On moms learning English, and the universal language of love (a belated Mother’s Day post!)

4 months of the glorious summer season commenced just a little while ago, and you’d think with all the free time I’d have, I’d be sleeping in!

While I’m not taking school this semester, I’ve had some extra time to spend down at UBC’s Learning Exchange in Chinatown. This time, I’ve taken a different position and have begun teaching English as a Second Language classes to adult learners, specifically the advanced class. .. and there have been quite the characters! Last week I was teaching English to a Tibetan monk who, born and raised in Burma, lived in India, and has traveled to Toronto and now Vancouver to teach about Buddhism and get a feel of the North American vibe. He told of his adventures living in the Kits/ Arbutus area, walks to the beach, and good eats… super jealous! But when do you ever really get to say that you taught English to a monk. .. seriously. Life is too cool!

Our classes tend to be made up of small groups of learners (anywhere from 3- 10), and last 1.5 hours. This past week, I was looking forward to trading more stories with L, the monk, but was pleasantly surprised to have four women waiting in the classroom when I arrived. There was L, a teacher from Iran who taught elementary school for 22 years and was a principal for 3 (She definitely made me a little more mindful of my lack of official teaching credentials :)), is a life-long learner. Her chatty friend, S, from so many parts of Eastern Europe told tales from her various home lands and her love of math and physics. M, also from Iran, more timid but clearly eager to learn, proudly telling of her grandchildren and grandchild to be. And A, from Venezuela, who lived parts of life in Italy before coming to Vancouver, is fluent in a handful of the romantics.

I am taking note of these details because of the variety and richness each woman shared throughout the class. Our lesson on Mother’s Day turned out to be quite perfect.. each had so much to say about their respective experiences as mothers. And as a daughter, hearing about the responsibilities (vocab word!) of a mother coming from other than my own made me grateful.

“What are some responsibilities of mothers?” Simple opening question right off the bat. The answer I received after deliberation:
hahah that really made/ makes me smile!

There was such an apparent need for each to explain their own experiences as mothers, and as daughters of mothers which made me genuinely happy. Even more so that across cultures and continents, the single most powerful unifying element was the pure love that each mother in the room wanted to express. And so they did. Stories about their relationships with their kids or with their own moms included mention about  tireless chores,  nagging and constant worry even for their now-adult children. The stories about disagreements on ‘what’s best’ and what kind of education and job to pursue.. many sacrifices and expectations. All these common themes intermingling in unique stories shared by mothers from all parts of the world and all walks and life. And after all was said and done, these individual experiences culminate in a simple, universal expression of love and gratitude celebrated each year on Mother’s Day.

The English language is complex. But expressing love (in a language that isn’t your own)… well, these women spoke as if it were their mother tongue!

(This post is a little late, but regardless, Ma, Happy Mother’s Day! I’m glad I was able to be in town this year to spend the weekend of your birthday and mama’s day while you shopped to your heart’s content ;)).

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