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Succeeding in English

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Narrator: There are over a hundred languages spoken on this campus. South Seattle Community College has one of the most diverse populations of all colleges and universities in the United States. While this fact demonstrates the large variety of cultures and backgrounds for the students attending the school, there is one thing all the students on this campus will share in common, and this includes the students born and raised right here, in America. To attend college, they must all attain a level of proficiency with English. Actually, there is a second thing most students attending college have in common... Kevin Robinson (SSCC Graduate): I remember when I first came here, I was always scared of English, never really cared for English. Narrator: And Kevin is not alone. Alana Crisostomo (SSCC Student): I didn't even know I was going to go to a college at all once I got out of high school. I didn't really know. And then when I did the COMPASS test, they were like, 'Yeah - you're in 96.' I was like, 'Oh well, grammar, me and grammar just don't mix. So it's probably kind of why.' Mele Sagapolutele (SSCC Student): I always knew that 'cause ... yeah. I don't even speak right. So, yeah. Narrator: Those are the native speakers. Imagine learning English as a second language. Dagne Umeta (SSCC Student): Before I came to the States, I can say I had zero experience with writing, because our English was like only grammar and just grammar. No spoken English, no writing. Narrator: Given a positive learning environment and quality instruction, most any student will see the importance of mastering English. Just ask English instructor, Holly Gilman. Holly Gilman (English Instructor): Anyone who plans on continuing education, staying in this country or who lives in this country and wants to be thought of as a reasonable, intelligent adult has to be able to maneuver with some facility around the English language. Narrator: Students will learn that a command of the English language increases the choices and options for them when they start looking for work in their chosen career. Alana: You know, I love English now. Kevin: It's funny because I always liked Math, and I always liked Science, but I did a hundred times better in all my English classes. I mean, my papers, my essays, the quizzes, I did a hundred times better than all those classes in English. And I think it's because of the basics, the teachers and the grammar. Senait Tesfahiwot (SSCC Student): It was hard for me to start the English classes here too. I started, as I said level 3, and I never thought I'm going to be even in ENG 98 or transitional classes. But by asking help and doing as much as I can, I did it and I'm going to take English 101 next quarter. Narrator: Higher education is a proven pathway to a better quality of life, a better career and higher pay. Being able to communicate well, to understand spoken and written English and to write and speak English well will prepare you to reach those goals, to achieve the degree you want, or to attain the certificate needed for your dream job. Geni Sheikh (SSCC Graduate): For me, I just started like to finish English so I will know how this paperwork ... when people give me form to understand. But then, somehow I met my friend Muslima, and she go 'Oh, we're going into Nursing. Let's do it together.' And before you know it, you come to the college and people will help you with where to go, even if you're confused what to do. And I end up becoming LPN; I'm an LPN nurse. And I came back and finished my AA last year; I have my AA degree. And I'm currently enrolled in the RN program, which I'm hoping to graduate from in spring. Narrator: While it may seem to be a difficult task, there are all kinds of resources there to help you. And remember, you are not alone on this path. In fact, you'll soon learn that these students had different starting points with their English courses. Mele: I took, I think it's English 96 and 101, and right now, I'm going to school, I'm trying to complete my prereqs for Pharmacy School, so I'm in the pre-Pharmacy program. Natalie Huyen (SSCC Graduate): I took English 101, English 102, World Literature, Asian American Literature and Literature of American Culture ... to go into Broadcasting. Dagne: I took English 97 (ESL), 98, 101 and World Literature. And my goal is, I'm almost about to finish my AA degree in Business, and I'm also doing the prerequisite for Nursing class. Dante Obcena (SSCC Student): I've taken English 101, 102, and my goal is to get my RN and hopefully get into Masters of Public Health Administration. Alana: I've taken 96, 97, 101 or 98, 101 and currently in 102. And my goal is to, well, I want to be an English major, I guess, for now. Nadezhda Ivanova (SSCC Graduate): I started at South from Level 5 ESL English, ESL class, and then I think I went to ESL 93, 96, 97, 98, then English 101 and 102. And my goal at South was registered nurse - nursing. And I already graduated, so I'm in BSN program - Bachelor's program -- at UW. Kevin: