Cards begin to break language barriers


Senior Thawng Tha Bik and freshman Van Tin Thang jump to block a Perry Meridian player’s spike. Bik and Thang are two out of six Chin students participating in boys volleyball this season.

Luke Manning, Reporter

The SHS boy’s Volleyball team has a 9-9 record and is slowly getting better as the year progresses. With 10 seniors on the team, the Cards have a lot of experience to help them win games. However, language barriers with a few of the players is something that the team has to overcome to be successful.
Junior Thar Kung and sophomore Hrang Za Lian are both on the boy’s varsity volleyball team. However, because they are beginning English Learners, they have many complications within their communication skills. Kung and Lian’s first language is Chin. Playing on a traditional, American high school team the language barrier is hard to adapt to.
Kung and Lian are the only Chins on varsity, but there are four Chins on the junior varsity team. Thawng Tha Bik, Ngun Lian, Sang Lian and Van Tin Thang all play for the JV boy’s volleyball team. Every single one of them are level one English speakers, except for Ngun Lian who is a level five speaker.
Ngun Lian uses his higher level speaking to help his fellow teammates when they are struggling on comprehending what the coaches are saying.
“I tell them which position they are supposed to be in and translate (what the coach says) in Chin,” Lian said.
Joe Leonard, boy’s volleyball sponsor, believes that there has been a few communication issues with some of the Chins.
“There has definitely been some communication issues. It varies for some of them, obviously some speak much better English than others. It just depends on the player,” Leonard said.
According to Leonard, because there being several Chins on the team, each one of them can help each other out when they are struggling with a concept.
“Sometimes in the games it can be a little difficult when we are trying to communicate something from the bench to the players,” Leonard said.
A lot of the communication can come from other players on the team. They help translate what the coaches are saying into simpler ways for them to understand.
Ms. Bri Kompara, an EL teacher and assistant boys volleyball coach at SHS, has helped many chin athletes when they are having trouble with their sports.
“I try my best to have them communicate with their coaches as best as possible. One day for example, a coach said ‘swing by the room I need to talk to you’. I tried to put it in easier terms for them like ‘well that means to go to their room,’” Kompara said.
According to Kompara, the Chins feel like she is the middle person where they can go for help. Not only does participating in volleyball help these boys with learning the English language better, but it also helps them be more social with many of the American boys.
“I have already noticed a huge growth in their English,” Kompara said. “It helps them get immersed in that social language. It also teaches them leadership skills and gives them some friends in high school that they wouldn’t necessarily have. I will see them in the hallway hanging out with some of the American students or going out to eat with them and team bonding. So now their social circle and friends are expanding as well.”