By Dan Schlesinger
The New York Amateur Computer Club holds free monthly meetings open to the public at NYU. Presentations cover computer technology and trends. Currently, during the coronavirus pandemic, NYACC meetings are online via Zoom.
At the April NYACC meeting, ESL (English as a Second Language) instructor Dina Schlesinger interviewed Elizabeth, her online student in Beijing, China. The time was 8:00 pm in NYC, 9:00 am in Beijing. They used WeChat, the social media giant in China with 1.15 billion active monthly users. A 10-minute video of the interview is on YouTube: ESL Live from NYU-NYC to Beijing. The interview was projected on a large screen at NYU.
Dina has been teaching Elizabeth weekly for three years. Dina recalls, “When we first met online, Elizabeth hardly knew a word of English. Elizabeth’s English gradually improved, and she was able to speak well enough to do the live interview at the NYACC meeting.”
In the interview, Elizabeth, a ninth-grader, noted that learning English is very important to her and that she likes learning online. Dina says, “In addition to grammar, vocabulary and American idioms, we discuss stories and cultures from around the world. Elizabeth is a fantastic artist. She sends me her drawings, paintings, and animations regularly. She said she may want to study art at an American university like NYU.” Elizabeth talked about her artwork and how she was inspired to create art by both of her parents. Examples of her artwork are shown at the end of the video.
Dina began teaching ESL to students in China four years ago. After placing an online ad, she received an email from Blanca Uru who asked Dina to teach her son English online. Dina emailed back that she wanted to meet Blanca’s son in person before teaching him online. “You can’t meet us,” Blanca replied. “We live in Beijing.” (She runs an ESL company, Orange English, for students aged five to fifteen.)
Dina began teaching ESL online to Blanca’s son and other children in China using Zhumu, an interactive program similar to Zoom. The instructions for Zhumu were in Chinese. Blanca explained, via Skype, how to use the program. It took some tinkering and computer savvy. Using Zhumu, Dina teaches her students—on a shared screen at their homes—speaking, reading, writing, and drawing. Dina sends lessons to her students a week before teaching them.
Last week Elizabeth told Dina that she’s back at her junior high school after being quarantined at home for months and taking classes online due to the coronavirus. Elizabeth says that all students have to wear masks at school, except during exercising outside and while eating lunch with other students in the cafeteria, although the students aren’t allowed to talk to each other during lunch. Despite all these restrictions, Elizabeth is glad to be back at school.
Dina notes, “These ESL classes are bridges of friendship and understanding.”
Dina Schlesinger teaches ESL online to children in China. She also teaches ESOL (English Speakers of Other Languages) for adults at Community Impact at Columbia University and through her company. Her emphasis: cross-cultural conversations. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.