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From French-lish to English: Meet LCNV Learner, Charles

Photo: Charles, right, participating in class activity.

Charles Yeklin is an adult English language learner at the Literacy Council of Northern Virginia. Born and raised in Ivory Coast in Western Africa, Charles speaks four languages - two native African languages, French, and English. Actually, Charles speaks English fairly well. Speaking with him, one wouldn't know that he requires beginning-level English classes. 

Charles went to school and college in his home country, but dropped out just before graduation. "I decided to stop school because for me other opportunities to have a job, to make money came. I stopped school because I had the opportunity to win my life," says Charles.  Charles is attending English classes at LCNV because he wants to improve his pronunciation and writing skills. "My problem is with pronunciation. I think in French. So I translate French sentences to English when I speak, which is not the right thing to do. So it is very difficult for me. Also in America they don't speak British English," he adds. 

Charles recently moved to the United States and began taking English classes when he enrolled in LCNV’s summer session. He fled civil war in his home country to seek asylum in the United States. Having been granted asylum, Charles expects to receive his work permit very soon. "I feel the freedom. You can see it on my face. I am happy because there is no trouble, I can move without noise, without any problem," he says, as he expresses his happiness for coming to the United States. Charles lost his big brother and has not seen his mother or the rest of his family since the civil war broke out. He doesn’t have any family member or relatives in the United States and says, “My family is you, my teacher, my school, and people of my church.”

Charles’ teacher, Kat Contreras, says, "Charles is making discoveries of the American culture every day. He speaks really good English, but surprisingly it’s not always in English. He speaks a lot of French-lish...a lot of French and English spoken at the same time. I want to help him with this difficulty that he faces to take out the French when he speaks English."

Charles wants to become a realtor. To achieve his dream, he says he has to learn to read, speak and write English. “I want to hear more, to read more, to speak more, because for me it’s not easy, but I'm trying. If you try, it’s possible. So I have to try,” he says, as he speaks about what motivates him to learn English as an adult learner. 

Charles encourages other adults wanting to learn English to not shy away. He is grateful to America for giving him an opportunity to live in the country. "I would like to invite people to come to the United States because there is love, there are good teachers, and there’s peace in America," he adds.