I'm in the same boat. I think I took all of the classes -- 95, 96, 98, 101 and then 102 - and then I also took poetry, but I don't remember which one that was. And I'm trying to get my major in Political Science. Narrator: As these students discuss the English classes they've taken with numbers like 95, 98 and 101, you may ask yourself, 'How will I know where to start?' All students entering the community college take series of placement tests in subjects like Math and English. And there is an ESL version of the tests, too. This type of test is for placement. It is not a pass or fail test. This test will pinpoint where you should begin in English, which English class should be your first. Natalie: I think they got it pretty accurate. I got into 101 my first quarter, and I think it's 'cause throughout elementary school and middle school - and I was only in high school for 2 years because I took Running Start - we always had a lot of essays, and just, you know, we always worked with writing and reading. I liked to read outside of school, just for enjoyment. So yeah, I was pretty happy. Narrator: The placement test may indicate you are ready to start at college level English or not. In fact, more students will discover they must brush up on their English. The test will place them at pre-college levels. While this may be disappointing, most students would agree the placement was accurate. Holly: It helps to evaluate the student's critical reading skills. Because, in college, if you cannot read critically, and when I say critically, I'm not saying find flaws. But, if you can't look at a group of words, an idea, and immediately begin to look for inferences, implications, what's written between the lines, how does this connect with something else, if all the student can see is the surface level meaning of the words on the page, and not how that idea relates to something else, maybe there's something else implied there, then typically those students struggle in English 101. Kevin: I wasn't too surprised because I had been out of school for, I think, ten years before I started, so I knew that I needed to start from the bottom to be able to be successful. So I was kind of okay with it. Narrator: The reasons for the pre-college placement can vary widely. Students returning after a break from school will often need to refresh the skills they haven't used in some time. A lot of students never received the preparation needed to move on to college-level English. Alana: Not at all. High school - writing papers and stuff. Writing papers and reading, in general, was so different from coming here, and you have to annotate your books now, like what was that? Dagne: So, when my first class, in ESL class, my teacher asked us to write about teacher we know, and I can say I couldn't write a paragraph. You know, that was my problem, the problem I had. Narrator: And for students who are learning English as a second language, there are pre-college classes specifically designed for English language learners. The goal of all these pre-college classes is to raise your level of proficiency in English and to prepare you for college-level classes. So once you've started taking your English classes, how can you set yourself up for success? An important step to becoming successful is learning about the resources available to support you. Kevin: I know, for me, I always used the Writing Center. I think that was one of the best things I've done. I went to the Writing Center probably three or four times in a week, and I went almost every Saturday for two years. And so, sometimes I wouldn't even be in there even using the Writing Center, I would just be in there to listen to other people and pick up on ideas. And I think the Writing Center, talking to your teachers, and just talking to other people about your writing, I know, for me, really helped my writing. Dagne: In addition to Writing Center, peer review helps me a lot because I give my paper to a native speaker, and really they give me really good suggestions so I can improve my writing. And the Writing Center was also helpful. I used to visit like at least three times in a week. Alana: The Writing Center. Even just being able to bounce off of somebody else's ideas, like 'Hey, know what, you should take your paper this way' or 'What does this actually mean?' You can get so much more out of your own self by being able to like talk to somebody who really has an unbiased opinion about your own paper that you're writing about. Nadezhda: I also found what was great for me, I found the one girl - I don't remember her name - but I found that that person helped me to develop my paper. I had a negative experience when somebody said, 'Let's cut this. Cut this. Let's put it here.' And after that meeting, I couldn't find if it's my paper or not. So finally, I found a person who helped me to develop my paper, who helped me to point, 'That is not enough information here. Could you add something? What do you think about that?' At the same time, she smoothly involved me in the grammar - just my corrections, not her corrections - and I found that was a great idea. When I came to