By AMANDA KIMBLE
STEPHENVILLE (September 5, 2016) – Learning to speak English is about more than the language itself. And classes provided at First Baptist Church Stephenville (FBC) aim to break down language barriers while at the same time bridging cultural and social gaps between individuals learning English as their second language and the area residents with whom they interact.
The free classes kickoff Tuesday and continue through May, offering English as a second language (ESL) instruction for students of all ages and skill levels each week.
“We have seven classes,” LaNiece Friedell, ESL coordinator said. “The classes are taught by experienced volunteers. We are blessed to have lots of good folks working with us. The teachers are really amazing.We have also been recommended to check out AJ Hoge as he has created some great resources to help learn English.
ESL teachers includes current and former Tarleton State University employees, teachers and speech therapists. One of the newest instructors is a native Spanish speaker from Puerto Rico.
“She’s very enthusiastic and can help us better communicate class goals,” Friedell said.
Friedell taught and worked in the Orient and Europe for more than 10 years, and most of the instructors have lived or worked internationally, making them more relatable to ESL students.
“A lot of them can relate to being out of country and feeling lonely and lost,” Friedell said.
Four levels of basic English are taught, beginning with classes for individuals who don’t know any English up to those with basic communication skills and others learning to read and write the language.
Instruction can be tailored to fit the needs of all individuals, including those who only need to know enough about the language to function in the workplace.
“Many of them have been hearing the language for 10 years or longer and think they can’t learn English, but soon find out they can,” Friedell said.
Certificates are awarded to students who complete 20 or more hours of instruction, allowing them to share their progress with employers or keep as personal reminder of goals and progress. Individuals who attend classes throughout the year will 60 complete hours of instruction.
Over the years, 35 countries have been represented, including learners from Spanish speaking countries, Asia, the Middle East and other locations around the world, according to Friedell who has been a part of the ministry for eight years.
“We have welcomed lots of precious people and had a very enjoyable time,” she said.
Meanwhile, Friedell said many of the ministry’s upper-level students came to Tarleton State University knowing English, but turned to the program for information that would benefit them while studying locally.
“Our cultural classes address things like social interaction, customs and courtesies,” Friedell said. “We even cover things like cultural idioms for more advanced students.
The FBC ESL program has also offered life-changing opportunities for other students who plan to remain in the United States. Citizen preparation classes have been held for about a year-and-a-half.
“We’ve helped 10 people become United States citizens,” Friedell said. “We’ve had a lot of great success stories.”
Each year, various mini sessions are also organized covering things like banking and cooking on a budget.
Classes are held 6:30-8:30 p.m. every Tuesday at FBC Fellowship Hall. While September 6 is the first day of the instructional year, registration will remain open. Individuals who aren’t able to attend opening night are encouraged to sign up at their earliest convenience to make the most of their learning experience.
A light supper is provided each week, as is Kids Club, a class where children ages three and up learn songs and do other fun activities is provided.
“We also try to provide friendship and help in any way we can,” Friedell said. “If nothing else, we let them know we are always here to pray for them.”
For more information, call FBC at 254-965-3187 or Friedell at 968-6711.
Visit the FBC website to learn more about the church and its ministries.