ESL    Educational Resources for helping
people learn English as a Second Language

For a decade I worked with the International Ministry of Blackhawk Church in Madison WI, before moving to Columbus OH (why?) in May 2022.  We organized a Tour of Madison (a BIG event with many cars, coordinated with the cooperation of UW) in late August, plus large celebrations for Thanksgiving & Christmas, and “field trips” at other times, and a weekly after-church International Club with potluck eating & talking, and Bible Studies.    {another church-based ministry – Madison International Partners – also is doing many programs & activities for internationals}

During 2009, I was a co-leader of our ESL Cafe, meeting every Sunday.  All of our guests were visiting scholars (mostly grad students, and a few professors) from China.  Most weeks we just talked, enjoying informal group conversations (with a “topic for the week” about life in general, or life in America & in their home country, with some Q-and-A about language skills) plus tasty snacks and (optional) coffee or tea.  Occasionally we had formal “classes” taught by the co-leaders & other volunteers, and sometimes with an invited expert.  For both kinds of events – conversations & classes – I developed educational resources about ways to improve language skills:


Conversation Skills – Listening & Speaking and A Problem-Solving Strategy for Improving Pronunciation and Pronunciation Skills

and, re: culture in America,

coping with the non-metric USA includes Temperature Conversions (from F° to C° & vice versa) by using Math or – in a way that's quicker, easier, and more intuitive – by using Memory.

American Football – Understanding It & Enjoying It   /   The next time this topic is offered, I'll have partners and we'll use action-drama while explaining what football is, in the context of a “story” that shows why Americans find this game so exciting.  And why I think that (compared with other sports) football requires the most intelligent research-and-analysis in order to plan strategies and make decisions in the battles of offense-versus-defense.  But unfortunately it also can be a dangerous sport, physically (for knees,...) and mentally (with concussions,...).


4 Kinds of Skill-Goals:  This page assumes that if English isn't your native language, you mainly want to improve your Conversational English — your skill in LISTENING (so you can understand other people) and SPEAKING (so you can be understood by other people).   But of course, you also want to improve your skills in WRITING – for informal emailing or texting, or (less often) formal purposes – and READING.     {and although I sometimes refer to "Chinese" the ideas also are useful for other native languages}

If you want to improve any skill, practice is essential.  If you want to improve your English a good strategy is to do “homework” that is designed to develop your own skills of self-observation so you can “give feedback to yourself” on your own speaking.  Similarly, for listening you can find strategies that will help you learn how to understand others during the typical fast-paced conversation you find in America.


For practice that will help you learn how to LISTEN more skillfully, so you can UNDERSTAND more quickly-and-accurately during your conversations, you can enjoy...

listening-and-talking in conversations with other people;  all of us can learn Principles for Conversation (from Julia & Brooke, of Vineyard Columbus) and – if you ever wonder “what can I talk about?” (in English or your native language) – there are lots of conversation topics for ESL & internationals & everyone.

listening (and maybe watching) to podcasts, or videos by streaming (Netflix...), cable TV, YouTube, DVD,...  with news, talk shows, documentaries, movies,...

listening-and-watching videos with subtitles.  When you use subtitles in English (not Chinese) you can connect what you know about your reading of English and the hearing of English you're trying to improve.  But try to depend on LISTENING to get the meaning, by using the subtitles mainly for feedback, to check whether you are hearing correctly.  If you're using DVD or DVD-R, you can frequently use the buttons (to Pause, Reverse & Replay), perhaps by listening and then, after reversal-and-replay, checking the subtitles to see if “what you heard” matches “what you see” in the subtitle-text.  And occasionally you may want to repeat a section so you can re-listen, and learn.


And you can learn from resources developed by other people.



This page (written by Craig Rusbult during life on a road less traveled) is