Students in the Sarasota County English Speakers of Other Languages program were paired with residents at the Pines of Sarasota to learn proper pronunciation of words, meanings of American expressions and the correct use of words in different contexts, all as part of the English Language Friends program.
The ELF program began in January 2010, in Sarasota, to enhance the communication skills of ESOL students and to improve the psychological well-being of residents in long-term care facilities through their interactions with the students.
Mentors and students were introduced to each other at an afternoon tea at the Pines and were paired together; students visited once a week for six weeks. The group held a celebratory program reception July 13.
Nancy Shi moved one year ago to the United States from China with her family. Although she had studied English grammar in China and could read the newspaper and write, she had little experience in English conversation and was too timid to even answer the telephone. After working with her mentors, Irene Amadio and Sara Sullivan, Shi now has more confidence and willingly engages in everyday discussions.
“I pay more attention to grammar now,” Shi said. “We can talk freely. They always encourage me, and I like them to correct me.”
Amadio and Sullivan look forward to Thursdays, when Shi, who is also a volunteer at the Pines, comes to visit.
“She’s taught me so much,” Sullivan said. “She talks about her experiences and family in China, and it’s been a pleasure getting to know her. She’s more self-reliant now.”
Sandra Oqueli has lived in the U.S. for two years and has enjoyed getting to know her mentor, Harriet MacMahon. Together, the pair read “Nights in Rodanthe,” by Nicholas Sparks. If Oqueli couldn’t pronounce or didn’t understand a word, MacMahon would explain it.
“I like having a friendship with a lady,” Oqueli said. “She’s a very happy person and I like the way she’s alert with her brain. I would like to be this kind of person when I’m her age.”