A Christian Liberal Arts University, Est. 1846

Bridging the Gap

  • By: Brianna Kudisch
  • Published: May 3, 2019 10:30AM

Moving to a new country is difficult enough, but needing to learn another language can add yet another challenge to the immigration process.

However, for many non-English speakers, learning English became a slightly less intimidating challenge with the help of volunteers from the SCALE program. SCALE, which stands for “Students, Children, and Adults Language Education,” is a program made up of three distinct branches for English as a Second Language, or ESL, tutoring. The three separate programs include the Marion ESL tutoring center that works with adult learners, Marion public schools tutoring, and college student ESL tutoring at Taylor University.

According to Renata Kantaruk, one of the program directors and an instructor of TESOL at Taylor, the need in the area is not vast, but still crucial. “Grant County does not have a huge population of immigrants, but it is a few percent and these people really need help with their language. So where do they go?” she asked. “We’re trying to step into the gap and provide something.”

Kantaruk directs the ESL tutoring center for adults, which involves volunteers—including Taylor and Indiana Wesleyan students, along with community members—pairing up one-on-one with adult immigrants and using provided curriculum to tutor them.

Senior Abby Smith works with the adult learners in Marion and says she joined because she wanted to serve the community.

“We have two ladies who attend and work in Marion at a store and pharmacy,” she said. “One is not in the highest level of English language learning and [is] working toward scientific vocabulary, while the other now arrives with such joy each week being able to converse.”

The program is currently housed at the College Wesleyan Church in Marion and provides tutoring and babysitting services for the adults’ kids. Volunteers for the children’s tutoring program work with their students to either support what they are learning in school or give them a foundation in social English.

Sophomore Camryn Lien, a volunteer for the children’s program, enjoys interacting with the kids and reading books to them in English. She recalled a pair of three- or four-year-old sisters who only knew colors, numbers, and the alphabet in English last year, and seeing the transformation since they went to preschool.

“They picked up English like a sponge,” she said. “Now they are able to communicate with me in English and the next second be speaking to their mother in Spanish. It’s wonderful to see how many people these girls can now communicate with as they speak two languages now.”

“It is beautiful to see the devotion that the ESL students have to learning a new language,” Lien continued. “We often don’t understand how much we take communication and language for granted. It is horribly difficult to operate [a] short time in a place where you don’t understand the primary language, [let alone] doing that every day.”

Kantaruk agreed, sharing the story of one woman from Mexico who started attending the program in 2013 as “an absolute beginner”—only able to say basic greetings in English.

Despite her challenges of working at a local factory and being a single mom, the woman continued attending her English sessions regularly to work on her English.

“She only is able to attend once or twice a week for a couple of hours ... so it does take a long time for a person to get to the point where you know, they can start conversing in a language with so little instructional time,” said Kantaruk. “Right now she’s still with us—she loves the program. She keeps coming back every semester. And she now … translates for coworkers. She’s able to have a conversation in English, so she really is a success story.”

This woman’s success story is not the only one—and Smith believes the program excels at more than just teaching language. “This tutoring space has helped [non-English speakers] to reach some of their language goals, but also provided an opportunity to be real about life and cared for.”