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ESL - English as a Second Language | Spokane, WA
ESL - English as a Second Language

  • Literacy Classes.  Spokane provides English literacy classes throughout Spokane County.  Some of the classes are free, and others require a fee.

  • Refugees.  Hundreds of refugees come to Spokane with their families to flee violence in their native countries. 

    “We dream of a higher education for us and a better future for our family.”  (Enticer Ahmed came to Spokane from Iraq.)

    This is a common sentiment among refugee families.  One of their priorities is to put their children in school.  Often the first thing they ask World Relief when they get off the plane is, “How soon can I get my kids in school?”  “They value education so highly.  They want to start their life over again.”  As we help families settle in, we introduce them to Heather Richardson’s staff at the Family Registration and Orientation Center, where they help the students sign up for school.  (Mark Kadel, director of World Relief Spokane)

    As of March 15, there were 69 languages spoken in Spokane Public Schools District 81, and 1,655 English language learners.  Currently, each English as a Second Language (ESL) certified elementary teacher in Spokane services between 60 and 70 students.  Statewide, the effects of an increased population of people who need to learn English, without increased services, is clear.  English language learners who speak more than 200 languages, are the fastest-growing student population in Washington; but 2 out of 3 don’t meet State standards in core areas.  (Washington State PTA organization’s report)

    ESL-certified teachers are expected to meet every day with each student in their caseload and provide them individualized support and instruction. The sheer workload ESL teachers have is one reason clustering, or clustered instruction, is beneficial.  These specialists can come into the shared classroom, instead of going to each student’s class individually, thus maximizing time and resources.  Most of our kids are coming from countries that had no previous education.  (Patricia Kadel, an ESL teacher in District 81) 

    Some schools sprinkle English language learners in different classrooms; and other schools concentrate all the students in one classroom, called clustering or sheltered instruction.  When you have 20 different languages, sheltered instruction is the best model.  They interact and immerse themselves with each other in a powerful way.  (Patricia Kadel, ESL teacher) 

    “When they are clustered, they are all in the same boat.  They aren’t afraid to take risks, because they know they are all making grammar mistakes.”  (Kamian Fox, District 81)

    “When English language learners are in a classroom full of native English speakers, they often don’t talk.  This changes when they are with students experiencing similar struggles, which leads to better academic results.  (Kamian Fox, ESL-certified teacher, District 81)

    A Marshallese student entered a class for the first time with a “deer in the headlights, petrified look.”  Then, 8 other Marshallese students started speaking to him, in Marshallese.  “You could just see the ahhh in his body.”  Clustering is showing good results, as it helps students relax and removes some of the stigma of not speaking English fluently. (Heather Richardson, director of Spokane Public Schools English Language Development) 

    The number of refugees the United States will accept in 2016 is increasing from 70,000 to 85,000.  Spokane’s yearly number likely will go from under 500 to closer to 600.  World Relief collaborates closely with the school district to orient and place students.  ESL teachers in Spokane need more support.  (Mark Kadel, director of World Relief Spokane)

    English Language Learners:  An elementary or secondary school student not born in the United States, whose native language is not English and whose lack of English proficiency prevents success in school.

    Limited English Proficiency Families:
    Families or parents who lack sufficient English language skills to navigate aspects of the education system and society.

    English as a Second Language (ESL) certified teachers:  Teachers with a certification in teaching students whose native language is not English. 

    In addition, Washington is failing the parents
    who also have limited English, and they are left behind.  “It is not enough to focus our language efforts only on students.  As a system, our public schools must give educators the tools they need to build strong partnerships with all families, including those with limited English proficiency.”  (Washington’s Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction, January 2015) 

    The differences between cultures can be profound and the transition for an immigrant or refugee family tumultuous.  Often the best way for children and parents to learn and integrate into American culture is through the schools, which makes the role schools and educators play all the more vital.  “Our families trust the schools.”  (Areej Alabbasi, Spokane Public Schools’ sole Arabic interpreter and translator) 

    (Source:  “We dream of a higher education for us and a better future for our family,” by Eli Fvrancovich, The Spokesman-Review, April 3, 2016)

  • The number of refugees the United States will accept in 2016 is increasing from 70,000 to 85,000.  Spokane’s yearly number likely will go from under 500 to closer to 600.  (Mark Kadel, director of World Relief Spokane, April 2016)
Local Organizations
Additional Resources

Daily Dose FREE English classes to anyone who wants help improving English speaking skills.  Classes are held throughout the Spokane Region, often in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  These classes are very basic - teaching words and phrases used in everyday situations such as:  going to the doctor, to the post office, to a restaurant, or shopping, meeting new people, etc.  To find a class in your area contact: 
Esther and William Harmeyer
(509) 828-2052
(509) 724-6644
email:  mescallero@yahoo.com

Gonzaga University
GU Center for Global Engagement - English Language
Schoenberg Center
502 E. Boone
Spokane, WA  99258
email:  elc@gonzaga.edu
(509) 313-6454

Language Line Solutions
Personal Interpreter Program
http://www.languageline.com  - Click on the Personal Interpreter Services, or Need an Interpreter Now link to sign up. (Calls are billed for the minutes an interpreter is on the phone with you, charing your credit card which is registered on their website.)
Language Line Solutions interpreters listen to your limited English speaking customer, analyze their message and accurately convey its original meaning to you or your staff member.

SCC Extended Learning
Spokane Community College
1810 N. Greene St.
Spokane, WA   99217
(509) 533-4671
A placement test is required before taking the course.

Spokane County Libraries
English as a second language courses for 50 non-English languages
12004 E. Main Avenue
Spokane Valley, WA  99206
(509) 893-8400

Spokane Falls Community College
3410 W. Fort George Wright Dr.
Spokane, WA   99224
(509) 533-3500 or 533-4113

Spokane International Translation

104 S. Freya, Ste 104
Lilac Flag Bldg
Spokane, WA  99202
(509) 327-8064
Interpreting and written translations for legal, business, and the medical community.  Personal documentation translations - birth certificates, adoptions, and more. 

Spokane Public Library
906 W. Main Avenue
Spokane, WA   99201
(509) 444-5300
Learn English from books, sound recordings, and video recordings.

World Relief Spokane 
1522 N. Washington, Ste 204
(509) 484-9829
(see their page on our site under the Resources tab)