Learning the language: First English class ends, just beginning

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by By AARON CHIMBEL / WFAA Mobile Journalist

wfaa.com

Posted on August 15, 2009 at 4:48 PM

Updated Friday, Oct 16 at 3:00 PM

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They're down to four. The exams are over and most of the 10 student class is already enjoying their summer break.

This is last meeting of this group's first English as a second language class at Vickery Meadow Learning Center in Dallas. It's a contrast from their first class in January.

"First day I don't say nothing, only look at the book, but I don't understand," says student Vicenta Ramirez.

Now they're less tentative.

"There's a lot of improvement," says Sitha Babu, a volunteer teacher. "They're free, they don't hesitate to talk."

Ramirez says she is more comfortable helping her two daughters with their homework and talking to their teachers.

"Now understand, read and writing and little speak more," says Ramirez, who immigrated from Mexico City 12 years ago.

Babu can relate. Forty years ago she was an immigrant from India. After a career in education, she is retired and spends much of her time helping others grow comfortable with English.

"It gives them a lot more confidence when I teach them," she says. "They think that if she, coming from another country, she learned everything and is able to teach then we can also do that."

Sarah Polley, the school's executive director, says it usually takes three to five years to learn a new language. After this first class, the students can take more advanced courses or retake the first one. Nearly 90 percent of students return, Polley says.

"It's a long term commitment, but we're here for the community and the students they do keep coming back," Polley says.

And Ramirez says she'll be back next semester. She knows she has a lot more to learn.

"I do need read for my two daughters," she said.

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