AcademicsMar 16, 2020

— updated Aug 2, 2020

Finding voice in a new language

Liz Kulze uses real questions to spur learning in her English for Speakers of Other Languages classes.

In the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) classes taught by Liz Kulze, one recent assignment asked the students to advocate from the perspective of a refugee. Students read an essay by a Vietnamese refugee about her family’s experiences after fleeing the war. They also watched several short documentaries and were then asked to write their own fictionalized stories.

Two students, Candy Yu ’20, from Guiyang, China, and Ginny Zhang ’20, from Tianjin, China, found the project allowed them to consider a timely topic with which they previously had little exposure. Ginny’s story told the account of a person who, after seven tries, escaped Syria and moved to Germany, where she recounts her former home on her 30th birthday. Candy’s tale is told from the perspective of a child traveling with her family to celebrate her birthday with a helicopter ride, only to realize her parents might have something else in mind.

“I like that in the class we not only learn English, but we also talk about world issues,” says Ginny, adding that awareness is a good first step toward solutions. “As individuals, we may not think we have power to change a situation, but if we know a refugee and what they went through, we can make them feel welcome, and that’s a start.” Both Candy and Ginny also note that through their work in ESOL, they have strengthened their English skills and further developed the ability to advocate.