When foreign becomes domestic  


With Pima Community College being such a culturally inclusive school, it has brought in a wide variety of students with different nationalities from all types of cultural backgrounds. Some of these students speak fluent English, but for some English is not their first language. Many would believe that to go to college the student would have to be fluent in English to keep up with the classes. However, students thankfully have the resource of the ESL program, also known as English as a second language.

Lisa Jurkowitz, the ELAA coordinator for Pima’s English as a world language program, she explained how Pima has two separate programs for non-native English speakers. There is a free non-credited English Language Acquisition for Adults for those who do not know how to speak, read, or write in English.

However, for those feeling “more confident” in their ability to speak English, they are able to take the ESL placement test. If these Pima students test highly enough they are able to join a 5-level program. There is Writing and Grammar, Reading and Vocabulary, and Oral Communications as courses offered. The goal is for these enrolled students to enter WRT 101 so they can work towards a certificate or degree, but not all students want to pursue further studies. Jurkowitz noted how some are currently employed and wish to gain a higher level in their job.

The main language that ELAA students speak varies according to Jurkowitz.

“It varies from year to year depending on world politics.  I don’t have hard data on percent, but Spanish, Arabic, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese, and various African languages are the most predominant in my view.”

She added, “Lately, we have had students from: Mexico, Central and South America, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Egypt, Syria, United Arab Emirates China, Vietnam, Japan, Korea, Thailand, the Philippines, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ivory Coast, Sudan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Mongolia, Russia, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan and India

One question I had was how old most ELAA students were.

Surely, Pima has student population of all ages, and Jurkowitz responded similarly. There are students who are 18 all the way to their 70s, but most were found to be between 20 and 40.

The main question I had, with the wide variety of ages and languages entering the class was how the instructor teaches the students. Jurkowtiz was quick to explain how even if instructors speak other languages, the teachers do not speak anything except for English in the classroom. Without translation, but rather through pictures, the students are able to learn by fully immersing themselves in the English language. As Jurkowtiz said, “Many students also make use of bilingual dictionaries at the beginning levels, but they are encouraged to gradually move to English-English “learner dictionaries” that include CDs with pronunciation, sample sentences, and extra grammatical information, intended to give extra support to non-native speakers of English.”

She added,  “What’s tricky is learning things that are completely different from their native language. English pronunciation is very difficult and there are so many irregularities. Our writing conventions are also sometimes challenging to grasp, such as how we structure an argument essay.”

It is clear that Pima has great resources for those who are eager to learn the English language. Many college institutions do not have these type of programs, but Pima has a great program that allows those not fluent in English to enter college all while learning English. Whether these students are working towards a degree, certification, or want to better their chances of getting a promotion at their job, ELAA is a helpful and beneficial program for anyone wanting to better their English.




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