Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Mexican TV network adding English classes to its lineup

This is a good idea, people all over the world are trying to learn English. DP


signonsandieg.com: MEXICO CITY – As the debate over immigration reform festers in Congress, one message is clear: Americans think people from other countries who live in the United States ought to speak English.

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said it to a gathering of Latino journalists. Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, said it when he proposed a bill calling for the designation of English as the national language. Even President Bush said it as he lobbied for his immigration overhaul package.

“I think people who want to be a citizen of this country should learn English,” Bush said.

Now a Mexican television network is saying it, too. And the network, TV Azteca, is putting its money where its microphone is.

In January, Mexico's second-largest network plans to launch a 60-hour series of English classes on 60 affiliates in the United States, from Chattanooga, Tenn., to San Diego.

The televised classes, the first of their kind to be broadcast by a Mexican network in the United States, will offer cultural as well as language lessons. They will not be broadcast in Mexico or other countries in Latin America. The aim is to prepare immigrants in the United States for a host of situations ranging from taking their children to school to grocery shopping and going to the doctor.
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Immigrant families learn tradition of Thanksgiving

Another good story about immigrants learning about their new country by taking part in one of the best holidays. DP

By MICHELLE WILLARD, Post Staff Writer

murfreesboropost.com: Is any other holiday more American than Thanksgiving?

Turkey, dressing, mashed potatoes and giblet gravy, not to mention the cranberries, are all essentially American. And the holiday itself celebrates the beginnings of our nation through this food.

Murfreesboro City Schools Community Outreach Coordinator Candy Clifford knows the importance of these foods and traditions. So she decided to use Thanksgiving as a primer for immigrant families as a way to introduce them to American culture.

“Our population is growing in the school system,” Clifford said. “And we think it is important for them to have knowledge of our culture. We want them to feel comfortable in our schools and we want them to feel welcomed, so their kids will do better in school.”

More than 14 percent of students, which amounts to 1,075, in Murfreesboro City Schools, are Hispanic or Asian. And MCS students speak 24 different languages; including the common Spanish, Lao and French and less common languages like the African Yoruba and Igbo.

Clifford has reservations for 400 English as a Second Language families to attend her ESL Thanksgiving Dinner Monday, Nov. 19 at Black Fox Elementary.

“You don’t realize what a melting pot Murfreesboro has become and you have to keep pace with that especially in our schools,” Clifford said, adding the system has Hispanic, Laotian, Japanese and Muslim families.

“In our schools, these are families that are important to serve,” she said.

This is the first year for the ESL Thanksgiving Dinner, but Clifford has held cooking classes in the past to teach parents the basics of a turkey dinner.
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S.F. focuses on racial, cultural groups in pioneering health plan

This is a very interesting story about San Francisco's new health plan. They are covering all the people who are uninsured in all ethnic groups. Maybe it will be a blue print for the country. DP

By Heather Knight, Chronicle Staff Writer

sfgate.com: San Francisco is the first city in the country to find the money and political will to attempt to provide universal health care for its residents, but leaders of the new plan say its success hinges on a notion rarely discussed in the health care debates raging at the state and national levels: cultural competency.

Rather than treating patients using just raw data such as blood pressure levels and cholesterol counts, medical professionals also are taking into account patients' race, gender, age, sexual orientation, native language and other demographics in marketing the plan and providing the best medical care once they enroll.

In a city of distinct neighborhoods often populated by particular racial or ethnic groups, thousands of immigrants speaking more than 100 languages and a significant population of gays and lesbians, those behind the new plan, dubbed Healthy San Francisco, believe it will succeed or fail largely on how well cultural competency is practiced.

"There's a reason we have a clinic in Chinatown and a separate clinic in the Mission and a separate clinic in the Bayview," said Dr. Mitch Katz, director of the city's public health department. "That's because we realize there are cultural differences in the ways people seek care. ... We try to get as specific as we can."

