Growing number of students face the challenge of a new language

Published: Monday, November 12, 2012 at 12:07 PM.

“English is easy to learn,” Bilol said with a smile. “But the accent is a little bit hard.”

The high school sophomore said his father moved the family to the United States so each of the children could become fluent in English before returning to their home in central Asia to find well-paying jobs.

Bilol’s story isn’t unique. Many students enrolled in Okaloosa County schools are here for similar reasons, according to Paola Diaz de Varela, who is the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) translator at Fort Walton Beach High School.

Some families come for job opportunities, a few for family and many because of the low cost of living compared to larger southern cities with similar climates.

But nearly all of them arrive at the schools feeling one thing: fear.

Dealing with change

The day Michelle Ramswell started classes at Fort Walton Beach, she could speak English, but her accent was impossible to hide.

“I felt I would throw up,” the 17-year-old recalled with laugh.

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