Feb 23, 2012

Behind Bars - English for Inmates 6

Well, how about that? We have the complete group -- the reserved man who I hadn't seen since lesson to as reappeared, and that means we have the full group as on my original list. 12 of us, and no losses so far. Of course, there's always the chance that one someone might get released.

So, who do we have here? It's quite cosmopolitan little environment we have in our bare narrow room: four Italians, three Romanians, two Albanians, one Tunisian, one Moroccan, and one Colombian. The youngest is Julian, the 19-year-old from Romania who speaks very fluent and natural English (but is more limited than on first impressions). After one lesson I asked him how he had learnt his English -- apparently it was from intensive viewing of Cartoon Network since the age of three.
The rest of the group are a mixture of men in their 20’s, 30’s and 40’s. Once you're in the classroom (and you try to forget the bare walls and the steel barred windows high up) you could be in a class anywhere -- the dynamics, the rapport, the humour, the focus of attention, it's the same as it would be if I was teaching in school or on a company course for example -- actually in some ways it's much better than often happens outside. The big difference of course is that this classroom really is our world at least at the moment. The kind of things that often pepper normal lessons just don't happen here. We still know next to nothing about each other apart from what we have understood from these encounters -- no personal backgrounds or information on Private lives.
I can hardly asked the usual friendly enquiries such as “Did you have a nice weekend?”, “Are you doing anything interesting later?”, “Where are you going afterwards?”. At the end of today's lesson I explained how they could use their books between lessons “when you are at home”. “At home!” they all jaunted - rather ruefully. A slip of the tongue and they understood -- I was the only one who'd be going home that day.

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