November 25, 2012

English Language Learners in New York Schools Have a Wide Variety of Language Backgrounds


Schools lift the language barrier
Growing number of native Arabic speakers excel locally thanks to English programs
By Kenneth C. Crowe II
November 18, 2012

The eight students came from Jordan, Algeria, Sudan, Yemen and Iraq to Troy High School.

Whether it's Areeg Khalil, 17, who arrived from Jordan to eventually rank among the top five academic students in the senior class, or junior Akram Meza, 17, from Algeria, who played on the school's Section II champion soccer team, they're among the 17 native Arabic speakers who've learned and perfected their English in the district's English as a Second Language classes.

While Spanish and French traditionally dominated as first languages for immigrant and refugee students, that's changing across the Capital Region's school districts.

Arabic, Chinese, Karen — a language spoken in Burma — and Nepalese are among the growing languages in ESL programs, reflecting the growing diversity among students arriving to study in local classrooms. In the Albany City School District, ESL instructors work with students who speak one of 49 different languages. The number of students learning English has more than doubled in five years in the city district.

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