In San Francisco, that means anything from a special clinic for gay and lesbian youths who might find it off-putting to be surrounded by middle-aged gay and lesbian patients to hiring Asian actors to star in public service announcements about health care to run on Chinese-language television stations.
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Monday, November 26, 2007

Ex-Hub educator who taught immigrants English honored

This wonderful teacher who came here from Italy in 1958 received a national honor for helping 40,000 immigrants learn English. DP

By Audrey M. Marks, Globe Correspondent

boston.com: An East Boston man received a national honor yesterday for helping more than 40,000 immigrants, refugees, and high school dropouts in Boston learn English and further their education.

Dominic Avellani, 60, was one of five adult winners of the 2007 National Caring Award, sponsored by The Caring Institute, a nonprofit organization that promotes the values of public service.

"I've gotten a lot of recognition but this award cannot compare to anything else," he said after the ceremony.

Avellani, who retired in 2005 after 33 years teaching in Boston public schools, founded the East Boston Adult Education Center, which helps those who want to continue their education.

The school's curriculum includes English classes for immigrants, instruction for citizenship tests and high school equivalency exams, and other continuing-education courses.
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Sunday, November 25, 2007

Students celebrate tradition

One of the best ways for people to learn about each other is by eating their food and celebrating their holiday. It is fun too. DP

Program connects foreigners to American culture

By Amanda Bedgood

theadvertiser.com: Emmanuel Irankunda had his first taste of Thanksgiving Friday - ESL style. Vietnamese egg rolls were his favorite dish.

More than 120 students from across the globe in the English as a Second Language program at Edgar Martin Middle School participated in an international Thanksgiving on campus Friday. Each brought a dish from their homeland. Tables decorated with traditional autumn colors, turkeys and cornucopias were filled with nontraditional fare from places as far flung as Venezuela and Russia.

Teacher Mona Credeur said the feast gives the opportunity for lessons including recipes, vocabulary and essays about giving thanks.
"It's like we all take a little trip," she said.

But, more than any academic lessons, international Thanksgiving is part of teaching children about a uniquely American tradition.

For Americans, Thanksgiving is a time of food, family and celebration. But for children who barely speak English and understand little about the culture, Thanksgiving can be a time they feel alienated from their peers, who are looking forward to turkey and dressing with relatives.
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Helping with the first steps toward English

Immigrants are finally realizing they NEED English to become full participants in the country. Many want to be active politically and can't. DP

Spanish-language network plans programs on useful phrases to aid immigrants in navigating the basics of life in America.

By Anna Gorman, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

latimes.com: Juan Garcia makes the same resolution every New Year's: Learn English.

Despite being in the U.S. for 15 years, the Mexican immigrant knows only a few words and phrases. Too busy with work and family, he has put off enrolling in a class.

"The days pass and the years pass, and I don't do it," said Garcia, 63, who lives in Los Angeles.

Garcia will get a little help keeping his resolution in January when the Spanish-language television network Azteca America launches a series aimed at teaching English to its nationwide viewers. Called "Survival English," the show will focus on basic language skills for real-life situations such as renting an apartment, shopping at a market and visiting a doctor's office.

The television program represents a major departure for Spanish-language media and one that Azteca officials hope will foster assimilation of Latino immigrants and boost their political and economic clout. It also addresses concerns of some elected officials and other critics who assert that speaking English should be a priority for all immigrants.

"Our community will be more powerful politically if they can be more culturally assimilated," said Hector Romero, director of operations for FundaciĆ³n Azteca America, the nonprofit arm of the company.
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Students teaching about peace

These teens and the discussions they are having and the things they plan to do can change the world for the better. DP


charlotte.com: In Charlotte, it's possible to work, shop, go to school and church and never meet anyone that different from yourself. It's called staying inside your comfort zone.

In Charlotte, a group of young people has chosen another path. They don't mind feeling "uncomfortable," if that's what it takes to learn.

When I participate in the Peace Journeys program, sponsored by the Charlotte Coalition for Social Justice since 2001, I am inspired by what high-school students teach me.

Peace Journeys grew from an initiative by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and historian John Hope Franklin, who brought together young people from South Africa, the U.S. and Senegal to discuss race and reconciliation.

