In the front row of that specific English class, there are a woman from Hong-Kong who avoids speaking and who barely uses her eyes to look at another human being; four Chinese women seated side-by-side who never exchange a word; then a man from Afghanistan, another from Iran and two Iranian women. Those last four have no difficulty talking and laughing during the classes. Their corner of the world is chatty, joyful and attractive.
The second row shelters a quiet, beautiful and wise Sudanese doctor whose friend it would be great to be, almost invisible Asians (probably from China, Vietnam, and Korea) not worth talking about since they learn quietly and politely; and other people who, as well, do not speak often, smile sometimes and acquire knowledge silently.
Who can forget the Francophone learners? Their accent is unique and they speak French as soon as an opportunity arises. You cannot fail to notice them, even if you want to. They are black. Every single black person in that school devoted to adult learning is a French-speaker. Some can claim that the reality is more complex. They would ask: “what about this Eritrean man who does not speak French?” He is black. No, he seems to be black. He is nearly black; but he is not. Therefore he does not count. You must wonder what “nearly black” means. If you want an answer, just google Eritrean and you will discover that Eritreans do not look like Western African, the Francophone African, the black African. Their nose is less big, their lips thinner and their features delicate.
Let’s come back to that English class with all those people from all around the world or nearly. Their atypical and humorous accents as well as their uneven knowledge of English are unexpected distractions that could be called fortunate distractions. Indeed, with the windows behind them, the students, or whatever they are called (surely there is a more politically correct term to label them), have no chance to admire a singing bird or to give new names to startling flowers. Of course, there are pictures on the walls. However after one week, those pictures are as boring as a golf tournament. So the students cannot escape the new vocabulary, the thorny grammar and the mistakes of their “schoolmates” or their own mistakes. They have to listen and to learn which is not a shocking idea. After all they come every morning to that class for those precise reasons.
Therefore, every student somehow improves his or her English. However, if you are an incurable romantic woman with dreams too big to be fulfilled and, if you have a passion for storytelling, you would spend time observing your “school comrades” and spying out their secrets or dreaming up new lives for them. New lives they can’t complain about since they are not aware of.
However, there are lives that do not need to be imagined. You can see them in their owners’ eyes. You can, without mistake, know what, when and where they do what they do. For instance, you can definitely know that this little one is a Chinese secret agent and not a wide-eyed Chinese student who is trying hard to know more about the Western culture and to become bilingual. You will categorically know that some do not come there to learn English: they come to laugh, spend time or to be sure to receive some government subsidies. You will unquestionably know that some come there by despair because they have no choice. You will know. Yes, you will and you would be fond of that English class, even if all Spanish students seem to avoid it.