Encouraging English learners in Ethiopia

Our guest post today is by Elizabeth Horsefield, a volunteer with the VSO in Ethiopia.

Ethiopia was perhaps not the intended market for a EuroTalk Interactive Learn English CD-ROM. But it’s going down a storm. I work as a VSO volunteer in a Teacher Training College in a rural area of Western Oromia, Ethiopia. We have an English Language Improvement Centre (ELIC) which recently acquired two new desktop computers complete with headphones and speakers. Perfect.

Students in EthiopiaThe students are desperate to improve their English. For most of them this usually involves sitting silently in front of an old copy of some estranged grammar book and making notes. Others even read the Oxford dictionary in the hope that it will one day magically transform their communication skills in English. Many of them went to school in remote areas with very few educational resources. Often their experiences in the ELIC provide a first opportunity to use a keyboard and mouse, so operating an interactive CD-ROM in their second or maybe third language might have been beyond their capacity. It would appear not.

Students studying with EuroTalk in EthiopiaEvery afternoon (hours scheduled for computer use outside of their regular classes), the students come and learn. Sitting alone or in pairs, I allow them half hour slots to navigate around the different activities and keep score. The cultural context of the material is apparent. These Ethiopian students are not familiar with eating roast chicken, going sailing or playing the trombone. But this only serves to highlight how culture and language are two halves of the same whole and they are quick to overcome any misunderstandings with the help of the pictures and a little guidance from the native speaker (me).

The local language in the area I live and work is Afan Oromo. I have been making a concerted effort to speak and understand something of this wonderful language with its complex history and rich sense of identity. If only an interactive CD-ROM existed for Afan Oromo, I suspect I would be making nearly as much progress as my students.

Elizabeth Horsefield, Nekemte, Ethiopia


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