B-jabbering – The BJAB class where you’ll never get told off for chatting during lessons!
“I’m normally a very chatty person” explained one BJAB Mum at the start of last year, “but when I speak English, I can’t find the right words; I don’t understand when people speak fast; I have difficulty with pronunciation; I feel nervous and foolish – and I’m not like me at all…”
Anyone who has ever learnt a foreign language will know exactly what this feels like – which is one reason why BJAB introduced “B-jabbering” – the English Conversation Class for EAL parents, which now runs once a week at the school. But there’s a more important reason too:
So the aim of the conversation class is to enable EAL parents to practice and develop their English, so that they can support their children’s learning and participate in BJAB life as much as possible.
“When and what are SATs?”…“Who is Mr Thorne and what are Phonics?” “What is a fancy-dress parade?” and “which English children’s books are the most popular?” These are just a few typical questions the group discussed during sessions last year. But when BJAB parents from different countries get together, there’s also a lot of tip-sharing, fun and laughter too….
The most important theme of the course however, is bridging the ‘cultural gap’ in order to help parents feel comfortable within the “British” environment of the school, as well as in the wider “international” atmosphere of Brussels.
Things like British understatement, irony and humor can be baffling to a non-native English speaker. So can idioms, acronyms and slang – especially when these are interspersed with “Brussels-speak” such as “garderie”, “stage” and “GSM” – so these ‘cultural aspects’ are also covered by the course.
Participants usually start each session by reading a short piece of text out loud, such as a topical newspaper article or an extract from a popular children’s book. This helps to get the conversation going and is also a good way to pick up new words, phrases and expressions.
There are frequent pauses to discuss new vocabulary (and how to use it in various situations) as well as to practise pronouncing any words or phrases that are difficult. For example “Hic-up Horrendous Haddock the Third” (the hero of How to train your dragon – a popular book amongst many BJAB children) is not the easiest name to say if you have difficulty pronouncing either the ‘h’ or ‘th’ sounds. (…spot the use of British understatement in this sentence….)
Does humor cross cultural divides? Not always; but judging by the relaxed, empathetic laughter in many lessons, the group-members certainly enjoy sharing many jokes – as well as networking with other BJAB parents, exchanging tips and creating a congenial circle of friends.
“It was a great time. Every Wednesday morning we had class for more than an hour about life-topics, children, habits of different countries…I learnt a lot, from vocabulary and grammar to little tricks and humor!” said one Belgian Mum in the class. The atmosphere was “so convivial and friendly” said another.
And what about the Mum who at the start of the course, described so well how many of us feel when speaking a “foreign” language? “I am enjoying this English class” she said. “I feel comfortable and I don’t feel pressure if I could not understand some topics”. But best of all, her English has improved – very audibly – and she’s becoming chattier by the day!
The English conversation class will continue to meet this term on Wednesday mornings, 9.15-10.45am, starting on Wed 9th Sept. The cost for the term is €180. For more information, or to attend a free trial session, please contact Georgina Tate, the BJAB Mum and professional English coach who runs this club.