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South Salt Lake Journal

Picnic in the Park celebrates and unifies new English language learners

Nov 03, 2022 07:46PM ● By Jesse M. Gonzalez

By Jesse M. Gonzalez | [email protected]

For many people arriving to the United States from other countries, one of the most difficult aspects in establishing comfortability in a novel environment is learning English. Fortunately, for many people who make the trek here from their homeland, the English Skills Language Center (ESLC) is committed to making them feel welcomed and at ease by strengthening their English language skills.

Since 1988, the ESLC has fulfilled their mission in teaching many individuals and families the English language, breaking any language barriers that may be faced when moving to Utah. Newcomers who are eager to learn are enrolled and taught in classes held in a multitude of libraries and schools and other convenient places.

Every year, the ESLC holds an award ceremony for devoted learners achieving their goal in learning and improving their English skills, and this year the event was held at Fitts Park, where many students, teachers and even locals attended. The ceremony, Picnic in the Park, took place on the evening of Sept. 21 and included family activities, free food and conversation. 

Among those in attendance, a woman from Japan named Kiyomi Aoyama, who came to the United States to get married to her life partner, another Japanese born individual named Hiroshi Aoyama. Kiyomi Aoyama is the one involved in the ESLC program to further her English language endeavors. “ESLC has really improved my English vocabulary and it is great to be here,” said Kiyomi Aoyama, after enjoying a slice of pizza.

Kiyomi Aoyama’s friend, a teacher for the Granite School District, told her about the English Language Skills Center and she has been involved with the program for over a month, and is learning fast.

Kiyomi Aoyama admitted to learning best through socializing and reading, typically through classic poetry and rhyming words like “light” and “right,” which can lead her to process and retain many similar sounding words.

“The teachers are very, very good,” she said. “I want to learn English for better communication.”

Near the end of Picnic in the Park, the awards were given, and the name of Guoy Mekonen was called to the front to receive her first place, Learner of the Year Award. Mekonen, who is from the east African country of Eritrea, expressed joy in receiving the award. Mekonen has been living in Salt Lake City for four years and has studied with ESLC for close to the same amount of time.

  “I like Utah; I like the people,” said Mekonen with a smile, as guests showed up to congratulate her. “Talking to people (in English) is good.”

The English Skills Language Center brings in approximately 800 individuals eager to learn English under the care and guidance of over 120 trained volunteers and professional instructors.

“We really believe in the freedom of immigration,” said Amber Courtwright, the coordinator for the Deseret Industries English Program. “And we want to give everybody the chance to participate.”