When Vehra Ndocko began taking ESL classes at Greenville Technical College (GTC), she didn’t know what to expect. Originally from Cameroon, her native language was French and she was concerned when she found out her instructor didn’t speak French. “I thought, how I am going to learn?” Vehra said. But, her classes have taught Vehra many lessons beyond just improving her language skills.
The ESL classes at GTC have helped Vehra to be more confident by moving her out of her comfort zone. “I am a shy person and I have a really hard time speaking in front of people. “However, while taking my communication class and doing the debates and presentations, I was able to overcome that fear,” she said.
“I had always had a complex about my accent, but being in this class with all of the different people and different accents made me realize that I can’t do a thing about my accent,” she added. “It is a part of me and it makes me who I am.”
Vehra attributes her current success as a college student at GTC with first taking ESL classes. “It is the base for everything. Learning a language is developmental. It doesn’t come overnight – you have to work hard for it,” she said. Her advice for others is perseverance. “Sometimes it may seem like you are not making any progress, but just continue to work hard and never give up. I am not fluent yet, but I know that if I continue to work hard I am going to get there.”
Often students complain about homework or tests, but not Thalia Schobbert. As an ESL student, she likes the motivation she gets from being graded on her work. Before coming to Greenville Technical College, Thalia had taken private English lessons for about 18 months. That environment didn’t work well for her because the private teachers expected her to tell them what she wanted to learn. She wanted more structure and a teacher that told her what to learn.
“With my private teachers I did a lot of conversation, but less grammar,” she said. “I had a lot of questions about grammar. It’s a big difference, when you get grades, because you have a motivation to learn.”
The higher expectations and more rigorous coursework mean that Thalia is getting more out of her classes. She has learned so much from her classes that Thalia has recommended the college’s ESL classes to others, one of whom is now her classmate.
A native of Peru, Thalia lived in Germany for 18 years before coming to the United States. She finds it very helpful that her instructor has lots of experience with both Spanish and German speakers. “Lissette knows my exact weaknesses,” said Thalia. “She is a great teacher – demanding, but funny. She cares that every student really understands and has a lot of patience.”
When Michèle Pierrat decided to move to the United States from France, she asked her friend – who was an American living in France – what would be the best way to improve her English. Her friend suggested she contact the local community college.
In November of 2012, Michèle arrived on Greenville Technical College’s (GTC) campus and took the ESL placement test. Sometimes, non-native speakers fear that their level of comprehension is not high enough to take college classes, but in fact, it is. This is why the placement test is such an important part of the process, because it insures that students are properly placed and able to succeed.
And succeed she has. Michèle said her classes at GTC were the best help she found in Greenville to improve her English. Her classes included grammar, communication, composition and pronunciation. “This combination is an excellent mix of classes to quickly be able to communicate with native speakers,” she said.
“In class I met friends from all over the world, some with lives similar to mine, and some very different. It has changed my life in Greenville for the better. Now I’m able to answer questions, make phone calls, read books in English and watch my favorite TV show on Netflix – House of Cards,” she added.