Speak Easy

Newsletter from English as a Second Language and Immigrant Ministries

Spring 2023


The Icing on the Cake

This article is an excerpt from a mission moment Cynthia Huber shared at Mount Olivet United Methodist Church in February 2023.

Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, South Korea, and Venezuela. These are the countries represented by the students in the intermediate ESOL class that I help to teach on Monday nights. The learners include a former interpreter for US troops, three sisters in their twenties, and a former college human resources instructor. There is a nurse, construction worker, student, and restaurant worker. One student often brings her ten-year old daughter to class. My students are representative of the many countries and current/former occupations of adult learners participating in English classes sponsored by English as a Second Language and Immigrant Ministries, otherwise known as ESLIM.

The intermediate students cover a wide range of knowledge of English as well as literacy. It is not uncommon for a student to have good command of English verbal skills but be unable to read signs, forms, menus or the like in English, due in part to being only semi-literate in their native language. For example, one student is very engaged and does pretty well speaking English. But he left school at around eight or nine years old, so he struggles with written exercises. In our intermediate class, we focus on practical English language skills so students can communicate at their jobs, in their children's schools, with their doctor, in the grocery, and in other situations. So, for example, tomorrow night will be our third class dealing with food topics. We have covered food-related vocabulary, idioms based on food or cooking, grocery shopping, cooking, and related grammar concepts. Tomorrow, through various exercises and role play, we will cover grammar and talk about eating out at restaurants, ordering food by phone, ordering food from the car at fast food restaurants, and using English language mobile apps for ordering food. These students give up their precious free time two evenings a week to learn English. It is a privilege and blessing for me to work with them and for Mount Olivet to support this ministry.

One of my learners is an older woman from Russia. She told me after class that before starting the class, she thought she knew a lot about English. But she reported that she is learning new words and concepts each week in our class. Using one of the idioms from our class last week, her words were “icing on the cake!”

Facts about the English Language

There are many interesting facts about the English language that you may not be familiar with. One is that English is spoken by about one out of every six people in the world, and it is the official language of sixty-seven countries in the world. Surprisingly, it is not the official language of the US, but it is the most widely used. As a matter of fact, it has become so ubiquitous that all pilots, regardless of their native language, must be able to communicate in English.


Our learners come to us from so many parts of the world, and we work diligently to help them acquire or improve their English skills because we recognize that they will need these skills to fully participate in our communities as well as in the global marketplace. By offering low-cost classes, we enable people who could not otherwise afford to learn an opportunity to move forward while enjoying the warm welcome and the camaraderie that develops in these classes. The efforts of so many dedicated volunteers make this possible, and we are so grateful that our ministry can reach and enrich the lives of so many people.

Teaching Tip

Speaking is by far the most important skill in ESL learning and also the most difficult skill to master. To encourage students to talk more in class, consider trying the following strategies:

  • Ask “open-ended” questions instead of “yes/no” questions. 
  • Allow students to read and explain instructions for a planned activity.
  • Create opportunities for role play. For example, while teaching a unit on health, assign one student to play the role of the doctor while another student plays the role of the patient.

While our learners have countless opportunities to learn English through online classes and YouTube videos, they need opportunities in the classroom to practice using English to communicate.  

Thank You

Thank you to all of the students, volunteers, donors, staff, and churches that collaborate on our English classes!


We promote and support the teaching of English to adult immigrants of all nationalities in Northern Virginia and the District of Columbia and welcome their active participation in our community. To support the efforts of our member churches, ESLIM handles a variety of tasks in a centralized way. Its activities include the following: