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Learning the Lingo

Mastering ESL in Fairfield



Alla Schlate, Sacred Heart’s director of the English Language Institute, runs a tight ship.

Photo by Stan Godlewski

When Jiyi “Jenny” Choi was just 14, she boarded a plane from Korea bound for the United States. She’d always wanted to study in America, and so she and her parents decided attending Notre Dame High School was the best way to make that happen. “When I first came to Fairfield, I didn’t speak much English at all. I had been learning it in school, but it was classroom English. The most difficult thing to learn was slang because they don’t really teach that,” says Choi, now a sophomore. 

Choi is one of many students in Fairfield learning English as a second language, or ESL. While numbers aren’t available on how many people enroll in ESL, several places in the area offer courses, including Sacred Heart University, Notre Dame High School, and Norwalk Community College.

While Choi wants to learn English for academic purposes, some people hope improved English will help them career-wise, some want the chance to speak with their grandchildren, and others need it for day-to-day living. In short, the reasons people enroll in ESL are as varied as the languages spoken in their respective homes. Nevertheless, the students share one goal: mastery of the English language.

“All of them are united by one purpose and we offer them every opportunity to help them succeed,” says Alla Schlate, director of the English Language Institute, Sacred Heart University, where between 60 and 80 students from more than 24 countries, including Saudi Arabia, India, China, and Japan attend classes.

It’s a rigorous course dotted with social events such as a wintertime happy hour featuring hot chocolate and croissants, as well as excursions to places such as the USS Intrepid, Sea, Air, and Space Museum, or the Statute of Liberty. 

Over at Notre Dame High School, students from Italy, Germany, Korea, China, and Guatemala attend the high school’s extended study-abroad program. The students live with a host family, some for a year, some for all four years of high school.

“Students are thrown into an environment, it’s fascinating to see. The English they have learned thus far is classroom English. It’s fun through the year to see them pick up slang. It means they’re really getting the nuances of the language,” says Joanna Cipriano, the high school’s international student coordinator.

Indeed English ranks as one of the most difficult world languages to learn. From spellings and pronunciations to grammar and verb tenses, English is replete with oddities. For example, the k in know or knight is silent. Then there are the heteronyms: words that are spelled the same but have different pronunciations and different meanings. For example: “A bandage is wound around a wound.”

“There is so much to take in, it has so many quirks. There is a lot of memorization in English that native speakers don’t think about. So it can be very difficult to sound polite and professional in English for the non-native speaker,” says Madeleine Golda, who runs Golda Consulting, which offers several services including ESL professional development. 

Additionally, English has more words than most comparable world languages because though originally a Germanic language, after the Norman Conquest of 1066, Norman French influenced development. So it’s essential for people to be exposed to the language outside the classroom. However, that’s not always easy, particularly in this corner of Connecticut, Golda says.

“It’s not a listening culture here in Fairfield County. People trying to speak will hear ‘You need to go fix your English.’ So it can be really difficult for non-native speakers,” Golda says.

Aside from navigating the seemingly endless parade of linguistic obstacles, there are cultural challenges in ESL classrooms. 

“I’ve had students from Saudi Arabia say they will not sit next to a girl. I’ll say ‘Does she bite? There’s no biting that I can see. You will sit next to her,’” Sacred Heart’s Schlate says. “I tell them our expectation is you do as we do. Just as we do as you do when we visit your country. I’m Russian, I don’t mince words.”

For the international students at Notre Dame, the first months are often challenging—whether it’s interacting with the community at large or sitting in a classroom where the teaching style is so very different from the students’ home country. Unlike classrooms in Russia or China, for example, American teachers tend to move around the classroom more and ask students for their individual opinions on subjects.

It’s been nearly two years since Choi arrived in Fairfield and although she’s now considering attending an American university, she says she still finds it difficult to overcome one particular aspect: “I was home last summer, and I really miss the food. My mother sends me care packages.”


