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A free English lesson straight from a Brit? Who would say no?

Early November last year, the Samboja Lestari (SL) Rehabilitation Center received a volunteer from the United Kingdom, a professional English teacher and an advertising consultant by the name of Sam Ridout. His CV attracted us to request his help through giving us free English lessons, which lucky for us, he agreed upon.

Nevertheless, first impressions from SL staff were like, “he must be old, mustn’t he?”. Or, “the class would surely be difficult to follow because he’ll be speaking English all the way through,”.

The questions were answered after 5 days of language courses.

For the first task, the SL staff were to participate in an elimination test of 50 multiple choice questions. The questions were mostly about grammar. For the SL crews, a foreign language test is no normal event. Thus, even though most of them were interested, different responses surfaced during test.

A group chose to gather in a corner and discuss the answers. One staff gave up and said, “I’ve been super dizzy worrying about living costs, and now I have to take this test?” One copied some answers from a colleague, while another even asked another colleague to do his test.

A particular joke flew around during the length of the course. It was “Yes, I’m fine.” It started with a colleague, whose name I’d rather not mention, came up with an answer. When “Mr. Sam”, that’s how we addressed our new teacher, asked this colleague of mine, “how old are you?”  My colleague then loudly answered... “Yes, I’m fine!”

This became “the moment” for all of us to laugh, relax and begin to enjoy this new learning experience.

Based on the test, we ended up grouped into several classes: Beginner, Elementary, Pre-intermediate, Intermediate, Upper intermediate and Advanced. The total number of participants was 40, consisting of staff from the lodge, communications, supervisors, coordinators, medics and basically all other staff stood by the office that day.

The class took place at the SL office starting at 08.30 and ending at 18.30, in which each was given 1.5 hours of lesson. “That length is the perfect duration to learn a foreign language.  Longer than that, one would get tired and bored,” said Sam.

First day of class, as expected, was a little chaotic, especially due to inabilities from the SL staff to comprehend Sam, given his inability to speak Bahasa Indonesia. Fortunately, the situation lightened on the second day, when everyone felt more comfortable speaking and understanding English.

The courses ended on November 7th, and here are opinions from some of the participants. “The teacher was very kind and patient, and we had a lot of games,” said one SL staff. “The teacher turned out to be quite young, he speaks slowly yet articulately,” said one from the lodge. “He’s good looking and made us comfortable,” said another.

English Course Today! (Photo credit: Ardy)

English Course Today! (Photo credit: Ardy)

English Course Today! (Photo credit: Ardy)

To sum it up, all the initial worries from our team were dead wrong.

Sam also expressed a mutual impression. “I’m happy everyone was enthusiastic and willing to learn in class, and I felt quite ‘enslaved’ by the tight scheduling everyday,” he joked.  He promised to come back next year and open an even longer English class program for us.

It was truly a productive week for us. In the midst of our daily orangutan care routine, SL friends were willing to spend time learning English which is such a great asset to enable us to communicate well with so many visitors. Salute to us all.

“How old are you?”
“Yes, I’m fine!” :)

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