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A Community Helps Burmese Refugees Learn English

This is the VOA Special English Education Report , from | About eighteen thousand refugees from Burma have come to the United States each year since two thousand seven. Some have settled in Howard County, Maryland, between Baltimore and Washington. A local school began teaching English to the children of the refugees. But while the children learned the language, their parents did not. Currently almost fifty Burmese youngsters attend Bollman Bridge Elementary School. Laurel Conran teaches English to speakers of other languages. One of her students is Tha Neih Ciang. Another student is Tha Neih's mother, Tin Iang. The teacher practices English with the mother at the mother's workplace. Many Burmese refugees work at Coastal Sunbelt Produce. The company supplies fruits and vegetables to restaurants and other businesses. Laurel Conran started English classes there to help refugees from the country also known as Myanmar. The program is a six-week session held every Wednesday from twelve to one o'clock. Each week Ms. Conran goes to Coastal Sunbelt. As the Burmese workers eat lunch, they also practice their new language skills. They sit with an English-speaking volunteer in small groups.Lisa Chertok is a manager at the company and also has a child at Bollman Bridge. She helped Ms. Conran develop the lessons: "When the Burmese employees got here, they were very, very shy. Now I find that they are more responsive as employees. They're more communicative." And as parents they are also more involved in their children's school. Jonathan Davis is the principal of Bollman Bridge Elementary School. He says, "I really see it as the beginning of a great partnership between a business and a school, and we've just begun to scratch the surface with how that could benefit, really, the greater community." Mr. Davis hopes the lessons will help Burmese parents feel better about communicating with the school. "Even as simply as making a phone call to say that their son or daughter is sick, even if that's the amount of English that they have gotten from the program, that truly will help us." For their work, Laurel Conran and Lisa Chertok received a Community Builders Award from Howard County. Ms. Conran says, "As a community we want to work together, collaboratively, because when everybody works together it's a win-win situation." And that's the VOA Special English Education Report. We have a video about the the program at For VOA Special English, I'm Alex Villarreal. (Adapted from a radio program broadcast 19Jan2012)
Length: 03:58


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