Language modification

Cuban aviation technicians participate in specially designed LEAP Basic Communication Workshop at Wright State

A group of 17 Spanish-speaking aircraft technicians is learning basic English at Wright State.

Wright State University faculty and volunteers customized an eight-week curriculum to teach fundamental English to Cuban aircraft technicians employed at a Wilmington, Ohio, aviation business.

Through the LEAP Basic Communication Workshop, 17 Spanish-speaking technicians are learning basic English, the international language of the aviation industry. Organized by the Learning English for Academic and Professional Purpose (LEAP) Intensive English Program at Wright State, the course provides instruction with the help of four to five volunteers during each two-hour lesson. Classes run from June 29 to Aug. 19.

“They’re all beginners so we are working on increasing vocabulary, learning basic sentence structure and engaging in simple conversations at this point,” said Jeannette Horwitz, LEAP program director.

LEAP instructors also take students around campus so participants can see our connection with aviation history.

“Since they’re all aircraft technicians and mechanics we’re incorporating some of that in the course too,” said Horwitz. “We went to the library and looked at the replica of the Wright flyer and some of the pictures and artifacts on the fourth floor and they really enjoyed that Wright State has a connection with the Wright brothers.”

The LEAP program prepares non-native speakers of English for success in academic and professional programs.

The English learners are employed as aircraft technicians with Aircraft and Avionics Solutions, a Miami-based company that specializes in interior airplane modifications. Some of the workers’ spouses are also attending, giving the class a family feel. All participants are from Cuba and have been in the United States anywhere from two to 12 years.

Bart Ferriol, the company’s vice president of operations, said the students have made steady progress in only a few weeks.

“Many have started asking questions to me in English, which show how much their interest in the language has increased since the start up of the training,” he said.

Ferriol, an immigrant from Cuba himself, said his colleagues need to learn English to give them the best chance to progress in the company and be successful in the United States.

Workshop sessions are lead by Catherine Crowley, a senior lecturer in the Department of English Language and Literatures.

“I enjoy working with our students,” said Crowley. “They are motivated to learn and grateful for the opportunity to do so.”

Volunteers and instructors are also benefiting from the workshop.

“I enjoy seeing how Catherine Crowley’s energetic teaching style successfully engages the students in classroom activities,” said Beth Sjostrom, course volunteer and a graduate student in the Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages Program. “I am learning teaching methods that I will be able to take into classes I will be teaching in the future.”

Ferriol praised the Wright State faculty and volunteers for their work. “The instructors are very helpful and always dedicate their entire efforts for the students’ evolution,” he said.

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