PROFILE: Students Find Confidence in SFCC ESOL Program
Learning a new language can be difficult, and living in a country where you do not understand the language can be difficult and scary. SFCC’s English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) coordinator Nelly Ford’s students often find themselves in this situation, but she helps them learn the language and overcome their fears.
The SFCC ESOL program is based on personal goals, so students may be in the program anywhere from four months to years, depending on those goals. They test every three months to determine how far they are advancing.
Ford sees many different types of students in her ESOL classes. Her students include professionals who want to improve their language skills, unemployed students who are trying to increase their employability, stay at home moms who want to be able to help their children with their schoolwork, migrants, retired people, and people who want to gain their United States citizenship. They come from 35 different countries and speak over 15 different languages with many different dialects.
While each of Ford’s ESOL students begin class at a different level, many times Ford will have students who don’t speak any English, and she will have to find some way of communicating with them. “Just getting students registered and helping them fill out the forms can be tricky. I may have to draw pictures and act things out so they understand.”
Because the ESOL program is an open enrollment class, new students can join the class at any time. “Everyday is the first day of class.” Ford said. “When a new student comes in, I start from scratch with that student while continuing the lessons I am already working on with the other students. I tell my students that the first two weeks will be the most difficult, but if they hang in and do their best to participate in the class they will learn English.”
“We use the immersion method, so everything is in English,” Ford said. “Students learn faster with immersion.” She teaches her students everything from vocabulary, reading, and phonics to math skills such as financial terms and how to read graphs; retail terms such as warranty, refund, exchange, and how to find bargains on items; and civic responsibilities like how they must have an identification card with them at all times.
Ford uses visuals, role playing, and Web sites in her classes. “We use picture dictionaries, flash cards, and language lab Web sites to learn literacy and vocabulary, and we act out different scenarios like shopping for particular items, looking for housing, and going to a doctor’s appointment. All of the materials we use are designed for adults.”
Ford teaches her students about American culture and history using songs such as “Oh My Darling, Clementine” and “America the Beautiful,” and she uses commercial advertising to identify American sarcasm and humor. Rhythmic chants help students get used to inflecting and contracting words. “It’s important that they not only understand the language, but that they also understand the culture, so they don’t feel out of place.”
“My students all come from very different cultures, and they all enjoy learning about each other’s cultures and languages as well as English. They help each other out if they don’t understand something right away, and they find comfort in knowing that they have shared many of the same experiences trying to live in a country that is foreign to them. I try to make learning English fun for them, and because of them I really enjoy coming to class every day.”