Practice makes perfect

Practice makes perfect

Today we were visited by David.

Ha talked to us in groups of three so he could get an idea of our English skills. Everyone performed well for their own capabilities. Some of us were a bit nervous but in the atmosphere was good in the room and everyone enjoyed the conversation.

English Conversations in Nagybajom.

I am English and have been living and working in Hungary since 2010. I spent last Friday and Saturday in Nagybajom. This is a small countryside town with around 3,500 residents in Somogy county (the county’s capital is Kaposvar with 70,000 residents). It is 200km South-West of Budapest, 50km from the Croatian border…and 1700km South-East of London. Using public transport, the journey from my home in Budapest to the community house in Nagybajom takes around five hours (and comprises one tram, two metros, two trains and a mini-bus).

I have made regular visits to Nagybajom for three and a half years and have gotten to know the children, and their developing language abilities, well. I first met many of them during a summer camp at Sarospatak in 2010 when they were twelve and thirteen years old – they are now fifteen and sixteen years old. During the weekend, I had long conversations with sixteen of the children. We covered many of the topics that they have been learning with their local language teachers. These topics included: family and friends, free time activities / hobbies, school, travelling / traffic, daily routine, food and healthy eating, where they live (including their house/flat and their town/county/country), shopping, and their summer activities (including their trip with the Foundation to England).

I was extremely impressed with the children’s attitude – they all wanted to do well and were focussed. Though we worked very hard, we managed to have a lot of fun. I wrote a report on each child, commenting on their fluency, understanding, grammar and vocabulary. At the end of every conversation, I gave each student individual feedback. I told them three things that I liked about their language abilities, and suggested one area which they could focus on in the future in order to move their English forwards.

One student, in particular, surprised me. In the past, he has found acquiring the English language to be very difficult and has struggled in the bi-annual language exams that I have administered for the past few years. However, he has obviously been working extremely hard because on Saturday we had a fantastic conversation together in English, covering a range of topics. I was amazed and absolutely delighted for him. He justifiably felt very proud of his achievement and had an enormous smile on his face for the rest of the day!

Another particularly interesting conversation was with a boy who gave unusual answers to standard questions. He was working hard to not simply deliver standard answers but to use the English to communicate complex opinions and arguments. I thought it was excellent that he was not choosing the easy path, but giving himself this challenge.

Generally, the children in Nagybajom are moving on significantly with their language learning and I had the impression that they really enjoy speaking English. It was obvious that a few students have recently made big breakthroughs with the language. Everyone in the community house realises how important the English language will be in their future. I enjoy my trips to the community houses very much. There is always a friendly atmosphere and the children are a delight to work with. If they find something difficult, they do not give up, but are inspired to try harder. They help each other a lot and work together as a group rather than as individuals. They feel a responsibility to one another and are proud of being members of the Foundation. They have interesting things to say and have a passion both for learning and for life. Moreover, the mentors are wonderful and it is a privilege to see the close relationships that they have with the children.

David Holmes