A Quick Look at Three Arabic-Speaking Loy Norrix Students

Imagine moving across the world to a new country. You would face a whole new set of challenges; learning the culture, finding a house, getting a driver’s licence, the list goes on, but most important of all, learning the new language.

For people coming from Arabic-speaking countries, learning English is especially difficult. English has roots in Romantic languages, while Arabic is a Semitic language. This means that everything is different; many Arabic letters don’t even have an English equivalent sound.

Thankfully, programs are available to help immigrants learn to read and write English.

English as a second language, or ESL, is a common name for programs that teach English to non-English speaking U.S. citizens. Due to Kalamazoo’s recent influx of Syrian refugees, these programs are in high demand. Most of these programs are run just like any other class at school.

You may not even realize that there’s an ESL class right here in Loy Norrix. Carol Bouabdellaoui, a new teacher at Norrix, teaches this LN program.

Here’s a quick Q&A with three of her Arabic-speaking students:

Abdullah Al Hariri:

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Q: How old are you?

A: 17 years old.

Q: Where did you live before you moved to the US?

A: Jordan.

Q: What’s your favorite class at Loy Norrix?

A: I like ESL the best.

Q: What do you like to do after school?

A: I help my mom with my brothers and sisters, and I play soccer with friends.

Q: What job do you want after high school? Do you want to go to college?

A: I want to go to college to be a mechanic.

Q: Do you like Kalamazoo? What do you like about it?

A: I like Kalamazoo. It’s a lot smaller. Jordan has many more people.

Q: What do you miss about Jordan?

A: I have family in Jordan and Syria: uncles, aunts and two half-sisters. We cannot visit them anymore because it’s too far.

Q: What should people know about Jordan?

A: In Jordan, we have everything that you do. We have stores, schools and houses. We have big cities with many beautiful people.

Hasan Al Hasan:

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Q: How old are you?

A: 17 years old.

Q: Where did you live before you moved to the US?

A: First we lived in Syria then we moved to Jordan then we moved here.

Q: Why did your family move to the US?

A: My dad moved for his job and he wants us to learn English and get a good education.

Q: What’s your favorite class at Loy Norrix?

A: I like ESL, biology and algebra.

Q: What do you like to do after school?

A: I do homework, watch TV, play soccer and help my dad work. Me and Abdul are good swimmers.

Q: Do you want to join the swim team?

A: We want to, but we have no one to drive us to practice in the morning and after school.

Q: What job do you want after high school? Do you want to go to college?

A: I want to go to college to be a doctor or scientist.

Q: Do you like Kalamazoo? What do you like about it?

A: I like Kalamazoo because many Syrian people moved here and there is a mosque.

Q: What do you miss about Syria and Jordan?

A: I miss the big cities. In Syria, we had a big house, now we live in a small house. My dad owned a grocery store. I miss my family.

Mohamad Mohamad:

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Q: How old are you?

A: 14 years old.

Q: Where did you live before you moved?

A: Turkey.

Q: What’s your favorite class at Loy Norrix?

A: I like everything; math, English and computers [apps].

Q: What do you like to do after school?

A: I go home and do my homework, then I eat and watch TV.

Q: What do you miss about Turkey?

A: I miss my family: my uncle, brother and nephew.

From the first question I asked Abdullah, to the last question I asked Hasan – this group of students exuded friendliness and happiness. They welcomed me with hugs and left me with selfies. The interviews themselves, while difficult to translate, were full of laughter and jokes. These three are some of the happiest people I’ve ever met, despite the challenges they face everyday, in particular learning English. Meeting them for the first time felt like I had always been part of the family.

“I’m happy when I’m around my friends and family,” said Abdul.

While these three students still have a long way to go with learning English, all of us could learn something about happiness from them.

So, in the spirit of Abdullah, Mohamad and Hasan, continue to be joyful, friendly and kind even when facing enormous challenges.

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