Adult students at Sauk Trail learn a new language: English
It’s “graduation night” on a recent Thursday night at the final meeting of the English as a Second Language (ESL) class at Sauk Trail. But before teacher Catalina Thomsen awards “diplomas,” there’s a pop quiz.
“OK, pretend you’re at a restaurant, and the hostess asks if you prefer a booth or a table. What’s the difference?” Thomsen asks the dozen adults in her class.
Hands around the room shoot into the air. Thomsen calls upon a woman who eagerly, in broken English and speaking in a heavy Mid-Eastern accent, patiently explains how a table differs from a booth, then the advantages of each.
More quiz questions are asked: “Do you ‘make’ the dishes or ‘do’ the dishes? Your bed? The laundry? Explain. What’s a ‘pink slip’ and is it good or bad to get one, and why? What’s a ‘square meal?’ The candidates are ‘neck and neck,’ what does that mean?
The adult students take turns answering proudly in their new language.
It’s real-life lessons in every-day communications that highlight learning in this class, which met twice a week since April at no cost to adults who are learning English as a language second to their native tongue. Each is a parent or guardian of a child enrolled in a district school. Often, the child speaks English more fluently than their parents.
“English is a difficult language to learn, especially words and concepts like ‘there, their, and they’re,’” Thomsen said.
“We also learned ways to encourage their childrens’ active play,” Thompsen added. “The ESL students improved their vocabulary by learning words about games, sports, and extra-curricular activities. We also discussed the possibilities of being more involved in community events so they can meet more people. We want them to consider peers as potential friends or study buddies.”
Other classroom topics included describing common expressions used in restaurants and everyday conversations with neighbors. The parents also discussed ways to better help their children with homework and issues to raise at teacher conferences.
“Catalina is a wonderful teacher who plans the language lessons according to topics that are relevant to our parents,” says Mandi Maurice, ESL/Bilingual Program Administrator for the district. “She’s fluent in several languages and understands how to relate to adult learners and their families beyond the regular school curriculum.”
Maurice said the adult ESL class is provided thanks to our district's partnership with the Literacy Network and is funed by a federal Title III grant.
The adult students enjoyed the classes.
"I love that the course was held for more weeks because the motivation to learn English is a priority for me, and I am grateful that this is benefiting the community,” Stella Bernal said.
Added Renata Farina: "I can understand English better than when I arrived here.”
Angeles Carranza agreed: "I can speak more with the teachers, make doctor's appointments, and help my children with their homework."
-- By Tom Kobinsky