the UW, I also found three people who I can work with, because that was like a team working in the same direction, not pulling my paper apart. So, I think that was a great experience. Natalie: Unfortunately, I don't think I ever used the Writing Center, but I would always go up to the professor/instructor and ask. Bob's seminars really helped me out because you get to see all perspectives and opinions and ideas, you know, from everyone. Dante: For me, I think the office hours - where you meet your instructors. I took 101 with Kathy, and I called it the 'Writing Psychiatrist.' I need my shrink, my writing shrink, because you give a lot when you're writing, like, 101. It's, like, you're writing about yourself, so it's not just your writing skills, but it's about your life. And to me, like when you build that rapport with her, it's like she's opening more doors, like 'What are those experiences that you want to share more?' Because that will just help you polish and mold that paper. Mele: Oh, I have a lot. I have the AAPI study group, I was actually one of the first students to be a part of that group. And then I have the TRIO program, who's also, they're fantastic, that's Student Success Services. I have them and then I also have the Writing Center. Narrator: You'll find any number of resources available on the college campus. Your instructors and your fellow students will jump at the chance to help. One word of caution though. Remember that writing is something that should come from you. It is a process you must work on for yourself and should reflect you and your thoughts. Don't rely on others and other resources to the point that the work is not authentically you. Holly: Anytime students use someone else's ideas and they show up in their paper that is plagiarism; that's one way of plagiarism. There's another kind of plagiarism that we're having to be careful about here. We have lots of great places for students to get help, we encourage them to do that, and we want them to do that, that's what they're there for. One of the problems though, is that they'll take their paper to the WALL and they'll get help, and then they'll go to the Writing Center and they'll get help, and then they'll think I need more, so they'll go get a tutor and then they'll let their Aunt Mary look at it and all of a sudden, so many people have had a hand in this paper that it no longer reflects the student's true ability. Alana: If it's a paper that I had to write, then I would just sit there in a coffee place, or wherever people are coming by and kind of listen in on their conversations. Then all of a sudden you have a spark of idea come into your head, write it down. Before you know it, they're closing. So, oh okay, probably a very long time when you really get the creative juices flowing. Narrator: When Alana needs some inspiration, she finds it by going out and interfacing with the world around her. But her ideas take over, and the work is original and her own. Remember that taking someone else's work and claiming it as yours is NOT allowed and, in many cases, against the law. It is very easy to rely on the resources like the Internet as a source for information, but it is another to copy work you find on the Internet into your own work. One rare exception is when you are quoting someone else's work and you've attributed the work to the author. Also remember that it is fairly easy for an instructor to recognize when writing no longer seems to be in your "voice" and they can often quickly determine if the text exists somewhere else. If you found it, they can find it. Keep in mind, with all these resources available and people ready to help, you have to decide to use them. It may take hard work, especially if there are barriers in your way. Nadezhda: One of the barriers was that I didn't have around me people especially in the ESL classes, people who spoke English, right English as I thought. One of my Ethiopian friends from the class, she said, 'You know what, you have to talk. If you will not talk, how can you improve that?' And I think that was ... like she said, 'All the people around know that we are from foreign countries. You will never have the excellent English; you will have accent anyway.' So she said, 'Just try.' Dante: Writing is hard; it's not like something that you just do instantly. Narrator: As Dante says, writing is a difficult undertaking. And like everything else, the more you practice, the better at writing you will become. Within the same project you will make multiple revisions as you develop concepts and make new discoveries about your project. And going through the process of beginning new writing projects will help you identify ways to spark ideas in your own mind. It will help you identify other hurdles and help you to learn ways of overcoming those hurdles. Dante: For me, I compare it to, like, surfing. Like, you wait for the wave. You, like, wait. You write free. Write, write, write, write until this idea, this big idea will come out, kind of like the big wave. And when the big wave is on, you ride on it, so you don't stop. You don't ... I don't stop because it's like 12:00 