Amira: “What is this?”

Written By: Michelle Pallansch, World Relief Seattle ESL Instructor

Working with refugees has many rewards. As an ESL instructor, one of my favorite things is seeing the clients making milestones in their language capabilities. A number of clients have little to no exposure to English, so each little success must be celebrated. One such occasion was not too long ago.

Amira has been attending ESL classes faithfully for about six months. She has such a commanding personality; she is caring, boisterous, and extremely social. Each morning she comes in and greets everybody with a smile and enthusiasm; however, her greetings are always in Arabic. Her questions are always in Arabic. Her answers are always in Arabic. We have slowly been working to incorporate more English words into her vocabulary and slowly been encouraging her to compose sentences and questions. One afternoon just before classes was beginning and an announcement about a gardening class was being made. Amira looked straight at me and said, “Michelle, what is this?” I was so pleased! She composed a whole question, grammatically correct, in English and with such personality! I smiled and explained to her what the announcement was about.

We are continuing to work together to improve her English. She is making progress in her reading and speaking skills and I look forward to celebrating many more moments of little success with her and many others.

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