Once a week in Hebron, the Excellence Center invites students from a local girls school to join its volunteers for a meeting of the English Club. Unlike traditional English classes, the English Club’s focus is on engaging students in conversation, improving English fluency through practice rather than instruction. Games, discussions, and debates all give the students the confidence to practice their English with native speakers and their peers.
For the past few weeks, Engi, 31, from Australia, Chris, 24, from Singapore, and Connor, 24, from the USA have met with 12 to 14-year-old female students to practice spoken English and share their culture. Because the students study at a private school, the students have had more instruction in English, and this experience shows in their level of fluency. The volunteers are unanimous in their belief that the students at the English Club are the most fluent students they’ve encountered while working at the Excellence Center. One girl, they have noticed, has even developed somewhat of an American teenage ‘valley girl’ accent, using words like “like,” “whatever” and “so” a lot.
The subjects and activities of the English Club vary from week to week. On the first week, volunteers went around the room introducing themselves to the volunteers, using a beach ball as a ‘talking stick’ to take turns with. The volunteers discovered that many of the students had frequent exposure to English language media. Just like preteen girls in the United States, their favorite artists were Justin Bieber and the Jonas Brothers, their favorite movies were Frozen and The Little Mermaid, and they had read classics like the works of Shakespeare and J.R.R. Tolkien. One student practiced her English in the club by serenading the volunteers with a Sia song.
The students are also well traveled. In a meeting where the topic of discussion was travel and transportation, students shared that many of them had family living abroad. Some had visited their fathers, brothers, or cousins in Turkey, Jordan, or Egypt. Others had gone on vacation to Saudi Arabia, Italy, and Germany. They shared sites, activities, and food that they thought the volunteers should visit, do, and eat during their time in volunteering in Palestine. One girl described something they called ‘wine’ to the volunteer’s surprise. Unlike wine in the West this wine, or dibs, is a non-alcoholic liquid derived from grapes that is sweet and used as a dip for breads and sandwiches. When the volunteers said they would love to try it sometime the student came to the next session with a mason jar full of it as a gift.
The students that attend the English Club are universally eager to learn English, bright and quick to learn, and curious about other cultures. They ask questions at every opportunity, are consistently polite and friendly, and are studious and creative. All the volunteers who have attended a meeting of the English Club have enjoyed it and think that these young women are destined to be the next leaders of Palestine.
The English Club is a favorite for volunteers at the Excellence Center. If you are curious about volunteering in Hebron and teaching English at the English Club, feel free to reach out to us with any questions.