The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Features

July 6, 2013

College welcomes second language learners

CLINTON — They come to Clinton from many parts of the world, speaking many different languages.

Now they need “Survival” English in order to buy groceries, understand a credit card bill, apply for a job, read the bus routes — and the  big one: Become an American citizen.

Clinton Community College offers them a chance to develop whatever English skill they need in a twice-weekly class where they can focus on their individual needs.

For instance:

• Oybek was a university math professor in his home country, Uzbekistan (located between Russia and Afghanistan). According to Kerry Notz, his teacher at Clinton Community College,  Oybek has been in  the class for almost a year and is currently washing dishes for a living as he works on improving his Survival English.

“We are also focusing on the specialized vocabulary he will need to teach math here,” she said. “The entire world uses the same symbols for math, but the names of those symbols change.

“We’ve also looked at some of the computer programs that most college instructors use here in the U.S.”

• Trieu Dam spent 10 years in her native Vietnam waiting for her visa to be approved so she could come to Clinton to join her husband, who had arrived earlier, has a job here and became a naturalized U.S. citizen.

She grew up speaking Vietnamese and also speaks Chinese. She has been with the program for about two years.

“For most of that time we’ve been working on Survival English. Now, since about Thanksgiving, we’ve been working on the application for citizenship and preparing for the test," Notz said.

“The application is 10 pages long, not including the directions. The test covers U.S. history, civics and symbols. There are 100 possible questions. The applicant may be asked up to 10 of them and must answer at least six correctly.”

Notz stressed that the program is adaptable to individual needs.

The English as a Second Language class (ESL)  has been offered at Clinton Community College for at least 20 years, according to Peg Garrison, dean at the West Davenport Center, Eastern Iowa Community Colleges.  Enrollment here has fluctuated from 20 to more than 30, she said.

The cost to each student is $15 for a fiscal year.

Across the entire Eastern Iowa Community College District, the program has been offered for 35 years, with an average of 300 students enrolled from a variety of countries, primarily Vietnam and Mexico. Others have come from Bosnia, Liberia, Myanmar, Japan, China, El Salvador and India, to name a few.

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