surinenglish

Foreign residents join the class

Volunteers talk to schoolchildren in Mijas in a file photo.
Volunteers talk to schoolchildren in Mijas in a file photo. / SUR
  • Local schoolchildren benefit from their international neighbours thanks to I Speak English, a language-learning initiative run by a group of volunteers in Mijas

Mijas Foreign Residents Department is appealing for volunteers to help extend its popular English language conversation classes to more schools in the Mijas area.

The initiative, which is called I Speak English, was started 15 years ago with the aim of helping young Spanish students improve their English language skills.

Volunteer coordinator Angela Smith; Foreign Residents Department coordinator Anette Skou; bilingualcoordinator at IES Vega de Mijas, Ana María Sánchez; and AIVOMI president Juan Vicente.

Volunteer coordinator Angela Smith; Foreign Residents Department coordinator Anette Skou; bilingualcoordinator at IES Vega de Mijas, Ana María Sánchez; and AIVOMI president Juan Vicente. / SUR

The project, which includes participatory projects and workshops, is now run by a group of volunteers who are associated with AIVOMI- a Mijas- based association that was established in 2016 to provide a free daily interpreter service at health centres, government and council offices and police stations.

The volunteers, mainly British, attend the schools twice a week to offer the pupils the chance to participate in English-language conversation sessions.

The project has been carried out at several schools in Mijas, including the secondary schools IES Villa de Mijas and IES La Vega de Mijas, and the primary school CEIP Virgen de la Peña.

It will now be employed in the El Chaparral primary school in La Cala de Mijas from October.

The project concentrates on children who have basic English language knowledge and the classes offer them the chance to speak in English in a relaxed atmosphere.

Angela Smith, the volunteer group coordinator, joined the project four years ago because she had spare time on her hands and felt the need to give something back to the place she now calls home.

Popular with parents

Angela, who has lived in Spain for 19 years, said that the project has proved popular with both parents and students, because the classes are fun and designed to help the children gain confidence when speaking in English.

The group now intends to offer the classes to other schools in the area that have shown an interest in the project, so they are desperately seeking more volunteers.

“We now need more volunteers to help with the classes. They do not have to be professional teachers, more of a grandparent-type character, as our project involves reading and games, as well as group conversation sessions,” Angela explained to SUR in English.

The group currently has around 15 volunteers made up mainly of retired British expats, but they also have volunteers from Scandinavia, Denmark and Holland.

Volunteers do not need to be qualified teachers and they do not need to speak Spanish, but they must possess a good level of English; although, as Angela points out, the accent is extremely important.

“We select people who have a good knowledge of English. It is not necessary for volunteers to be English, but the accent is important. Someone who has a strong northern accent, for example, might not be suitable because the children could have difficulties understanding them, so a soft accent is preferred,” Angela explained.

Volunteers needed

Mijas Foreigners Department spokesperson Anette Skou added: “We are collaborating on this project as mediators and we are appealing for volunteers to extend the service to more schools in the area.

“Some of our volunteers are retired school teachers, while others are people that love to be surrounded by children and who offer their time in order to give something back to the community.”

Juan Vicente, president of AIVOMI, also stressed the need for more English-speaking residents to come forward to help with the schools project.

“We need volunteers and if you would like to collaborate in this project, please contact us - you do not need to speak Spanish, only a good level of English, we are also interested in French speaking volunteers”, he said.

Anyone interested in volunteering is invited to send an email to: aivomi.mijas@gmail.com