.

A group of year 13 students have volunteered to help out in the school's multi-level class for speakers of other languages.

Teacher Avatar Loorparg said conversation - not just reading and writing - is the key to learning for the students from as far afield as Japan, France and India.

Mrs Loorparg was guiding a dozen students through a verbal retelling of the story of the Grimm Brothers' Hansel and Gretel as she spoke to the Kapiti Observer.

Helping her in the session were four student volunteers who acted as conversation guides for their peers.

''These are year 13 students who have got what we call a non-contact period. And this year we decided instead of having them pretend to study, we'd put them to good use.''

Conversation is key to gaining fluency - so Mrs Loorparg was keen to get her students' English-speaking peers in her class.

Tutor Sapphira Murray said she had only been to a couple of classes but so far it had been fun.

''I've had a friend a few years ago on exchange from Japan - so I've had experience using my hands to try and communicate.''

Sapphira, who studies Japanese and uses the interaction to improve her own language skills, said sometimes even explaining a word she understands can be challenging.

''I just know it, I don't know the dictionary definition.''

Mrs Loorparg said students at the college go home more fluent in English, thanks to the immersion in the language.

Learning a new language requires students to be unafraid of making mistakes, she said. ''One of the things they have to get over, is being afraid to take the risks.''

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