By Brian Cutshall, Director of Online Operations
A community outreach program of Greeneville First Baptist Church teaches newcomers from other countries how to speak, read and write English.
The “English as a Second Language” (ESL) program has helped nearly 200 people to learn and improve their English skills, since its inception some ten years ago, said the Rev. Joey Tillery, minister of education and administration at First Baptist.
Classes are held at the downtown church on Wednesdays, 10:30 a.m. until noon, primarily using volunteers as teachers.
“Right now we have about 15 students from China, Vietnam, Japan, South America, Mexico and Albania,” said Jan Rogers, director of First Baptist’s ESL program.
“We want to teach them English skills not so much from a perspective of grammar, as though they were sitting in a school classroom, but from the perspective of how they can survive in this country,” Rogers added.
Other agencies and organizations also host ESL programs, but First Baptist’s approach is somewhat unique in the area.
Each teaching session begins with Bible study and then breaks into individual groups for students of beginning, intermediate and advanced English skills.
“Many people in this country historically have learned to speak English and to read and write English by using the Bible, so that’s our first teaching tool,” Rogers said.
“We use a multi-pronged approach where they speak, they write, they hear.”
The ESL classes “have really helped me with my English,” said Tina Wang, who is formerly of China and operates the China Chef Restaurant in Greeneville with her husband.
“I am so glad to be here,” Wang said.
First Baptist Church distributes fliers on its ESL program through area restaurants, businesses and people that employ or come in contact with individuals who might benefit from classes.
For more information on ESL, potential students and volunteers may call First Baptist Church at 423-639-3194.