Their initiative has continued through activities like the one in Charlotte, three and a half days of togetherness, with time spent at Camp Thunderbird at Lake Wylie.

The emphasis is on understanding history and, as the program's mission states, "the need to apply the lessons of the past to create a more inclusive and just future."

The teens, about 44 this year, are nominated by diversity facilitators at their schools and write essays in order to take part. What they are doing requires hard work. But to see them sharing life stories and laughter, and starting friendships based on common goals, is to realize that they wear their task lightly.

Hey, they're teenagers.

Where do I come in? As part of the "intergenerational dialogue." This year's Elders' Luncheon, at Friendship Baptist Church, featured chicken, peach cobbler and the usual provocative conversation. It is hoped the elders bring wisdom and experience. The younger generation brings energy, optimism and ideas that don't rely on the old way of doing things.

At my table, we had a future doctor, lawyer and -- I feel confident predicting -- president of the United States.
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Immigrants Haven't Worn Out The Welcome Mat in Arlington

This city has a successful relationship with its immigrant population. Other cities should take lessons. DP

By Pamela Constable, Washington Post Staff Writer

washingtonpost.com: When nearby counties began trying to drive out illegal immigrants this summer, Arlington said it would treat everyone with "dignity and respect, regardless of immigration status."

Other counties felt overwhelmed by immigrants, but Arlington officials said they would happily provide them with every service allowed by law.

After three decades of working to make foreigners feel welcome, Arlington has good reason to pointedly reaffirm this philosophical embrace. More than one in four residents is a first- or second-generation immigrant, yet the county boasts low crime and unemployment rates. School test scores are high, and newcomers interact peaceably with fifth-generation residents. That success results in part from the county's history of attracting a gradual, diverse stream of foreigners and in part from its strong efforts to help integrate them in the community.

Still, commercial development and rising real estate prices are making Arlington less affordable to many new immigrants, and school officials and business owners report that a sense of fear is beginning to filter in.

"The attitude has always been: They're here. They're part of the community. Let's help them succeed," said Chris Zimmerman, a longtime County Board member. He said his children attended schools with classmates from dozens of countries. "They got something from those relationships that you can't teach in a curriculum or show in test scores," he said, "something that will benefit them their entire lives."
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Let's help others to learn English

Every town needs many people like this woman. Too bad there are so few. DP

By Mary Huebner

greenbaypressgazette.com: ASHWAUBENON — Twenty-five years ago, I read an editorial in People's Forum. The Hmong were coming to the United States and needed to learn English. The Literacy Council of Brown County sought volunteers to tutor non-English-speaking people and offered training workshops. It sounded interesting and I was soon teaching my first student.

Here I am, 25 years later, still teaching English. It's been the most rewarding volunteer work I've ever done. It changed my perceptions of immigrants —the difficulty with communication, the prejudice and the hard work it takes to make a life in a new country. I've learned people the world over are the same – they love their children and families, want a good life for them and are willing to make sacrifices to accomplish their goals. They want to learn English. However, there are not enough classes or teachers to help them.

I find one-on-one tutoring rewarding. I can only help one or two students at a time but they learn quickly and are so grateful. How rewarding to hear a student say, "Teacher, yesterday, I was shopping and I ask for bathroom for my little girl. Before, I don't know how to ask, she has to wet her pants. Thank you for helping me."

I've made many new friends and have had unique experiences with my students. I've taught students of all ages, all abilities and many nationalities. Using skills learned in the literacy workshop, I can teach English to anyone without knowing a single word of their language.

If you have ever asked, "Why don't they learn English?" call the Brown County Literacy Council for information on workshops. Every tutor makes someone's life better and gains much in return.

Passaic tries to teach immigrants safety through their children

The best way to get safety messages to parents is to teach their children. The kids love to teach their parents a new thing. DP


northjersey.com: PASSAIC -- The boy's question was an innocent one.

"Do they have firefighters in Mexico?" asked the Hispanic youth wearing a plastic firefighter helmet.

