Tuesday, December 12, 2017

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SDSU is helping to improve the communication skills of Somali seniors with limited English proficiency. (Credit: Somali Family Service of San Diego) SDSU is helping to improve the communication skills of Somali seniors with limited English proficiency. (Credit: Somali Family Service of San Diego)
 


ESL for Seniors

A partnership between SDSU and a local Somali community organization is helping seniors learn English.
By SDSU News Team
 

A unique English as a Second Language (ESL) curriculum has been developed by San Diego State University faculty and students to improve the communication skills of seniors with limited English proficiency.

The curriculum was recently adapted for seniors from Somalia, among the most recent immigrant groups to settle in San Diego.

Henrike Blumenfeld, associate professor in SDSU’s School of Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences, is leading the effort through her Bilingualism and Cognition Lab. The ESL curriculum consists of thematically organized binders with visual cues and an iPad app that has been translated into Somali.

The goal: self-sufficiency

The project is a partnership between SDSU and Somali Family Service of San Diego (SFS), a community organization that helps Somali and other East African families become self-sufficient, independent and contributing members of the San Diego community. SFS provides educational programs promoting health and wellness, youth leadership, parent engagement, economic development and refugee integration.

The first cohort of 10 Somali seniors started the weekly program in September 2016 with assistance from a team of bilingual SFS staff as well as undergraduate and graduate students supported by a mini-grant for undergraduate research from SDSU’s Division of Undergraduate Studies.  

All the Somali participants have attended the classes, and their English-speaking skills have improved markedly, according to SFS staff. Student researchers from the Bilingualism and Cognition Lab will be presenting a poster on the project at the upcoming SDSU Student Research Symposium.

Community partnership

“The seniors said they learned a lot more from this ESL curriculum than they ever had in previous adult ESL classes due to the one-to-one assistance and the focus on functional communication skills,” said SFS President and CEO Ahmed Sahid.

“We value SDSU’s dedicated support of this effort,” he said. “We have worked with them on a number of collaborative projects, and Dr. Aaron Bruce has been a supporter of our youth program for years.”

Bruce, a member of the SFS Board of Directors, is SDSU’s chief diversity officer.