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Andrea Blanchard ACF Abstract FY11

"Refugees Near and Far: What they Need vs. What they Receive"

Conference Name: Michigan Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages (MITESOL): ESL at the Crossroads

Refugees come to America to reestablish their lives. A necessity for their full emersion and incorporation into American society is English acquisition. Refugee resettlement agencies address this need but oftentimes their services expire after three to six months. The end of these introductory programs can not guarantee the refugees’ full comprehension of the English language, so more must be done.

English language learners often face the English speaking world before they master the language. Adult learners rarely encounter another similar ESL service that reinforces their English acquisition. What they learn in the first six months of their ESL program must provide them with the fundamentals of English that they will need to prosper in the United States. Issues such as these, and the unequal gender distribution within refugee resettlement ESL programs, will be discussed in the presentation, though the emphasis will be on K-12 learners.

K-12 refugee students, too, suffer from inadequate English preparation, and it hinders their opportunities for educational advancement. K-12 teachers need to be aware of the specific needs of refugee students, and they must know how to best address those needs. This presentation primarily explores and attempts to resolve this issue. The investigation of what programming is available both in Michigan and elsewhere for these specific ESL students helps determine what more can be done.

From a first hand experience with the Refugee Resettlement and Immigration Services of Atlanta, and from interviews with representatives from Bethany Christian Services, information is gathered about ESL programs for all ages currently in place for refugees. Their effectiveness is determined and scrutinized. The examination of these programs is the basis for conclusions drawn about an ideal ESL program for refugee students which will be supplied and openly discussed to conclude the presentation.

Dr. Christen Pearson and student Andrea Blanchard