Expert emphasizes practical English skills for refugees

Damakant Jayshi

A languages ​​and literacy expert on Wednesday stressed the need to impart English skills to non-English speakers, as refugee resettlement plans continue in Wausau.

Refugees need language skills for practical purposes and not just English grammar, vocabulary and punctuation, said Nell Anderson, who retired after serving as director of education and English as a second language ( ESL) of the Wausau School District. Anderson addressed the Wausau City Liberation and Freedom Committee on Wednesday on the topic of refugee language needs and barriers.

She shared an anecdote with one of her first Hmong students with limited English years ago. “’Ms. Anderson… I learn more English in my job sweeping the floors in Kmart at night,” he said, “Anderson told committee members.” He wanted practical language so that he could talk to colleagues and get more jobs in the community.

This same principle applies to Afghan refugees about to be resettled in Wausau under the new resettlement plan approved by the federal government, said Anderson, who has taught English as a second language at the local, national levels. and international.

Responding to committee member Bee Her on whether Afghans could benefit from communication support in their native languages ​​(Dari and Pashto), Anderson said she was not sure Wausau had interpreters for meet this need. Cell phones could help translate, she said.

Mayor Katie Rosenberg said city officials discussed the language barrier with the Ethiopian Community Development Council (ECDC) and others.

“They actually have innovative ways of finding native speakers who help them translate,” she said. “This is something that the city, in general, would like to see how we can participate in these kinds of programs.”

ECDC, one of nine national refugee resettlement agencies, is spearheading efforts to resettle refugees in Wausau and elsewhere.

Under the program approved in September, 10 people are expected to be relocated to the city by the end of the year.

Schools in the area, meanwhile, expect to see newcomers midway through the school year. Officials from the Wausau School District and DC Everest Area School District told Wausau Pilot & Review that they would “absolutely admit” newcomers.

“We will welcome new students,” said Kelly Thompson, PhD, director of curriculum, literacy, assessment and EL. “We want to celebrate the extra strength these students bring and the students in the school can learn from the diversity of culture. “

Dr Thompson said DC Everest is ready to meet the language needs of those with limited or no English. She said there are ESL teachers at all levels in the district who will work with classroom teachers to help newcomers. Additional support, such as student counseling, is also available.

Likewise, the Wausau School District is preparing to meet the needs of new students, said Diana White, communications and marketing coordinator.

White said Christopher Nyman, director of student learning and achievement at WSD, had been in contact with Adam VanNoord, director of the Multicultural Community Center, the city’s ECDC branch.

“ECDC plans to welcome their first family in early December, but we are awaiting confirmation if the family has school-aged children,” White said. “If so, students will need to be enrolled in their ‘homeschool’ 30 days after arrival. ”

The WSD will create language support plans based on the individual needs of students, ”she added.

Damakant Jayshi is a journalist for Wausau Pilot & Review. He is also a member of the body of Report for America, an initiative of the GroundTruth Project that places journalists in local newsrooms. Contact him at [email protected]


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