English Lessons Days 1 and 2

The main task BWU has asked us to do during our internship is to be English tutors for three of their staff members: Zar Zar, Suzy, and Mae. We had known this prior to arriving in Mae Sot, so we did some preparation by gathering interesting world news articles from the BBC and the NYT. In addition to printing online articles, we also brought a copy of The Pioneer (Whitman’s weekly campus newspaper), The Union-Bulletin (the local Walla Walla newspaper), and The Wall Street Journal (because it is free in one of Maxey’s lounges). During a Skype meeting with Noe Noe Htet San (works in BWU’s library and is GlobeMed’s main contact in Mae Sot) she described the English levels of the three staff as intermediate and beginner. We didn’t have the opportunity to speak with these staff members to try and gauge their English level more precisely before arriving, so we all just hoped that by grabbing a wide range of English news articles, we would find something that would work.

Rachael, Zar Zar, Suzy, Mae and Morgan on our first day of English lessons!

Rachael, Zar Zar, Suzy, Mae and Morgan on our first day of English lessons!

Our first English lessons with Zar Zar, Suzy and Mae were on Thursday, May 30 (the day after we arrived) from 9 am – 11 am.  All six of us gathered around the central table in the library and did introductions in English. Zar Zar is the oldest of our three students and she has worked at BWU since 2006. She currently works in their library department and has previously worked in finances. Suzy is one of BWU’s library interns and she is living in the BWU offices in the room next door to us. She has been here for 3 months. Mae is also a library intern and also lives with us at BWU in the same room as Suzy. Mae has been here for almost 1 month. In a later blog post we’ll formally introduce you all to the staff members, but here’s a short introduction for now.

Rachael is trying to explain what a halo is....

Rachael is trying to explain what a halo is….

After introductions, we showed them a map of the US and pointed to Los Angeles and Portland (closest cities to all of our hometowns) as well as different images of Whitman. They were all very interested in learning about American colleges, but were very confused when I showed them how far away Los Angeles was from Whitman. Zar Zar asked how I got to school and I said by airplane to which she exclaimed, “Every day?!” We had a good laugh about that and then showed them images of Anderson Hall. Then, each of us split up with a different intern and reviewed the alphabet and then read this article from the BBC about polio in Nigeria: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-22307412

...so she drew one!

…so she drew one!

The article turned out to be too difficult for all three interns. Mae is definitely a beginner and while she can comprehend a bit, she has trouble with pronunciation and vocabulary. Suzy is intermediate and can comprehend a lot but needs help expanding her vocabulary. Zar Zar is also intermediate and the most comfortable speaking English. After our first lesson, Morgan, Rachael and I decided having the same article for each intern was not going to work out because they are all at pretty different stages in their speaking and comprehending abilities. So, being the adaptable Whitties that we are, we decided to shake things up for day two.

Zar Zar, Suzy and Mae

Zar Zar, Suzy and Mae

On day two, we had English lessons at our normal time (1 pm – 3pm) and immediately broke into three groups. Morgan is working with Mae, Rachael B. with Suzy, and Rachel P. with Zar Zar. Within each group, each GROW intern tailored her lesson to her interns’ needs.


Morgan and Mae

Morgan found a website called, English for All, on her Kindle which has a bunch of four hundred word passages at different grade levels. Morgan had Mae start at the 4th/5th grade level, and Mae would read the passages out loud so Morgan could correct her pronunciation as they went along. Mae also wrote down any English words she was not familiar with, so at the end of the passage, Morgan could explain them or find a picture (ex. lotus flower). They got through 4 passages which was outstanding! Mae looked pretty tired by the end though, and you could tell she had been working very hard.

Suzy and Rachael

Suzy and Rachael

For Suzy, Rachael found a website that listed the top 3,000 words used in the English language and they went through twenty to thirty together. Rachael would have Suzy look at the word, say it in English, and then write down a sentence using the word. Oftentimes Suzy was familiar with the word and its meaning but was unsure how to use it in a sentence, so it was great having Rachael help her along and give sample sentences. After doing those words, Rachael Googled “short English easy stories” and they read through a couple of those together. The stories they found were much simpler than the BBC article from the previous day, and Suzy definitely seemed to enjoy them more.

Rachel and Zar Zar

Rachel and Zar Zar

As for Zar Zar, she asked me (Rachel P.) to elaborate more on English verb tenses. While I have studied grammar in a bit of detail (albeit in Latin), Zar Zar definitely knew more English specific phrases for verbs than I had ever learned. We went onto Purdue’s Writing Lab website and discussed Present Perfect, Past Perfect and Future Perfect verbs. Can you identify which is which?

1. Judy saved thirty dollars.

2. Judy will save thirty dollars.

3. Judy has saved thirty dollars.

4. Judy had saved thirty dollars by the end of last month.

5. Judy will have saved thirty dollars by the end of this month.

This was not difficult for Zar Zar and she could identify them right away. However, she told me she was confused about how to use them in an English sentence, so I thought practicing writing would be the next best way to go. Zar Zar wrote down a brief introduction of herself and her employment at BWU (approximately six sentences). We then went back and dissected them together and substituted any word that would work better (ex. transferred vs. moved). While we ended up not working specifically on Past Perfect verb tenses, Zar Zar seemed happy editing her work. After composition, she wanted to read more in English so I pulled out a copy of the Whitman Pio. We read the first story on the page, which was about Bon Appetit workers (http://whitmanpioneer.com/news/2013/04/25/in-the-kitchens-the-voices-in-whitmans-dining-halls/) and Zar Zar really got into the story. We would pause and discuss the relationship between each person interviewed and she definitely seemed to comprehend more of this story than the story about Nigerian polio. After reading the article for about an hour and identifying new words, the English lessons were over. Zar Zar skimmed through the rest of the newspaper and found a comic about the T.Tones (a Whitman a Cappella group) so we went onto YouTube and watched a short clip. All three of the women were very interested in the two Asian members and wanted us to tell them where they were from.

That wraps up English lessons for day two! It was a bit long, working the entire two hours without breaks, so we decided to add some more fun by watching movie clips. For Monday, we’ll be watching When Harry Met Sally, How to Train Your Dragon, and Groundhog Day. If you have any suggestions for easy English movies to watch, please post a comment J

(side note…..our feet are almost back to normal!)

Rachel, Morgan, and Rachael


  1. past
  2. future
  3. present perfect
  4. past perfect
  5. future perfect
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