Student faces the challenge of learning English

Erin Barnes, Staff Writer

Imagine moving to a whole new country. Imagine not speaking the country’s language at all. Then imagine having to attend a school in this new country.

Rodrigo Nina Ortiz does not have to imagine; he did exactly that when he came to the United States.

Rodrigo Nina Ortiz is a 8th grade student at John Sevier Middle School. Ortiz is from Abancay, Peru. Abancay is a city in Peru with a population of around 57,000 people. Peru is the third largest country in South America and the official language is Spanish.

Ortiz did not have a whole lot of time to prepare to leave his home country last school year; his parents gave him only a short notice.

“They told me six months before we left,” Ortiz said. “I think it was for the best future.”

Ortiz is unable to speak fluent English, although he is learning fast with the help of Kingsport City School’s ESL teacher, Nancy Weaver.

Ortiz lived in in Peru for most of his life, about 12 years. He moved to Kingsport in October of 2016. Prior to that, he briefly lived in New York.

“The language [is the most challenging thing],” Ortiz said.

For Ortiz, living in Kingsport is not always easy. Since Ortiz moved, he had to attend a new school, with new teachers and new students. Such a big move can be scary.

“I was not nervous, but a little scared because it was a new school,” he said.

Sevier students were very welcoming to Ortiz when he arrived.

“They asked me lots of questions,” he said. “They helped me.”

Rodrigo is working on learning English. Since Ortiz can’t speak fluent English yet, he has to use some resources other students don’t need.

“I use BrainPOP ESL,” he said. “Ms. Sheppard helped me last year and Mrs.Weaver is helping me this year.”

Most students at Sevier speak English, so it was difficult for Ortiz to make friends because of the language barrier.

“It was hard because of the language,” he said. “But, I was able to make friends.”

In class, teachers were able to help Ortiz learn in Spanish.

“Mr. Flanary gave me papers in Spanish for class,” Ortiz said. “The teachers also used Google Translate.”

Translators, students, and teachers are all helping Ortiz learn English and adjust to his new home.

“It is coming along,” he said. “I feel like I’m doing well. It is sometimes difficult.”

Ortiz’s parents do not speak English, yet, either.

“We speak Spanish at home,” he said. “I translate.”

Ortiz wishes he could go back to Peru because of his friends. He would love to visit them.

“I have a lot of friends in Peru,” he said.

Ortiz also has advice for other students who are trying to learn English.

“You have to persevere,” he said.

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