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English as a Second Language Courses Offered to BU Dining Services Workers | BU today

Over the past 12 weeks, during the lull between lunch and dinner shifts at Warren Towers, BU Dining Services employee Kerrine Tang has worked hard to improve her English. Tang, a native Cantonese speaker from Hong Kong and a 16-year food service employee, enrolled in the relatively new BU Center for English Language & Orientation Programs (CELOP) course for food service.

The program is designed to teach food service employees the essential English language skills they need to do their jobs. These skills include writing, vocabulary about cleanliness and sanitation, improved communication about allergies and dietary restrictions with clients (i.e. students) and other staff, and understanding recipes and written instructions, plus a tutorial on the quirks and rules of the English language. .

Consider the “th” sound, which exists in virtually no other language, or the fact that some English nouns (glasses, salmon) are the same whether singular or plural. Although English is the most widely spoken language in the world, it is also considered one of the most difficult to learn.

“I took an English class over 20 years ago at my church, but it was all old ladies,” Tang said during a recent break in the class. She wanted to enroll in this course because she knew it could help her communicate better with her manager at Warren Towers. “And my grandchildren,” she said, smiling.

Instructor Gina Giamei explains how some English nouns (glasses, salmon) are the same whether they are singular or plural. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

To date, the free, twice-weekly program has helped nearly 50 students in three cohorts graduate, with more eager to start in the fall. There is also talk of creating a second class level in the coming semesters. Dining service managers, the CELOP team and perhaps most importantly, its students, say the program has been a resounding success.

When CELOP lecturer Gina Giamei designed the program last year, she followed food service workers to see what language skills they needed. The answer was “everything,” she said: listening skills, speaking skills, reading skills, writing skills, confidence building and, new this semester, a digital literacy component. “I co-create these courses with the students, getting information from them about what they need,” says Giamei, who has worked at CELOP for 18 years and taught ESL courses for 13 years before that. “It was a joy teaching them. They are so motivated and so grateful. It makes my work easier.


It was a joy teaching them. They are so motivated and so grateful. It makes my work easier.

Gina Giamei

“Learn a language while working, while managing your family and personal life? It’s really difficult,” says Maria Arruda, general director of CELOP. “Some (students) even have two jobs. This is an incredible achievement. Arruda says CELOP would like to offer similar ESL programs to other BU personnel departments in the future.

Growing confidence

The program’s spring cohort included 18 food service employees, whose native languages ​​were Spanish, Burmese, Cantonese, French, Haitian Creole and Amharic. Many students, who need their manager’s approval to enroll, say they found out about the program through word of mouth.

CELOP placement tests are typically digital, but when designing this high-beginner to low-intermediate course, Giamei realized that many students had trouble with digital literacy, so she incorporated a few lessons in classes. These included topics such as how to write an email and set up voicemail, using digital menus and using a translator app on a phone.

Instructor Gina Giamei assists Dora Polanco in class. Photo by Jackie Ricciardi

She says she was impressed by the workers’ dedication (some even asked for extra homework) and their commitment to building community and helping each other. “Their managers said they noticed increased confidence,” Giamei says, beaming. “That was really important to me.”

In a recent class, they talked about shopping, touching on topics like when to use the articles “a” or “an,” the difference between the verbs “need” and “want,” and how to use color as an adjective. Giamei says that sometimes students face more language issues (like grammar and pronunciation) in English that vary only slightly in their native language. For example, in Spanish, an adjective usually follows a noun (“a dress blue”), but in English, the adjective comes first (“a blue dress”).

Giamei reads the phrase “a purple skirt” aloud. “Skerrrrrt,” she says, and the class repeats. “That’s better,” she replies.

They then examine the differences between “this”, “that”, “these” and “those”.

“What is that?” she asks.

That is a blue dress,” a student shouts.

“GOOD!” Giamei said. “He used ‘that’ because it’s far away.”

Now the lesson gets trickier. “What is this?” she said, pointing to pants, a plural noun, although in this case the word only refers to one item. “Aye-aye-aye,” one student responds, and the class laughs. They then move on to practicing conversational English: asking and answering questions, handling money, talking about receipts.

Pomp and circumstance

Frédéric Jacques, catering services employee, reads a prepared speech to the crowd on graduation day.

CELOP and Dining Services organized a small graduation ceremony for employees on May 3 to celebrate the end of the course. The organizers invited their families, managers and support staff to attend.

Jon Webster, Director of Dining Services, says the ceremony is one of his team’s favorite activities during the year. “I think lowering the barrier of communication so we can all talk to each other is a great way to make friends and create a great, more productive work environment,” he said at the ceremony . “It’s not necessarily the most comfortable thing to learn a new language. So we really celebrate that you’re taking the opportunity to do this.

Graduates, along with CELOP, dining services and ancillary staff, at the recent graduation ceremony. Photo by Jake Belcher

“We’re excited that this program is here,” says Paul Riel, associate vice president of auxiliary services, who oversees dining services. “We love the results of this program and appreciate how people can do their jobs and also have the opportunity to study,” and take full advantage of the fact that BU is an educational institution.

After receiving their certificates, the graduates enjoyed cakes, cupcakes and drinks. Photo by Jake Belcher

Mark Yates, food service manager at Warren Towers, says he has seen a “tremendous improvement” in the English skills of his employees who have taken the course. “It’s not only a benefit to me as a manager, it’s helped them communicate with students.” For example, they can answer questions about the menu. They also told me that it helped them feel much more comfortable in their daily lives, like at the grocery store.

Dining services worker Monica Choi gives instructor Gina Giamei a huge hug at the recent graduation ceremony.

Graduate Witney Chow, originally from Myanmar, says she heard about the course through her manager and wanted to enroll to improve her English. Before, she said: “I was nervous, I was afraid to speak. Now people can understand me better.

Warren Towers Dining Services employee Kerrine Tang (center) celebrates alongside her instructor, Gina Giamei, and her manager, Mark Yates, Director of Warren Towers Dining Services. “It’s not only a benefit to me as a manager (of the graduates), it’s helped them communicate with students,” Yates said. “For example, they can answer questions about the menu. They also told me that it helped them feel much more comfortable in their daily lives, like at the grocery store. Photo by Jake Belcher

Classmate Tang volunteered to give a short speech at the ceremony and worked with Giamei to help translate it. “This class is a turning point in my life,” Tang said, as she carefully read a piece of paper in front of the audience. “Now I dare to speak. I have learned English grammar and am confident that I can take further steps to improve my English skills. Thank you for opening the doors.

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