By Jenee Gregor
Washtenaw Community College’s International Student Center lobby brimmed with students from all over the world and some from the local area, together, sharing pizza and snacks. Introductions by students around the room announced countries from most of the continents: Asia/Middle East, North America, South America, Africa, and Europe.
The English as a Second Language Club is meant to bring the ESL students and non-native speakers into social interaction, and integrate American-native English speakers together in an atmosphere for practicing the language.
Mengying Pu, a 21-year-old economics student who goes by Nina, is the president of the new ESL Club. She is a native of Shanghai, China, and came to the United States almost two years ago. She took two semesters of ESL classes that transitioned her into taking academic classes.
“ESL is based with English grammar, reading skill and speaking skill,” Pu said.
To further this learning, the ESL Club was created this semester to bring more American students into the mix.
“I want to have this ESL Club to combine the two types of students: ESL students and American students, and they have a chance to meet each other and build conversations and a chance to have fun together,” Pu said.
Students who speak another language can get stuck in the ESL classes and don’t get to use their language as much until they have people they feel comfortable speaking with, Pu said.
Learning a new language can cause anxiety, especially when coming from a drastically different culture.
Aissata Traore, an ESL and academic student since 2006, originally from Sikasso, Mali, mentioned ESL instructor and adviser Elizabeth Foss at the lunch.
“She was here speaking French, it was a gift to me,” Traore said.
Traore talked about the stress of coming to a new country and not speaking the language – along with being pregnant, working and going to school – and how she found comfort in the program.
Elizabeth Foss, or as all of her students call her, Betsy, has been an instructor at WCC for 12 years. She speaks French fluently; Spanish, Italian and Mandarin partially; and has comforted her students over the years.
“One thing I really like is the mixture. You see people using their English to speak with other people in their classes because it’s the thing they have in common. Having that diversity is important for the language acquisition,” Foss said.
“We want to make our ESL students feel comfortable within American culture, which is why it’s so important for us to have the American students come to the events,” Foss continued.
Sharrionna Royster, a 19-year-old culinary arts student, has an interest in Japanese language and culture. She was brought to the ESL Club from the interest of, “all different people from different countries.”
She is here hoping to learn more Japanese and help her learn some things about the culture, as she wants to study abroad in Japanese cuisine and thinking of visiting this summer.
The ESL Club welcomes all students who are interested in new languages, friends and cultural experiences. They will have monthly lunches to encourage social interactions, as well as game nights, movie nights and some preplanned trips in the upcoming semester. Visit ESL Club in the student portal to learn more information.