top of page


We're so glad you're working to grow as a volunteer with SALT.  In this section you'll find some of the best advice of those who have been tutoring for 10+ years.

Words of Experience

Bill - “Be flexible.” 

Cheri - “Pray, pray, pray,”   


Mike - “You will be tempted to be offended – remember that they aren’t saved,”


Mark - “Proverbs 16:24: ‘Gracious words are like a honeycomb.’” 


David - “Gather regularly as a group for prayer, encouragement, and training.  It will help a lot.”

Cynthia - “All people’s hearts are the same… but each is in their own culturally unique spot.”

A Unique Culture

Somalis have a unique culture to share, with a foundation of Islam, built over centuries of tradition, in the structure of clans. They are a desert nomadic people with a strong oral (rather than written) tradition of communication, and are now rocked by a generation of trauma as the nation of Somalia has experienced the horrors of a protracted war.  These words – these big ideas – will go a long way to help you understand your Somali neighbor:  Islamtraditionclannomadicoraltrauma

Six Cultural Influences

Islam: A highly structured religion that guides the entire life of a Muslim. 

Tradition: The way things have been done for generations are a well-worn path to follow.

Clan: To break from ‘family’ might be the greatest sin one could commit (‘family’ includes extended family).


Nomadic: A proud tradition of camel herders, willing to go wherever there is water.


Oral: A strong fabric of poems and stories based on face-to-face communication.


Trauma: Basically everyone in the Somali community has been impacted/scarred – like a debilitating car accident, but impacting mind and soul; some are impacted more than others.

Our Response

Islam: We give a message of bold love that casts away all fear. Fear considers the worst case scenario; love considers the best case. We learn and share as we go.

Tradition: We learn from their centuries of wisdom and share with the guiding of the Spirit and Scripture. 

Clan: Are we, as Christians, willing to go beyond token exchanges and consider how we can learn from our Somali neighbors' "big family" view? Will we share our lives as we walk out Christ?

Nomadic: In their nomadic tradition, our Somali neighbors are boldly willing to go to anywhere there is water.  Can we learn from this as we share living water?


Oral: In a time where relationships span thousands of miles by digital communication, know that your Somali neighbors see your face-to-face visit as something from God.  Let’s learn from this valuable perspective and share language learning together.  

Trauma: Most of us have a lot to learn about trauma, but many of our Somali neighbors have walked through it. We can share the gift of listening to their story.  

18 ESL Tips

English As A Second Language: Tips 1-3

1 - The best way to start a conversation is to use an everyday object, or realia. From a kitchen spatula, to a family picture, to a gardening magazine, to a package of food, have a box/bag at home to fill each week for the next time you talk to your Somali friend.

2 - Use English at or just above your student's English level.  With lower-level learners, consciously consider how you can communicate using simple words, sentences, acting, and objects.

3 - Consider: "What ‘good news’ can I tell my friend today?" News about family, friends, or a story from the Bible are fun topics; you are a bringer of Good News!

English As A Second Language: Tips 4-6 

4 - If a student doesn't understand, try rephrasing.  Example: "May I speak to Ali?" (student looks confused)  "Can I talk to Ali?”

5 - Teach a small number of new words or one new phrase at a time. As Julie says, "less is more."  Teach the word(s) in a few different ways.


6 - Use the ME–WE–YOU philosophy when tutoring.  ME – Watch me model it.  WE – Let’s try it together.  YOU – The student tries it.

English As A Second Language - Tips 7-9 

7 - Use ‘checking questions.’  It's better not to ask "Do you understand?", as some students will say "yes" to be polite.  Rather ask a question that will show whether or not your student comprehends.  For example, after teaching to use -s with plurals, point to a stack of books and ask, "What are these?"  The student's answer will show me whether or not she understands. Use Who/What/Where/When/How questions.

8 - Give your student plenty of wait time (at least 5-10 seconds of silence) to process what you say and form an answer.  Be slow and positive.  Avoid the temptation to fill every silence.  Remember that they are translating every part, even their own answers. 


9 - Don’t correct everything. We mostly work on the purpose of the lesson (be sure you know the main objectives for any lesson you are teaching).  If a student gets that part wrong, have them try again – then give hints.

English As A Second Language: Tips 10-12 

10 - Give plenty of practice and review.  Repetition using various activities keeps it interesting (we don’t learn things the first time we see them).


11 - Be generous in giving honest and specific praise; catch them doing something right!


12 - Having a student retell a story is a great way to check their comprehension. Remember to prepare everything from short words to stories to work on with your student. 

English As A Second Language: Tips 13-15 

13 -There is a progression of language learning. When we learned our first language as a baby, first we listened, then we talked. Later, we learned to read, and finally to write.  Consider how you can incorporate each of these four areas of language learning into a lesson: Listening, Speaking, Reading, and Writing.

14 - The starting point for writing is the ABC's; be patient!  As your student improves, be willing to write what they say. Seeing their own words on paper is a personal and powerful lesson!

15 - Keep the writing activities engaging and on topic with the point of the lesson.

English As A Second Language: Tips 16-18 

16 - Suzanne, one of our long-time tutors, emphasizes the importance of finding out your student's goals.  What do they want to learn and why?

17 - If they ask for help, have them try first. Build your assistance on what they already can do by themselves.


18 - Enjoy your time together! You are creating a friendship.

Do you have a tip that you would like to pass on?  Contact us and let us know what you have learned.

You must be a learner to get this far!  Good job!

bottom of page