Yes they do, fire Chief Patrick Trentacost responded with a smile.The question highlighted a challenge faced by fire departments that serve immigrant communities. Many Passaic residents hail from countries where fire safety education is rarely taught, and the fire departments themselves are less organized, Trentacost said later in an interview.

Now living in densely packed and often fire-prone housing, these families are potentially at risk of being swept up in a disaster. That risk only increases if families are afraid to call fire departments because they fear having to explain their immigration status, he said.

But by reaching out to the children of these immigrants, fire officials believe that the safety lessons can and do filter upward.

"It's unbelievable the amount of information that goes back to their parents," Trentacost said.
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Facts show immigrants don't deserve crime blame

This report shows that illegal immigrants commit crimes at the same rate as the rest of us. DP

Suntimes Opinion Piece

suntimes.com: Illegal immigrants get blamed for everything: rape, murder, robbery, you name it.

They are actually quite law-biding, as much as the rest of us, a Sun-Times report reveals.

They account for about 3 percent of the state's population and an equal percentage of inmates in Cook County jails. Less than 4 percent of adults in Illinois prisons have been identified as illegal immigrants.

The perception holds that more illegal immigrants equals more crime. That view is bolstered by lies told by anti-illegal immigrant groups like the Minutemen. They claim 64,000 U.S. citizens have been killed by illegal immigrants since Sept. 11, 2001. That would mean more than half the murders in the United States have been committed by illegal immigrants.

Besides, the numbers don't add up. The FBI doesn't even track the data of offenders or victims based on their citizenship status. The data does show that nearly half of those arrested for murder or non-negligent manslaughter in 2006 were white. Only 1 percent of "criminal aliens" were in jail for murder in 2005, according to the Government Accountability Office.

Sadly, people tend to believe this anti-immigrant hype. They always have. One recent survey found most Americans believe immigrants boost crime. These same claims have been hurled at the Irish, Italians and Chinese at some point in America's history. Today we scapegoat Mexicans.

We don't blame all middle-age white guys for the crimes of John Wayne Gacy. We don't blame all black men for John Allen Muhammad's Beltway sniper-fest. We shouldn't blame all illegal immigrants, either.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Immigrants' language skills crucial in era of global economy

A first hand account of why we all should be bilingual and multilingual. And why immigrants definitely should keep their parents' language alive. DP

By Rep. Mike Honda
REP. MIKE HONDA represents California's 15th Congressional District.

mercurynews.com: As a teen, I once told my mother to speak only English to me.

On the surface, things Japanese just were not "cool" enough for this California high school kid. Even more haunting was the stigma of World War II and the struggles my family suffered through during those years in an internment camp on account of our ancestry.

Years later, as a Peace Corps volunteer, I realized what I lost by shunning my Japanese. Learning Spanish in El Salvador opened my mind to a new world view. I also realized that in losing Japanese, I lost a window to a culture that has made a major impact on the world.

That is why I find the fear of multilingualism irrational. Some view it as though it were a disease infecting our country instead of a cure; in fact, many folks pay thousands of dollars to acquire a second language. Many foreign policy blunders the United States has committed in the past, and the not-so-recent past, could have been avoided had we not looked at the world through a mono-cultural lens. Rather than English dying, the real tragedy facing our country is the children of immigrants who lose their ancestral language. I believe that immigrants should learn English when they come to the United States - but not lose the language skills they bring with them.
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International High School is haven for students learning English

These high school students from at least 15 countries, are learning to be American high school students. After 2 years in this school, they go into the high schools in their neighborhoods. DP

Students there outperform those with limited English proficiency at other Austin high schools.


statesman.com: Like many of his classmates at the International High School, Hamed Berenji had struggled for weeks with saying goodbye to the familiar as he adjusted to his new homeland.

Now, it was time for the 16-year-old to teach them how to say hello. In Farsi.

"Salaam," he wrote on the bright blue poster.

One by one, the other students joined him in sharing their native greetings: Chao. Kushe. Mingala ba. Bonjour.

