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St. Mary’s language school looks to expand program

March 13, 2014

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Three young women from widely different backgrounds meet in a Saint Mary’s College classroom to share their cultures, speaking in carefully worded English to describe their home countries.

Marjourie Cermeno, 28, who immigrated to the United States nine years ago, describes life and culture in her native Nicaragua. She’s working to improve her English skills in order to go to college to become a Spanish teacher.

Nada Alharoon, 18, who arrived in town this winter from her native Saudi Arabia, says she came here to continue studying. She’s brushing up on the English she already knows with plans to study engineering at Saint Mary’s and the University of Notre Dame.

To the others, she describes the limits placed on women’s work and travel in her native land.

Neima Mohammed, 32, originally from Ethiopia, moved to Granger when her husband became a professor at Saint Mary’s. Mohammed is improving her English with hopes of opening an Ethiopian restaurant.

As each woman speaks, instructor Erika Pistorius Stamper poses questions about their presentation and gently corrects grammar mistakes. The conversation is “English only, from the first minute of class,” Pistorius Stamper says.

This three-student class in listening/speaking English is one of the courses offered through the English Language School at Saint Mary’s, according to the South Bend Tribune (http://bit.ly/1nMnG5V ).

The women’s college in 2011 launched the school, designed to prepare women from around the world for higher education in the United States.

Although originally intended primarily for women from other countries who come here to get ready for college, the school also is drawing a number of foreign-born temporary or permanent area residents who are improving their English skills for personal or professional reasons.

The language school is open to both sexes, although all students so far have been female. (For women students, campus housing also is available.)

The school operates in four-week sessions, including during summer, and students may enroll in up to five courses at a time, says Elaine Meyer-Lee, director of the college’s Center for Women’s Intercultural Leadership, which includes the language school.

The English school has drawn about 60 students so far, and the college is seeking to grow enrollment. Classes are small, with lots of one-on-one attention from instructors.

The school is attracting students from many different countries, including Japan, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, as well as Central and South American nations, Meyer-Lee said.

English language students who choose to live on campus are assigned to a campus residence hall, share a room with a Saint Mary’s undergraduate and are welcome to participate in campus activities.

There currently are two instructors. “If we grow a little more, we’ll add more teachers,” Meyer-Lee said.

Tuition for a four-week session of five classes is $1,200, plus fees and living expenses. Full-year tuition is $13,200.

Students may enroll as beginning, intermediate or more advanced English language speakers. “A student can enter at any level and we’ll gladly help them get where they want to be,” said Terra Cowham, the college’s assistant director of international student services and the language school.

Five students who started studies in the language school are now Saint Mary’s undergraduates. College applicants may be conditionally admitted, with the requirement that they improve their English skills before starting college.

The English Language School is seeking area residents to serve as host families for students, inviting a student for a home-cooked meal, a community event or a holiday gathering.


Information from: South Bend Tribune, http://www.southbendtribune.com

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