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Five VC students conquer language barrier together

ESL 2 Victoria College Adult Education Program students, from left, Tuyet Pham, Li Chen and Huong Nguyen study during their English Language Civics-Integrated Education Training Support class at Victoria College’s Adult Education Center.

Though they came from three different continents, five Victoria College students have united to overcome a common obstacle.

Li Chen, Vilma Negrette, Huong Nguyen, Tuyet Pham and Ingrid Zafra Reina recently assisted each other in completing Victoria College’s English as Second Language (ESL) classes and are now on their way to earning their Office Support Staff Occupational Skills Awards.

“They are not only passing, they are excelling in their college courses,” said VC Adult Education support instructor Sandra Gonzales. “They already knew how to use their critical thinking skills, internet skills and other resources. They just needed to understand the terminology.”

Negrette moved with her family to Victoria 10 years ago from Jalisco, Mexico. She said she wanted to take the ESL classes at VC to gain more confidence in her communication skills.

“I would have never thought I would speak English like I do now,” Negrette said. “English is very hard. Some words are very similar to Spanish, but the pronunciation is very different. When I started speaking to other people, I felt nervous. I started feeling more comfortable after I took the classes.”

Zafra Reina knew very little English when she moved to the United States last December from Colombia.

“I came here because I want to communicate better,” said Zafra Reina, who has a master’s degree in education from the Universidad Santiago de Cali in Cali, Colombia. “I didn’t know that I could take classes like these. Things are now totally different, because I see the progress I have made. The teachers were speaking fast at first, but now I am able to listen better.”

Pham and Nguyen, who serve at the Sisters of the Incarnate Word and Blessed Sacrament Convent in Victoria, arrived to the United States together in 2007 from Saigon, Vietnam. They served at a convent in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, before being transferred to Victoria.

Pham and Nguyen were two of 25 Victoria College students inducted into the National Adult Education Honor Society last summer.

“I knew a little bit of English,” Pham said. “But I was very afraid when I first came here because I didn’t understand a lot. I wanted to learn more to get more confidence, so I would stay in here at class all day. If I live in America, I need to learn English so I can communicate with my community in the parish.”

Nguyen said she was scared at first to attend college.

“But taking the ESL class has helped me very much,” Nguyen said. “I was very nervous, but now it’s OK. It’s exciting to learn accounting.”

All five classmates said the friendship they have developed has greatly attributed to their success.

“We have the same questions, same homework and assignments,” said Chen, who has an accounting degree from Shanghai University and arrived from China with her husband to Victoria in 2016. “We are a team.”

“They have that commonality of the blood, sweat and tears it took them to get here,” Gonzales said. “Having each other has helped them. They cling to each other and become a support group for one another.”

For more information on English as a Second Language courses and other Adult Basic Education Courses at Victoria College, call (361) 573-7323, email AdultEducation@VictoriaCollege.edu or visit VictoriaCollege.edu/AdultEducation.

ESL 3

Vilma Negrette, left, and Ingrid Zafra Reina study during their English Language Civics-Integrated Education Training Support class at Victoria College’s Adult Education Center.

ESL 2

Victoria College Adult Education Program students, from left, Tuyet Pham, Li Chen and Huong Nguyen study during their English Language Civics-Integrated Education Training Support class at Victoria College’s Adult Education Center.