ENL students improve

Fibi Kim, reporter

SHS has many non-American students in the building including those of Spanish, Chinese and Chin backgrounds. From all of these, Chin students make up the largest population, as they make up over 20 percent of the population in the building. Many of them started high school with no knowledge of English, and because of that,  English Non-Native Language (ENL) is here in order to aid those who don’t know English.

There are five different levels in ENL class, according to ENL teacher Mr. Robert Hoffman-Longtin. Each year, students take the Language Assessment System test (LAS Links) and place in a level depending on their test results, says Hoffman-Longtin. Taking the test lets the teacher know what students need help with, what level they should be in and whether they need to be in an ENL class or not. Students who pass the LAS Links test with level 5 don’t have to be in an ENL class because their listening, writing and speaking skills are as great as a native speaker, according to Hoffman-Longtin. In order to be in level 5, students need to pass the LAS Links test two years in a row. If they don’t pass the test twice, they have to start over from level 4.

This is his eighth year teaching ENL students, according to Hoffman-Longtin. There are 70 students in level 1, 60 students in level 2, 75 students in Level 3, 155 students in level 4 and 100 students in first and second year level 5, according to Hoffman-Longtin. He says the hardest level to teach is level 2 because kids are starting to understand the language but don’t have enthusiasm for continuing to grow. This level is where students are most frustrated in the language according to Hoffman-Longtin. The most fun class to teach is level 1 according to Hoffman-Longtin, because he has to act like a human cartoon in order for students to understand and show them lot of pictures and act things out.

“The biggest focus of ENL class is reading and writing skills, as well as editing,” Hoffman-Longtin said. “The biggest thing to reach level 5 is to insist or make yourself uncomfortable in the language. You can’t choose to say ‘I know enough English’ and take everything you learn in ENL and English classes and use it in every other class in the building.”

Freshman Yuke Yu is a second-year level 5 student. She is originally from China. She has been living in the U.S. for eight years and is a very fluent English speaker, but she didn’t know any English when she first arrived in America at the age of 8. Learning English was very hard, but Yu says she luckily had a teacher who taught her English by showing her pictures and helping her memorize it. Even though she is a level 5 student now, she didn’t pass the test on her first try and had to start over from level 4, Yu says.

“I have a hard time in Spanish and English because I’m trying to learn two languages at the same time. It kind of balances out,” Yu said.

This is ENL teacher Mrs. Amy Peddie’s eleventh year teaching ENL She taught all levels at some point in a time. At first, Peddie had only level 1 and 2 ENL students, since there were only 30 ENL students in SHS. She currently teaches level 3 and has taught this level for the past few years. To her, teaching level 1 is the hardest, because she couldn’t teach a lot of difficult subjects because they were not very good with English yet, and they were hard to communicate with, Peddie says. Due to  that, she would have to draw and act things out. It was difficult for her since she sometimes didn’t know if they understood it or not, according to Peddie.

According to Peddie, SHS is graded on percentage of students who attained a level one  to four of English Proficiency (LEP) on a prior LAS Link. The amount of students who move up to upper levels increases each year, Peddie says. There will be a celebration for all level 5 sometime after fall break, according to Peddie.

Her first year was very hard because she wasn’t trained to teach ENL students, but once she took some classes, things got better and easier for her, according to Peddie. She says those who are in level 4 shouldn’t think like they have just enough English to communicate. Instead they need to think about making their English more like a native speaker and work on grammar.

“(ENL students) really need to work on grammar and try to make their language as close to native speakers as possible,” Peddie said. “Read a lot, learn a lot, practice on fixing your language and work on grammar.”

Senior Bawi Chawn started school in the U.S. in eighth grade and has now been here for four years. He is a second-year level 5 student. From his first year to now, the population of Chin students has increased greatly. He didn’t learn English back in Burma, but luckily, he had a chance to learn it in Malaysia starting from 2007 to 2010, according to Chawn.

“If you want to get out from ENL class, I expect you to prove it to your teacher that you can handle outside classes, that includes speaking English,” Chawn said. “Prove to them that you can succeed without an ENL class.”