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Students Learn English in Real World

May 15, 1986|CARMEN VALENCIA | Times Staff Writer

While students in the program are not formally tested, Aeberhard said, many of them are far ahead of their peers when they return to their regular ESL class, where they are placed in various levels. The levels range from ESL-1, which is little or no English, to ESL-4, which is ninth-grade-level English, Aeberhard said. Most move up one level after the intensive course, she said.

Class size is limited to 20 students, so individual attention can be given during the four-hour block of time spent speaking English, with some writing and reading, Aeberhard said. Students from Huntington Park High are bused to Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles, since their own school has no room for the program.

"We use the language instead of talking about it," said Aeberhard, who normally works as an ESL instructor and mentor teacher. Glaudini said teachers do not correct grammar when the students are speaking. "We want to give them an opportunity to feel comfortable in a new culture and have it be acceptable to them. It's an acculturation experience," she said. "The crucial part is that students feel relaxed. The fact that they're not worried makes them use the language."

The field trips give the students something to talk about and help them build vocabulary, Silvern said. Lessons are often built around a trip, she said, with students acting out a scene from what they saw, writing letters or drawing pictures about what they learned. "It's worth more than a whole civics book," Silvern said.

In an interview later, Judge Lopez said he volunteered to introduce immigrant students to the American judicial system because "if you're not interested in education and kids, what else is there? They are going to take care of the future for us."

The judge let the Huntington Park students file into the jury box and jury room and then into his chambers. He encouraged them to ask him questions, saying, "This is the only system in the world where you can ask questions and meet a judge like this."

After a pause, one student asked, "What happened to person does bad thing?"

"Well," the judge said, "if it's real bad, I'll send him to jail."

Another student asked, "What she do with machine?" pointing to the court reporter.

Florine Babajian explained to the students that she takes down the testimony with the stenographic machine by listening to sounds, and writing "only what you hear."

Back in his chambers, Lopez advised the students to study hard, get good grades and read all the time. When asked where he was from, he answered: "I'm from here but I know Spanish. It's important for you to hold your Spanish language. Now that you're in America, you must learn to speak English."

Aeberhard later said that in the classroom, she emphasizes over and over again that the only way to learn English is to speak it.

"You cannot learn English by speaking Spanish. It's the same as learning to swim--you must immerse yourself," she said.

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