Nĭ hăo! Students become teachers for free language classes in St. John's

Students in the Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council's English as a Second Language program will take over the classroom to teach some of their language and culture to people in St. John's this fall.

Advisory council offering French, Arabic, Cantonese, Mandarin and Farsi

Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council ESL coordinator Bobbi Henneker (l-r) with language students turned teachers Min Yang and Abdelsalam Abogharara. (Maggie Gillis/CBC)

Students in the Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council's English as a Second Language (ESL) program will take over the classroom to teach some of their language and culture to people in St. John's this fall.

This is the first time the council is turning the tables to make the students the teachers.

"I thought it would be really fun, you know instead of constantly pushing for people to learn English maybe for the community to get an opportunity to learn a second language themselves," said Bobbi Henneker, the council's ESL coordinator in St. John's.

"I'm excited for it."

Classes run once a week for 12 weeks. (Facebook)

Abdelsalam Abogharara will take a break from his studies at Memorial University to teach one of two Arabic classes being offered.

"I think Arabic sounds to be one of the most difficult languages to be learned, but my goal in teaching it, I want to make it very exciting for people ... and make them take the first step and then go explore learning by themselves," said the PhD candidate, who came to Canada from Libya to study oil and gas engineering in 2003.

Free weekly lessons beginning Sept. 13 are also being offered in Cantonese, Mandarin, Farsi and French, and Henneker said they have been filling up quickly. She said they are willing to offer more classes if interested teachers come forward.

Speed learning

Min Yang is a PhD student from China who has been enrolled in the council's ESL program since June. She won't be teaching a class in her native Mandarin, but she will be part of a language exchange meet and greet at Rocket Bakery in St. John's on Friday, Sept. 7 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m.

Much like speed dating, it will be an opportunity for people to sit down one-on-one for 20 minutes with someone from another country to learn a little more about their culture and language.

"For Chinese the greetings and numbers is not hard, that's what I want to teach students at the event," said Yang.

There is more information on the Refugee and Immigrant Advisory Council's Facebook page.

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