Apr 28, 2009

Major Focus: Teaching English as Second Language

by Daniel Martinez

In order for someone to be able to think about, understand and accept the love of God through Jesus Christ, they must understand the words in which that message is being presented. And since Liberty University’s goal is to reach the world for Christ, especially unreached people groups in far corners of the planet, its emphasis on understanding language is absolutely necessary.

“The way that God designed language and words and the structure of it all is amazing,” Senior Anna Ridge said, speaking of her newfound joy she has found via one of Liberty’s crucial programs, Teaching English as a Second Language (TESL).

“I have learned so much about my language and other languages. I understand language on a level I never thought I could,” Ridge said.

Many students who come to Liberty find themselves called to ministry overseas, and with that calling comes the necessity of being able to help someone understand what they are saying.

“My ultimate goal is to use TESL to reach Muslim people on the mission field overseas,” Senior Katrina Williams said.

“Since most Islamic countries are closed, TESL is a perfect major for people wanting to share the gospel.” She said this is because many Arabic-speaking people want to learn English for use in the business world

Every semester, Liberty has Missions Emphasis Week, during which more students are called to missions and those already called are strengthened in their desire to go out. These calls come in many different ways and often change student’s original plans.

Senior Nick McColley, who is within a few semesters of graduating with a TESL degree, originally wanted to teach English. Junior Savannah Sims has always wanted to be a missionary. Graduating senior Nathan LeMaster wanted to be an Old Testament professor. Each of these people ended up burning through the TESL curriculum, taking classes in Linguistics, Cultural Anthropology, Modern Grammar, Advanced Expository Writing and classes that delve into other languages.

“I have learned the patterns in languages from all around the world, how to read the international phonetic alphabet and the philosophy behind language use,” Sims said.

Regardless of their original intentions in studying at Liberty, many TESL students have had experience teaching English, which only cemented their desire to pursue the major.

“I taught English in Guatemala for two months,” LeMaster said. He taught students and faculty of the high school to understand the language.

Senior Rhonda Hawks taught English at a school and church in Mexico for a month last summer. She experienced the challenge of creating her own curriculum and lessons but also the joy of teaching them about God. “From these relationships (that I developed with the students) we would get into discussions about the Bible and how to live a God-honoring life.” She called the experience “awesome.”

Students interested in the TESL program can start by taking basic classes in the MLAN (Modern Languages) curriculum, such as MLAN 213, Introduction to Linguistics. SPAN 304 – Culture and Civilization in Latin America – is a course Liberty offers that is instructed entirely in Spanish. Some students may want to get their teacher licensure, which will require them to take additional classes, but all TESL majors have to spend a semester student teaching. After taking prerequisite classes for the teaching, students have to apply (“they must apply early on,” Ridge said) and be placed by the School of Education into schools where, McColley said, they will “observe and be observed in teaching situations.” A full college semester of student teaching is required for TESL majors to graduate, but many will already have had bits of experience through their classes.

“Dr. Gho, who is part of the graduate school, has allowed some friends and myself to assist in teaching English to her class of Korean students,” McColley said.

TESL is an important major and an important part of Liberty’s plan to reach out to the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ. Students in the curriculum have not only been moved closer to the degree they desire, they have also learned many things in the process.

“I find myself analyzing English words and breaking them down to find the origin of the word,” Ridge said. “Everyday I am amazed at how God has created it all.”


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