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So. Colonie holds multi-cultural picnic for ESL students

Callender said a few of the languages represented in the program are Chinese, Urdu (a variation of Pakistani), Vietnamese, Arabic, Spanish and Farsi.

The ultimate goal of the program, said Callender, is to have the students, who begin with no background in English, speak fluently enough to live a full life in America.

Ida Chung, 22, of Colonie, said she went through the program from the beginning and, when she graduated in 1995, had much more confidence in her knowledge of the language.

"When I first got here, I hardly knew English," she said, "But the teachers were always encouraging me to talk, and I improved."

Chung said that she is now watching her two younger nephews go through the same ESL program she went through, and that she tries to help them as much as she can. She said she has seen improvement, specifically with her older nephew.

"My older nephew used to not know how to speak up," she said, explaining that now he is beginning to speak more English at home.

The four main skills the program works to fine-tune, according to Callender, are speaking, reading, writing and listening. Callender said speaking is usually the hardest part for the students.

"I think that kids, not so much at the young ages, are more conscious about their spoken language and they are sometimes not willing to take risks," she said.

According to Callender, the teenagers in particular, at times, get frustrated and show more resistance, but the ESL teachers are very supportive in helping them work through the language and understand it better. They do so not only in the classroom, but also through programs the department holds throughout the year, including programs at the town library, encouraging students to read.

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