The students come prepared. Carrying worksheets with pictures and Arabic-English translations under their arms, the twelve participants of today’s English class make their way to CRP’s “Turtle room.” Volunteer teachers Grady and Bailey are already waiting and ready to start. Today’s topic: clothing.
“Pants,” “skirt,” “belt”—English words fill the room, together with lively chatter. Then they get active.
The students split in two groups for a small competition. Which group is able to put more vocabulary on the whiteboard, written correctly? The groups pick their names, team “Flowers” against team “Friendship,” and off it goes. “Put coat!,” calls one member of team “Flowers” to Sara, who is standing at the board, hesitating about what to write. Encouraging calls mix with chatter and laughter, and the students keep going until the time is over.
The volunteer teachers assess their class’s progress. Do the groups know the Arabic translation of the words they wrote on the board? Remembering their sounds is easier than the writing. Is it “shos,” “shose,” or “shoes”? Grady goes through the words on the whiteboard, crosses out the wrong ones and underlines the right version. Team Flower beat Friendship, 12 points versus 8.
Everyone gets back to their seats, and the teachers explain how to use the words in sentences: “This is . . .”
“Hayda yanni!” calls Emad, eager to show that he understood. The class is lively, and everyone participates eagerly.
Emad was born in Baghdad and fled to Jordan in 2016, together with his dad. Explaining why he makes all the way from Jabal Hussein where he lives, a taxi ride away, to CRP twice a week for one hour of English class, he says. “I am so happy when I am here in the classroom, I love learning the language, and learning from native speakers is the best.” He enjoys being in the group, making new friends that he otherwise would not meet. One of the people he newly met is Hussam, who lives in CRP’s neighbourhood, Hashemi Shamali. He is one of the most active students in class. Similar to Emad, he most enjoys the company of his fellow students. Circling with his hands to show the classroom, he smiles and says, “It feels like being with my family, like in my house.”
The classes run for the current semester, from September to December, twice a week for one hour.
“Watch out, ‘ours’ is different to ‘hours,’” remarks Grady, who mixes Arabic and English throughout his teaching. “My dress,” “your dress”, her dress” fills the board. Some students are busy writing down their notes, others take pictures of the board on their smartphone. It’s quieter now, everyone is concentrating.
The class ends with everyone getting up again, forming two circles and using what they just learned in conversation. The aim is to describe each others’ clothes. “My jacket is red,” says participant Nada tentatively and laughs. Emad stands right next to her, looks down at his sneakers, and says, “my shoes are blue,” and then it’s the next one’s turn.
After class, Emad and Hussam sit down to explain their main motivation to learn English. Both hope to be able to leave Jordan and travel to other countries in the future. While CRP can’t do anything to improve their meager chances of asylum and resettlement (only 2% of refugees worldwide will ever find resettlement in the West), the English classes help bring laughter, joy and useful skills to their lives—something students visibly enjoy.
English classes make up the largest percentage of programming at CRP. We need your help to keep it going, to help educate refugees and needy Jordanians, and provide a space where people can create friendships and feel at home. Donate today to make that happen.