midnight and I have to go to school. When you write, there's like this high that you get and then you just ride on that. And then those are the creative juices, and then all the good writings come out of it. Narrator: Of course, students learn how to deal with barriers and other difficulties. Here are some lessons and tips that may help you achieve success in English from students who have already walked along the path. Mele: Every time I wrote a paper for Newman, I actually made like four copies. Why? Because I would drop one off at the Writing Center, drop one off to Marcia or whoever - even Mr. Newman. Sometimes I would give it to my instructor. I'd be like, 'Hey, man - I know you're so picky. You need to read my stuff.' And so he'll be like, 'Okay.' But I mean you just have to take advantage of everybody. You have to pay for it, so use it. Senait: By practicing again and again and make friends not just from Eritrea which is my country, from other countries to communicate with them to practice English with them. It helps me to do in English well. Dagne: For me, the scary thing was English. It took me years to start at South. And I also believe that there are students, smart students, who scared English and not yet start education. So my advice for those people is just start from the beginning, like me, from ESL, and take the first step and the rest will be easy. Dante: And I love about American culture is about reading. And that's something that I didn't have, and it's something I want to share it to people that Americans love for reading. It's amazing, it's infectious and it should be like Oprah. You should have a book club every month. And that's how I keep my writing too on parts. I'm learning more. I'm learning as I read. Narrator: Dante makes a great point. Reading, writing, speaking and listening to English are each related to the other skills, one reinforces another. As you read, you will discover examples of good sentence structure. As you listen, you may pick up interesting turns of phrases or uses of words in ways you haven't thought of before. Dante: We grew up reading textbooks, and I think it says something about the culture. You just follow instructions like what is A, do this B, do this C. And we didn't have free reading. Yeah, reading for pleasure. Mele: I did all my homework at school. No matter how long it took me, I would... My days off, I was here after school. And then in between work, if I had two hours, I would actually just focus on the hardest class, get that homework done and then leave the easy ones for like my lunchtime or something. But I used up every minute. Kevin: I remember taking days off from work and just ... or canceling appointments I had with friends or fishing trips because I just had to focus on writing. I remember spending hours upon hours just looking at my paper. Nadezhda: And, I think my strategy was I wrote my paper in my head and in my brain for a long time. I was moving all the thought back and forth. And I think it also helped me to develop my English because you cannot think in Russian, for example, but later on write paper in English. So, I tried to build my vocabulary and think about everything in English for a long time in my head. And after that, it was easy for me to put already all my thoughts in the paper. Narrator: With your hard work and determination, supported by your instructors and resources, your goals are easily within reach. Alana: I think have to kind of quote my past teachers. They're just so amazing. It's 'Show, Don't Tell' when it comes to writing. People - no matter what language you speak - you have this amazing gift to communicate. Paper, ink, whatever it is - you have an amazing gift to show what you're actually feeling and actually having other people relate to you. It's a way of connecting with people other than just physically showing it or whatever. Show me your mind, basically. I want to know. Kevin: I would say just use your resources. Don't be scared to take advice from other people, just believe in yourself. I know for me, when I came here, I wasn't sure, but I believed in myself and I was able to get it done.

Video Details

Duration: 24 minutes and 30 seconds
Year: 2012
Country: United States
Language: English
License: All rights reserved
Producer: Seattle Community Colleges Television
Director: Seattle Community Colleges Television
Views: 86
Posted by: scctv on Nov 2, 2012

One thing all college students share in common? They must all attain a level of proficiency with English. Learn tips and get advice from students and instructors that can help you achieve success as you study English. Making Achievement Possible (MAP) Video Series: MAP is a college success video series designed to help students, potential students, and their families learn to navigate the college system and gain the skills necessary for academic success. MAP consists of sixteen short videos, each with curricular materials for instructional use. All videos were funded by a Department of Education/AANAPISI grant to South Seattle Community College. More information is available at

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