Opening doors for youths in Medellin, Colombia
In 2016, ICTE-UQ TESOL Assistant Director of Studies Philippa Coleman travelled to Medellin, Colombia and volunteered her time and expertise to run a community-based project with a group of young people from a disadvantaged neighbourhood in Medellin.
My project assisted young people in the Santo Domingo neighbourhood to develop their English language skills so they can give walking tours of the neighbourhood to English-speaking tourists. By giving the tours, the young Colombians have many opportunities to meet international visitors to their city, and practise and improve their English skills by talking to the tourists.
Fifteen young people participated in the course, which was taught over 20 hours – two hours per day for two weeks. The lessons focused on team building and oral English skills including, talking yourself, talking about places of interest in the neighbourhood, as well as general conversation skills.
The students were extremely motivated and participated enthusiastically in the program. The students varied in age from15 years old to early twenties. Their English skills were varied too, from beginners to pre-intermediate level.
The end of the program culminated in a walking tour of the Santo Domingo neighbourhood with “real” tourists who were visiting the city. The students met foreigners and practised their English skills in real-life interactions for the first time. There were more than 30 tourists on the first tour, and the tourists gave the tour guides very positive feedback. The students are still giving tours of the Santo Domingo neighbourhood, every Saturday and Sunday afternoon.
The reason why I designed this course was to give young people the chance to practise English through authentic, real-life conversations without leaving their city. Also, meeting and talking to foreign tourists enables young people to experience other cultures and worlds beyond their own environment. In today’s world, it is very important for young people to be both culturally aware and globally-literate, as well as having good English language skills.
Teaching this course for the first time in Medellin was a lot of fun. I also saw how easy it would be to replicate the idea in other cities and countries. I hope I have the chance to help another group of young people become neighbourhood tour guides in the future.