Different paths brought each of the International High's 194 students to Austin. Some arrived seeking greater opportunity under fairly typical circumstances — a mother's new job or a father's desire to study at the University of Texas — but others came under more harrowing conditions. Those students barely escaped war-torn countries with their lives.

For many immigrant students, International High School is a haven. Housed at Johnston High School in East Austin, the three-year-old, open-enrollment school is one tool the Austin school district is using to help students overcome the hurdles of learning a new language, a new culture and coursework.

On state standardized tests, the students generally outperform those with limited English proficiency at other Austin schools. District officials are preparing a report on the progress of International High students, who can remain in the program for two years, after they return to neighborhood schools.
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New efforts opening arms to immigrants

Many different cities, and all with different ways to help their immigrant residents assimilate and learn to be Americans. DP

By Antonio Olivo and Vanessa Bauza | Tribune staff reporters

chicagotribune.com: In Melrose Park, they lure in Latin American immigrant parents with a new youth soccer league, then try to get them into neighborhood English classes as part of a state New Americans initiative.

In Skokie, planned courses will teach new residents from warmer parts of the world how to dress for the area's infamous winters. And in Schaumburg, village officials are puzzling over how to persuade South Asians to join local civic groups.

All are part of a quiet but mounting government push to encourage assimilation, the likes of which has not occurred since Theodore Roosevelt's Americanization programs of the early 20th Century, scholars say.

With Illinois viewed as a national model, government officials around the country are devising new strategies to deal with a historic immigration wave that has caught many areas off guard.
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Sanchez: Being bilingual will open doors

Even though the U.S. should remain an English speaking country, it helps everyone if more of its residents speak more than one language. DP


statesman.com: The Leander school district board is considering including a second language, most likely Spanish, as part of the curriculum for elementary students. Happily, the proposal enjoys widespread support in our community. But it is also a reminder, as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently found, that language is an emotionally charged issue.

The immigrant governor stepped on a hornet's nest when he told a convention of Hispanic journalists that immigrants should "turn off the Spanish television set" to learn English more quickly. By so saying, he ran afoul of "advocates" who apparently want to protect monolingualism among the newcomers.

Of course, if immigrants remain monolingual, then more Americans must become bilingual to meet their needs in various settings, including medical situations and law enforcement. In fact, one right reserved exclusively for American citizens caters to monolingual immigrants by allowing them to vote with ballots printed in their native languages. Perhaps it is because of this double standard that some people are angered by attempts to encourage Americans to be bilingual.

The anger is misplaced. People at both ends of the spectrum need to recognize that being monolingual fences people in by limiting opportunities and creating barriers. Thus, newcomers to this country should learn English. Mercifully, many do, and, by the third generation, virtually all do.
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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

In this county, education doesn’t end with school

This program helps parents learn valuable skills which help their children be more successful in school too. DP

Adults and parents find variety of life-skills programs for self-improvement through college, rec department

by Kristina Gawrgy | Staff Writer

gazette.net: Adults are discovering that furthering their education can also have positive effects on children, families and the overall community, say county officials and parents who have become involved in a host of activities sponsored by schools, colleges and nonprofits.

‘Whatever gets parents involved in the community is a good thing,” said Jackie Dean, president of the PTSA at Wheaton High School, who attended Monday night’s Hispanic Heritage Celebration and parent resource night at Wheaton High School.

The parent resource night is one of several methods of outreach. Individual schools offer programs for parents such as literacy nights to teach parents the importance of reading to their children. The school system offers the Parent Academy, a series of workshops on topics that range from school psychology to establishing good credit, and even county centers like the Charles W. Gilchrist Center for Cultural Diversity work in partnerships with nonprofits and corporations to offer afternoon and evening classes for immigrants and their families.

During Wheaton’s parent resource night, parents could get information and ask questions of representatives from organizations including the county’s Department of Health and Human Services, nonprofit groups, Latino Economic Development Corp., and even Bank of America and The Catholic University of America School of Nursing.
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