Cultural exchange

From left, tutor Michelle Bennett, Caldwell-Lake George Library Director Barbara Durkish, Graceann Bennett and international students Rasha Mayhaddinli and Rauf Mirishli, both from Azerbaijan, have a discussion about language expressions on Thursday at the library. A total of 13 international student workers are attending tutoring sessions this summer to learn English.

LAKE GEORGE — American slang can be difficult to understand.

If you tell an international student worker she is running around like a chicken with its head cut off, she may look at you with a raised eyebrow.

It was a popular topic of conversation Thursday morning at a tutoring program for international students being held this summer at the Caldwell-Lake George Library.

“We were discussing how many expressions there are about chickens,” said 16-year-old Graceann Bennett, who helps her mother, tutor Michelle Bennett, with some of the pop culture references.

Rashad Mayhaddinli, a 20-year-old from Azerbaijan. said he was confused by the expression “all set.”

Michelle Bennett said it means complete. She translated another expression, “I’m shot,” as meaning that very tired, as if the person saying it had been shot by a gun and died.

Bennett said the English language has expressions that can be hard to understand, but the students have been doing a good job.

“I was beyond impressed with your ability to speak and read English,” she said.

The students also discussed greetings. They noted that Americans say “Hi, how are you?” but do not engage in a long conversation.

She is enjoying the tutor program, Bennett said.

“I’m so into being an English teacher and being able to learn culture,” she said.

The program operates on Mondays from 3 to 5 p.m. and Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to noon. Three staff tutors have been meeting with 13 students about three times a week. The library is partnering with St. James Church, according to Barbara Durkish, director of the Caldwell-Lake George Library.

Durkish said different groups of students come, depending on their schedules.

“They’re doing fantastic. They’ve all said that it’s helped them tremendously in communicating,” she said. “We’ve seen a definite growth in the communication skills.”

Mayhaddinli and fellow Azerbaijani Rauf Mirishli, also 20, were at the library for the Thursday session. Both work at The Garrison bar & lounge in Lake George.

“We came here to see what kind of books they had and I saw English as a second language (flier), so I signed up for it,” Mayhaddinli said.

The tutors go over reading passages, teaching vocabulary and word association. But there is also time for fun. Bennett said they play party games such as Apples to Apples and Loaded Questions to learn about each other’s culture.

Mayhaddinli is studying for a driver’s test.

Mirishli said he participated in the guest worker program to experience a different culture.

“The ultimate goal in the future is to have master’s degree in finance in the U.S.,” he said.

Mahyaddinli also would like to pursue a master’s degree in finance or business administration.

The students have visas to stay in the country for four months. They spend about three months of that working and then they have one month free for sightseeing. Mayhaddinli said he wanted to see Boston and New York City and Niagara Falls.

Bennett said she believes that students should be connected to cultural activities.

Durkish said the program nearly abruptly ended, because it ran out of money. It was initially funded with a $1,100 grant from the Southern Adirondack Library System, which covered materials, textbooks and the cost of paying tutors at $30 per hour.

But because of the number of students taking part, the program is running short of money.

The Student Connection’s executive committee on Tuesday agreed to provide an additional $900 to continue the program through the rest of the summer until early September, when students usually return home.

Student Connection Executive Director Patty Kirkpatrick said the tutoring meets one of the objectives of the J-1 visa program, which is to immerse the students in the language and culture.

Lake George Village Trustee Ray Perry, who is on the Student Connection executive committee, suggested that, by using an online language learning program, so they could get help more students.

Kirkpatrick suggested partnering with the school to see if they could set up a language lab, where students at different levels could be working on improving their English skills.

Mayor Robert Blais said when the Student Connection was reactivated this summer, it started with a budget of about $5,000, which came from the village and the towns of Lake George, Queensbury and Bolton.

The committee also suggested distributing backpacks to the international students next year, which could promote programs such as this tutoring initiative, as well as other valuable information.

You can read Michael Goot’s blog “A Time to Learn” at www.poststar.com or his updates on Twitter @ps_education.

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