ARCO Language Institute
Life is full of surprises. Our latest resulted when we received an email that English teachers were being sought. VERBO was beginning a language institute teaching English, but with a phonics methodology originated in the United States.
Gina Ugalde, the Director of the Institute, invited us to come to her office to learn more about it. After one conversation with her, we were hooked.
Next was a two day seminar with Gina’s cousin-in-law, Steve Nine, an American. He married an Ecuadorian and has lived in on the coast for the past 8 years. His mother has taught in the US school system for over 25 years. She developed this methodology years ago and it is widely used in the States.
ARCO hosted an inauguration at Verbo church. 250 interested persons appeared to hear more about ARCO and learning English.
Approximately 100 students signed up and ARCO was launched on February 7, 2012. Gary and I teach on Tuesday and Thursday evenings from 4 to6 p.m. Gary has a class of 5 and Sue has a class of 6. Then we team teach a class from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. with 14 students.
Maria Elisa, daughter of Margarita Toral (an editor of El Tiempo) spent some time in the United States. Although an Ecuadorian, she speaks excellent English. She is a part of the staff, working with many children who have elected to take English.
The English classes are very well organized – every teacher follows the detailed class plan. The structure includes 70 phonograms, dialogs, poetry, songs. Teachers are allowed to be creative and bonding with the students is a top priority.
Phonograms are an essential element of the system. If you have had Spanish lessons, you understand that all the vowels are pronounced the same way ALL the time. An “a” always has an “ah” sound, etc. Yet in English, an “a” can have three sounds, making it difficult for Ecuadorians to speak in a way where their words are understood. They are learning ALL the sounds of the English language, pronouncing them and learning to recognize them in words. There are 44 sounds in English and only 24 in Spanish. And 70 ways to spell our 44 sounds!One way we all decided to “bond” together was to write a song, combining Gary’s, Elisa’s, and Sue’s class to learn and sing it. The song consisted of words we were learning and a flare of fun! Now “hams” exist just as much in Ecuador as they do in the United States.
Next week we embark on our 15th lesson. ARCO is a road we are glad we went down.