Why We Teach English

Why We Teach English

 “Why would they share that with me?” 

This is the thought I had a few different times during our first Conversation Club of the year, on Tuesday evening. I had a group of 3 women in their 60s. The conversation questions we had in front of us were a mix of reflecting on the past year, goals and hopes for the new year and how dark, cold days of January make us feel. 

But the conversation that we shared went so much deeper than just those things. Throughout our hour together, we shared of losses in life, cancer diagnoses, disappointment with close family members and children’s difficulties in school. And I kept thinking, “Why would these ladies share these things with me in English?” Here are a few of my ideas: 

1.For those learning English, speaking this language has the potential to be something of a “secret language.” People often share deep things with us in English because there is a bit of distance between their “normal lives” and this English-speaking one.

2. Longevity and trust. I’ve known these ladies for quite some time and we’ve had other conversations together, albeit not always so deep. Over time, we have built enough trust that they are open to sharing more. It’s also interesting how a new person can enter the group and still feel comfortable sharing deeper things on their first time. This is often because the trust of the group can somehow transfer to that new person, helping them recognize this is a safe place.

3. I met them in the descent, in my own vulnerability. What I mean by this is that I led the way by also sharing some difficulties and loss from my own life. I didn’t expect that they should be the only ones sharing the hard things. This, combined with trust, allowed these ladies to open up. We’re not going to grow much closer to one another and have deeper conversations if we meet each other only with our very best impressions, only with the part of us that wants to look good and to have it all together. But if we come ready to be real and vulnerable some amazing things can happen.

4. The Holy Spirit. We’ve seen week after week how the Holy Spirit moves in our conversations, allowing us to say things that we wouldn’t normally say, or just listen more closely than we would on our own. I’ve been a part of conversation clubs where the main topic was “pets” or “weather,” and yet, we somehow shared stories of Jesus at work in our lives. This kind of thing can only happen when the Spirit is moving among us in our seemingly “normal” conversations.

Sharing these hard things is a first step to understanding how Jesus is the One who loves and cares for us best. He knows us better than we know ourselves and can heal our hearts. And I look forward to many more conversations with these students in the future.