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Pez maya monthly achievement July 2014-Intensive English workshop for “Las Orquídeas de Sian Ka’an”

By Pez Maya 4 years ago
Categories Yucatan

Objective: Our community projects aim to increase access to universal education, ensure gender equality, and work towards providing environmental sustainability.

Summary: As well as our marine project here at Pez Maya, we also work with the community by providing different educational opportunities. This report talks about a recent workshop we delivered to a women’s cooperative in the local town in the Biosphere reserve of Sian Ka’an. This was an English language workshop focusing on the language needed as guides and the language used in their specific eco-tours. It was an important step for the cooperative towards getting their eco-tour business up and running. Through their tours they hope to educate tourists about the reserve and increase their economic independence.


The Pez Maya community project works principally in the Community of Javier Rojo Gomez, better known as Punta Allen, which is located in the north section of the Sian Ka’an Biosphere Reserve.

We have been working with this community since 2003 through a variety of different projects, workshops and English classes. With the increase of tourism in the area the necessity to have a basic level of spoken English has become evident and since 2012 we were approached by a women’s cooperative in Punta Allen to help them with their English.

The name of this women’s cooperative is ‘Orquídeas’ and it comes from the Mangrove Orchid (La Orquídea de Manglar). The women in this cooperative use the Mangrove Orchid as their logo and identify with it as they are very resistant and strong flowers.

The Orquídeas formed as a way for the women of Punta Allen to earn an income in a community where the main income earning activities (lobster fishery, fly fishing, and boat tours) are dominated by men. They have received support and funding from various organizations and are almost ready to launch their eco-tours.

They will offer four eco-tours: a bike tour, a kayak tour, a walking tour and a history tour. A few months ago we sent four Spanish-speaking staff members to experience each of their four eco-tours and note down how the tour was conducted in Spanish. Feedback was given on the tour, and the basic phrases and important vocabulary that the guides used was then translated into English by our staff members.

In early July our two community officers, Valeria (nearly at the end of her time at GVI) and Rachel (just at the beginning of her time here) taught a three day English for Specific Purposes workshop for the Orquídeas. English learning guidebooks were given to all of the women in attendance.  The guidebooks were divided into sections including; general phrases and introductions, separate sections for each of the tours that included tour-specific phrases and vocabulary, and, a glossary. As well as the English-Spanish translation, a rough phonetic transcript was provided for all phrases and words so that the women could practice the pronunciation in their own time.

The workshop was a wonderful success. Learning a language as an adult is a difficult challenge but after a few fun icebreakers and English speaking activities everyone felt more comfortable practicing pronunciation, making mistakes and learning the ambitious amount of English that we were able to get through in just three days of workshops.

We taught using the communicative approach, focusing on speaking and listening. The workshops were styled so as to accommodate different learning styles and also to accommodate one of the members of Orquídeas who cannot read or write. As well as teaching English, we helped with different communication strategies and techniques to help them with their tours.

We used crazy role plays to build up energy and squash all of the inhibitions that most had about speaking English. It was amazing to see the incredibly rapid progress of all of the women who attended and very rewarding when women who were too embarrassed to say their name in English on the first day, acted out crazy scenarios involving crocodiles, tourists that wanted to touch everything, and tourists desperate for the bathroom.

On the last day of the workshops the members of Orquídeas threw Valeria and Rachel a surprise dinner party to say thank you. Everyone had brought some food and we all sat down to a delicious meal together and celebrated the success and efforts of all of those who attended our workshops.

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