Refugees Learn English - 'Star Trek' Style

Article excerpt

Adult refugees in Utica, N.Y., are learning a new language at the same time their children are, and sometimes in more interesting ways.

At the the Mohawk Valley Resource Center for Refugees, teachers have been creative about linking the study of English to aspects of US culture.

One instructor, a self-confessed "Trekkie," introduced his class to old episodes of Star Trek, for example. The students became so interested that they finally participated in a day-long debate in English as to which was the best of the Star Trek characters.

"They were so excited we couldn't get them to leave at the end of the day," says Richard Sessler, the center's executive director.

Refugees are required to take at least two or three months of publicly funded English classes in order to receive social-service benefits. At the center, classes are full of Bosnians, Kosovars, Russians, Vietnamese and others learning to pronounce the days of the week and conjugate simple verbs in English. …