Multilingual
Bilingual education in the U.S. dates as far back as the first North American settlements in 1664. In addition to many Native American languages, at least 18 languages were spoken in the U.S. in the 1600s. In 1839 some states began to adopt bilingual education laws that authorized instruction in languages other than English.

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November 2018

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us for a Forum on the Worldwide Refugee Crisis comprised of two panels in the Dogwood Room of the Barone Campus Center on Tuesday, November 13 from 3:30 - 7:00 p.m. Panel 1: The Syrian...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield University Art Museum
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Join us in viewing a Sudanese-American Coffee Ceremony as representatives of the Sudanese-American House in New Britain, CT demonstrate how to prepare and serve traditional Sudanese coffee. This...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield University Art Museum
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

In 1920, the 18th Amendment was enacted banning the sale of alcohol across the country. However, in our "land of steady habits," alcohol consumption was a habit that proved hard to break. In the...

Cost: Members: Free; Non-Members: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

Members of Fairfield’s Arabic Language Club will offer a fun introductory language lesson—learn basic greetings, introductions, and more! Join us on Wednesday, November 14 from 7:00 - 7:30 p.m....

Cost: Free

Where:
Quick Center for the Arts
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

Join us for a FREE lecture! Falls are a leading cause of injury among older adults. However, the fear of falling doesn’t need to rule your life. Learn strategies for preventing falls and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Stamford Health Tully Health Center
32 Strawberry Hill Court
1st Floor Auditorium
Stamford, CT  06902
View map »


Sponsor: HSS Sports Rehab
Telephone: 203-705-2933
Contact Name: Pamela Villagomez
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Mishka returns as a duo to perform your favorites and new music off of his forthcoming album. An 'organic' singer mixing the relaxed styles of Jack Johnson with a deep reggae groove. His...

Cost: $25 Members Save:$3 /tckt

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company StageOned
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

 BRODY WILKINSON EMERGING ARTIST SERIES Rambunctious Danish indie rockers New Politics formed in the late 2000s around the talents of vocalist David Boyd, guitarist/vocalist/keyboard player...

Cost: $28 Standing Room Only Limited Seating First Come First Serve No Member Discoun

Where:
The Warehouse at Fairfield Theatre Company
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: BRODY WILKINSON
Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Wine & Cheese Reception: 6 – 6:30pm; Program at 6:30pm. Register online at the link below: A panel of journalists and professors, moderated by Larry Rifkin, will examine the state...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Each event in our Art in Focus series offers an opportunity for an hour of close looking and informal discussion around a single work of art, led by Curator of Education Michelle DiMarzo. On...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bellarmine Hall
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

 Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and Brooklawn Country Club Host a Business After Hours: November 15, 2018   The Fairfield Chamber of Commerce and Brooklawn Country Club will host its November...

Cost: $20 Chamber Members, $30 Non-Chamber Members

Where:
Brooklawn Country Club
500 Algonquin Rd
Fairfield, CT  06825
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Chamber of Commerce
Telephone: 203-255-1011
Website »

More information

Learn winning plays, key strategies, and new vocabulary in a fun and friendly environment. For grades 3-12. The club is taught by Dusty Brown, who competed in both the 2017 North American Scrabble...

Cost: $125 per student

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Pequot Library
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

The Fairfield Museum and the Fairfield Chapter of the National Charity League are pleased announce our 4th annual Holiday Pop-Up Market!  We have had tremendous success with this event and we are...

Cost: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Celebrate a Fairfield tradition from the early 1800s. Before Thanksgiving, friends and families visited neighbors, sampling a variety of pies at each house. As the revelers moved on, they grew...

Cost: General admission $5; Seniors and Students: $3

Where:
1750 Ogden House
1520 Bronson Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

The Maritime Garage Gallery’s latest exhibit features works inspired by art in public places. “Street Level ” brings to life the notion that public art can transforms...

Cost: Free

Where:
Maritime Garage Gallery
11 North Water Street
Norwalk, CT  06854
View map »


Sponsor: Norwalk Parking Authority
Telephone: 203-831-9063
Contact Name: Maritime Garage Gallery
Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Celebrate National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) with the first annual Pequot’s writer’s conference. Join Tim Tomlinson of the New York City Writers for a day of workshops focusing on your...

