KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Dozens of our neighbors in Knoxville are working really hard to learn English. A partnership between Centro Hispano de East Tennessee and Pellissippi State Community College has brought classes to the Division Street campus. This collaboration is brand new this fall.
As you walk the halls at Pellissippi on any given Thursday evening, you’ll hear a mix of Spanish and English coming from the classrooms. A lot goes into learning a new language, more than any of us who haven’t had to, will ever know.
“All of my students are hard working people who get here at six o’clock,” James Costa, a volunteer ESL teacher, said. “A lot of them come late because they’re coming directly from their jobs, but they have the motivation to learn English and to, therefore, fit in to the American community, and to do better economically and in their jobs.”
Depending on who you ask, there are different way to help out. You can certainly donate or volunteer like Costa.
“My favorite part is the personal contact with the students, with the Latino students, joking around with them and getting them to speak English through a relaxed atmosphere,” he explained.
If you ask student Lina Camacho, a simpler task to help will do.
“I think for speak more slowly,” Camacho laughed. “Because I think for Knoxville specific, or the or this area of the United States, it’s more difficult for the accent for the different accent and the people speak very fast.”
Camacho is interested in the environment and hopes for a successful career. Her biggest goal right now it to speak fluent English, which her teachers say is going well.
“I am a volunteer in the UT garden now for the educational program for the childrens and I finished last week for my internship for Ijams for the environmental topics,” she said.
Each of these students shows up for a personal reason.
“I think this class is very specific and have more opportunity for your life and your goals,” Camacho said.
You can guess some answers for learning English like to do better in jobs, make more money, or support a family. Costa, though, said for many, it’s something else.
“If you can’t speak English in this country, you’re very definitely a second grade citizen,” he stated.
It’s a new country, new language, and at times new harsh reality. Motivation to come to these classes must come from somewhere. Costa recalls one funny story of a student who had married in to an English-speaking family. She had a comical response to why she was learning English.
“She said, ‘I’ve got to learn this language, so I can fight with my husband and in-laws,’ so to me that kind of exhibited with enough motivation,” he laughed.
Sure, they’re all learning a language, but with it comes lessons in humor, culutre, and how to be part of it all.
Leaders with Centro Hispano said one of the biggest reasons students couldn’t attend or missed classes like this was because they needed childcare. That’s why when creating this program, they included a dedicated classroom for children. They hope to serve entire families.