Brashear HS Students Break Through Language Barrier As Nepali Population Grows
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Tenth grade student Shubunam Magar pays close attention in her English Language class.
On this day, the students are working on pronunciation.
“Pay very, very special attention to your grammatical use and pronunciation of the apostrophes,” Brashear High School ESL teacher says.
Magar and her family moved to the U.S. three years ago from the south Asian country of Nepal.
They are among the nearly 4,000 Nepali speaking refugees from Bhutan who have chosen Pittsburgh as their new home.
“My sister found out that they have a lot of jobs here,” Magar says.
Not only do they move here for jobs, but they also find Pittsburgh to be affordable, safe and welcoming.
But many in the Bhutanese community, such as Magar and her family, come here speaking very little English.
“It was really hard for me, because wherever I go, everybody was like speaking English and it was really hard for me to understand,” she said.
Currently, there are nearly 300 Nepali speaking English language learners in Pittsburgh Public Schools.
In addition to the language barrier, there are also cultural difference and social customs that create challenges in school.
Like on days hamburgers are served for lunch.
“They praise cow,” Suraj Nepal, of Brashear High School, says. “They don’t eat cow, because they think cows are god.”
And then there’s the difference in respect.
“Whenever we talk to our friends, we can’t use bad words,” Magar says. “We have to respect our friends.”
As challenging as the differences can be, Brashear High School teachers and students have adapted very well.
Most students exit the ESL program and become proficient English speakers.
They then go home and help translate the language to their older family members and teach them how to speak it too — helping them function and become productive members of the Pittsburgh community.
“We Nepalis want to be together like family, so we can support each other,” Magar says. “It is like our religion.”