Cost: $100 lunch included

Where:
Pequot Library
720 Pequot Avenue
Southport, CT  06890
View map »


Sponsor: Pequot Library
Telephone: 203-259-0346
Contact Name: Pequot Library
Website »

More information

The Natural Pet Outlet is hosting Pictures with Santa! Bring your pet on Saturday November 17th from 10am-5pm and join The Natural Pet Outlet staff and Santa for a free 5 x 7 photo. No...

Cost: no cost

Where:
Natural Pet Outlet
3380 Fairfield Avenue
Bridgeport, CT
View map »


Website »

More information

Please join us on Saturday, November 17, for Family Day: Life in Ancient Greece. Family Day activities include arts & crafts and a child friendly gallery tour designed for ages 4-10. Session 1: 1...

Cost: Free

Where:
Bellarmine Hall
200 Barlow Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield University Art Museum
Telephone: 203-254-4046

More information

On Saturday November 17 at 6 p.m. join a wonderful team of astronomers and view planets, stars, and constellations. Note: Families are invited to a special preview in the Learning Center...

Cost: $4/New Pond Farm member ($16 max/family), $6/non-member ($24 max/family)

Where:
New Pond Farm Education Center
101 Marchant Road
Redding, CT  06896
View map »


Telephone: (203) 938-2117
Website »

More information

Parenting is never easy, but raising children with learning and attention disorders presents unique difficulties. This conference will help parents focus on developing their children's...

Cost: 50

Where:
Winston Preparatory School
57 West Rocks Rd.
Norwalk, CT  06851
View map »


Sponsor: Smart Kids with Learning Disabilities
Telephone: 203 682-1664
Contact Name: Alison Brown
Website »

More information

In this key moment in our national history and the struggle for women’s equality and freedom of expression, the Fairfield Museum’s exhibition “Flappers: Fashion and...

Cost: Free

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Join us Saturday November 17 from 11-2 in the Sportsplex in Fairfield to find out about LivenUp's custom IV Drips, Hyperbaric Chamber, Beaner, and Wellness Support Systems. Dr. Salerno...

Cost: $39-$275

Where:
LivenUp in the Sportsplex
85 Mill Plain Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

Described as “one of the sharpest, funniest storytellers in rock” by Rolling Stone and “an exceptional songwriter” by NPR's Fresh Air, Todd Snider’s due diligence...

Cost: 38

Where:
Fairfield Theatre Company StageOne
70 Sanford Street
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Website »

More information

On August 18, 2018, the Bruce Museum will open A Continuous Thread: Navajo Weaving Traditions. This exhibition will trace the history of the Navajo weaving tradition from the earliest...

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 203-413-6735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

ReTooled: Highlights from the Hechinger Collection, an engaging and thought-provoking look at the unexpected subject of tools, will be on view at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, CT, from September...

Cost: Members and students with ID free. $10-$25

Where:
Bruce Museum
1 Museum Dr
Greenwich, CT  06830
View map »


Sponsor: Bruce Museum
Telephone: 2034136735
Contact Name: Scott Smith
Website »

More information

The Fairfield Museum and the Fairfield Chapter of the National Charity League are pleased announce our 4th annual Holiday Pop-Up Market!  We have had tremendous success with this event and we are...

Cost: $5

Where:
Fairfield Museum and History Center
370 Beach Road
Fairfield, CT  06824
View map »


Sponsor: Fairfield Museum and History Center
Telephone: 203-259-1598
Contact Name: Visitor Services Manager
Website »

More information

St Joseph High School's Maroon & Gold Gala is a scholarship event that casts a spotlight on the school’s strong commitment to community service and leadership. It is a fabulous...

Cost: $150

Where:
The Waterview
215 Roosevelt Drive
Monroe, CT  06468
View map »


Sponsor: St Joseph High School
Telephone: (203) 378-9378
Contact Name: St Joseph High School
Website »

More information

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