By Krista J. Stockman
Settling into a new country can be difficult.
There is a new language to learn and new customs to adjust to, such as shopping in a big-box store or cooking with recipes using ounces and cups instead of grams and liters.
Fort Wayne Community Schools’ Neighborhood Connection is hoping to make some of those transitions easier with a series of new courses.
Kim Gerardot, who works with program development for Neighborhood Connection, said the classes are an expansion of the English as a Second Language already offered and are meant to help those new to the United States adjust to the culture.
“Cooking in your New Environment” is offered March 7 and 14 for $23 for the two classes. The instructor will help students learn how to use English recipes and measurements. “Shopping in Your New Environment” is offered March 28 for $19 and focuses on common words and ideas to help an English learner communicate with salespeople as well as using credit and debit cards.
“It is totally different for some of them,” Gerardot said. She said the classes are designed for people who have already been through a beginning English language class and can speak at least some English.
A class on .......
....... accent reduction began this week for those who can speak English but are often misunderstood because their accents are so heavy.
Lena Statsenko, who teaches the class, said many people who come to the United States know English but may not have had much opportunity to speak it in their native country.
“For me, English is not a first language, so I understand how it feels when people don’t understand what you are saying,” said Statsenko, who is originally from Estonia and whose first language is Russian.
When Americans can’t understand what a non-native English speaker is saying or hears a heavy accent, they tend to think that person is unintelligent, which can make it difficult to get a job or be taken seriously, Statsenko said.
“People often make awful assumptions. The prejudice really hurts,” she said. “These people may have way more experience or talent than the person who makes the assumption.”
Statsenko said the classes focus on sounds and sounding natural. She said part of softening an accent is learning how to speak the new language by moving the tongue, jaw and lips in different ways.
“We’re trying to twist their tongues and lips and figure out the difference between (similar sounds),” she said.
The first eight-week class began Tuesday ; the second eight-week class begins March 28 and costs $89. Statsenko said those who need only a little work in softening their accents could attend just the second series of classes, but those who are more difficult to understand will have to wait until the next time the classes are offered.
Gerardot said she expects Neighborhood Connection to continue expanding the ESL classes available.
“It’s a huge need out there,” she said. “Fort Wayne’s got a lot of people from other countries.”