Including the Community in AUI’s Mission: English for the Butcher, the Produce Vender, and the Town Hall Worker
While passing through the crowded stalls of Ifrane’s marché, customers are greeted with the sounds and sights of small-town commerce. Meat is chopped and wrapped, produced is weighed and bagged, and the scents of olives and baked bread mingle in the air. But now, crowds lay witness to a new phenomenon: vendors speaking in English. This linguistic addition is particularly exciting due to the origin of the vendors’ learning. For the past week, they, along with Town Hall employees, AUI Administrative Assistants, and Language Center Students, have been taking classes led by Richard Vaughan, a leader in the field of alternative English language learning.
Richard Vaughan has a very different method for teaching English: “[Our pedagogy is] based on not having books open on the table. Our teachers are trained to put students through their paces. [Students] can expect at least 150 questions in every class.”[i] Vaughan’s courses depart from the traditional academic approach to language learning, leaving behind reading and writing to instead focus on drilling learners in oral production. Students build their confidence in speaking and develop accurate fluency.
Al Akhawayn University’s partnership with Vaughan Systems began when President Driss Ouaouicha and Director of the Language Center, Dr. Moncef Lahlou, paid a visit to their headquarters in Madrid. Vaughan Schools exist in ten locations around Spain as well as in South America and China. 360 full-time teachers provide English language courses through a variety of mediums including face-to-face teaching, a 24-7 English radio station and television channel, and online courses. Vaughan schools offer half a million hours of class time per year. After gaining firsthand insight into the distinctive style of English language teaching offered by Vaughan Systems, President Ouaouicha and Dr. Lahlou were impressed. They saw an opportunity to expose AUI students to a form of learning that would complement their coursework in the Language Center. After additional meetings took place in Casablanca, Richard Vaughan offered to visit the Ifrane campus for a Demo Week. The President heartily accepted and the Language Center offered to provide the program to AUI and the surrounding community.
Accompanied by Siobhan O’Connor and Micky Lennard, two Vaughan Systems teachers, Richard Vaughan joined the AUI campus on the week of February 20th, 2017. Together, the trio logged 73.5 hours of English language teaching. Classes were offered to three populations of learners: AUI students enrolled in the Language Center’s Listening and Speaking Courses, University Administrative Assistants, and local community members. Listening and Speaking students from the Language Center each spent three of their class hours that week with a Vaughn Systems teacher. Classes were divided into sections of six to maintain a group size conducive to intensive dialogue in English. In addition to these classes, advanced level courses were offered to eight of the University’s Administrative Assistants. This group honed their skills in English fluency throughout the week.
At the other end of the spectrum, Richard Vaughn taught beginner’s courses for those with no prior English knowledge. These groups consisted of six learners from the marché and six learners employed in Ifrane’s Town Hall. In total, each of the beginner groups spent 7.5 hours learning English throughout the week. Every class, without exception, was excited and committed to the learning offered by Vaughan Systems. AUI included these additional courses as part of its mission to provide the community of Ifrane with services and opportunities for growth. Community members have since requested that additional courses be offered in the future, and the University is working with Vaughn Systems to ensure this possibility. Currently, AUI executives are exploring future collaborations with Richard Vaughan and his schools in order to continue to foster academic growth, both within the University, and for the community at large.
[i] Rodriguez, Juan Carlos. Translated by Richard Brown. “Mister Vaughan’s “English” Village.” El Mundo. 3 October 2005.