One Classroom, Two Languages



I have finished the first of my two weeks teaching in Tanzania, and by God’s grace the classes have gone well. We have about a dozen students total, and we devote the morning hours to studying early church history and the afternoon hours to Paul’s letter to the Romans. As I expected, the biggest challenge has been the language barrier. Some of the students speak pretty fluent conversational English, but a few speak virtually no English at all. On the first day I tried teaching only in English with an English-speaking student as translator, but that did not work well because all the students want to take notes, and it is too hard for someone to take notes while also serving as translator. By Monday afternoon we settled into a new pattern where I would give every thought in English, then repeat the same thing in Swahili to the best of my ability, and then, if necessary, the students would suggest clearer or more grammatically correct ways of saying it in Swahili. Although it is very slow, I’ve been surprised at what an effective teaching method it is. When the students must restate every idea, I know that they understand it before we move on, and no one gets lost. It made my day at the end of the week when three different students told me, “Teacher, we understand you very well!”