TIF’s Conversational English Classes

by Martin Whittaker October 9, 2015

The last thing our Savior said to us in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark was the Great Commission. Mark 16:15: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” We all try to witness in our worlds, to our families, to our friends, to the people we meet. But to go into all the world is daunting when you have a presentation at work Monday morning or the kids have to be at soccer practice by 4 PM, or you have a paper due Wednesday. Here at Tenth, because of our location, the world can and does come to us.

Tenth International Fellowship’s Conversational English Classes attract students from all over the world on Friday nights and Sunday mornings. At 7 PM on Friday nights in the catacombs and at 9:30 AM on Sunday mornings in the 315 building we have conversational English classes and Bible study. 

The conversational English part of the classes on Friday nights is more like tutoring sessions, with usually one or two students per tutor. The low student-to-tutor ratio enables us to personalize the class to meet the specific linguistic needs of each student. Pronunciation can be improved when a tutor has the time to demonstrate how to pronounce a word. Idioms can be explained. Specific vocabulary and general vocabulary can be increased. Listening skills can be improved. Students learn that most Americans will respond positively if you ask them politely, “Could you please speak a little slower?” When someone speaks slower, the students’ listening comprehension is greatly increased. The tutors can also explain about American culture. If we can improve students’ cultural understanding, hopefully they can communicate in a more effective manner. While teaching about our culture, the tutors learn so much about the cultures our students come from. Over the course of a normal year we have about 100 different students come through the class. On the average week we have 15 to 17 students and 10 tutors. In the past few years we have had students from at least 15 countries, places such as China, Korea, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan, Mongolia, Nepal, Russia, Algeria, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Mali, Cameroon, Brazil, Mexico, Taiwan, and Serbia.

After the English lesson, we have a 15 minute transition period when we sing the doxology and a hymn, discuss events happening at Tenth and in the Delaware Valley, have a prayer, and enjoy a riddle and snacks. 

The final 45 minutes of the class on Friday night is a Bible study. The majority of our students are scientific researchers from China who are not Christian. I have, on several occasions, had students actually say to me, “Is that a Bible? I have heard about the Bible, but have never actually seen one.” Hearing that, or something similar to that, brothers and sisters, is so exciting. I normally would respond to a comment like that by saying, “What have you heard about the Bible?” And then I would begin the Bible study from there. Every week in class it is a different situation, with different students who have different backgrounds, but it is always an opportunity to talk about the saving grace of our God. With our low student-to-tutor ratio, there is time for the students to get thoughtful answers to their questions during the Bible study. Our tutors are very dedicated to this ministry. The tutors try to establish relationships with the students. Tutors have stayed in contact with many of the students after they go back to their countries. This is important because so often people come to Christ through a relationship with a Christian.

We end the classes at 9:30 PM by singing a couple verses from the hymn, “God Be With You Till We Meet Again.”

Please pray for this ministry at Tenth. The Holy Spirit has used this ministry to bear fruit here at Tenth, with students joining the church. One student has even gone on to seminary. But more importantly, since nearly all of our students go back to their home country in a relatively short period of time, pray that the Holy Spirit would nurture the seed planted here at Tenth to bring them to Christ at some later time (if not here). 


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Please include the following statement on any distributed copy: By Martin Whittaker. © 2024 Tenth Presbyterian Church. Website: tenth.org