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Intersections: It's never too late to tackle ESL

December 12, 2012|By Liana Aghajanian

In a simple, bare bones classroom adjacent to a Montrose-area church, a group of adults is learning something many of us take for granted in our every day lives: how to speak English.

It is one of three English-as-a-second-language classes taking place simultaneously here, offered through Glendale Community College's Noncredit Continuing Education division.

In this room, there are Iranian, Egyptian, Korean and Iranian-Armenian immigrants who have started new lives in the U.S., with interesting stories to tell about their homelands and the journey it took to get them here. They meet here four times a week to master the language of their adopted country, some for better career opportunities, others to communicate with their children, and many just to be able to feel a little more comfortable and a little less awkward in simple exchanges at the grocery store.

With the help of their determined instructor, Romina DerBedrossian, they prepare for the tests they will soon take later this month that will determine whether they move to a higher English proficiency class.


Janet Shahijanian emigrated with her family from Iran four years ago. She's taken this class before, and passed, but has now come back to help her daughter achieve the same success. She has found this experience more enjoyable than the first time around, a fact she says, that has to do with DerBedrossian's ability to push them to do their best.

“It's really hard, but it's getting better,” she said in Armenian. “I've always loved learning and I love the language. I want to learn so that when I go out and someone is talking to me, I can understand what they're saying, because I get really upset when I don't know.”

Shahijanian, who was studying to be an accountant in Iran, hopes to graduate from all noncredit ESL classes offered and move toward continuing her career goals in the U.S.

In a city like Los Angeles, with enough ethnic enclaves to make you feel like you're traveling the world without ever leaving it, learning English isn't always a high priority at first.

Young Han, an immigrant from Korea, came to the U.S. 10 years ago, but hadn't made the attempt to get English language instruction until now, fearing that it was too hard.

Now that her son is in kindergarten, however, she wants to learn so that she can communicate with his teachers better, she said.

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