Being Brave to Learn English: Sam’s Journey to Conversational English

Cara, Tutor (left) and Sam, Student (right)

By: Cara Gieringer, Volunteer Tutor at Literacy Action

Sam Park moved to the United States in February 2017. Before that, he lived in Busan, the second largest city in South Korea. Sam worked at the headquarters for Kiswire, a global manufacturer of high carbon steel wire found in materials like tires and bridges. He now works in the Pine Bluff office for Kiswire in the accounting department. Sam found out about Literacy Action when he was looking for English tutors for him and his wife. They both started meeting with tutors at the beginning of September. “I have to use English for conversation with my coworkers who are American and wanted to improve my ability. When I came to the USA, I couldn’t speak English. I just knew some words. So I needed help.”

We meet Tuesday and Thursday nights at the Dee Brown library for tutoring. After one of our first meetings, Sam signed up for a library card so he could borrow books and CDs. “I usually listen to a CD book in my car when going to work and home. It is very useful for me. I love it.”

I admire Sam for his bravery and dedication to learn English. I think a person has to be really brave to move to a new country where people speak a different language. But he’s been very smart about it. He looked for help and has invested his time in improving his conversational skills. And he’s done great. Sam says the lessons are helpful, especially the opportunity to talk freely and not just about work.

When he’s not working or coming to tutoring, Sam enjoys traveling with his wife and two daughters. Locally, they have spent time at Pinnacle Mountain and Hot Springs, but they have also had vacations in St. Louis, Missouri, Houston and Dallas, Texas, Florida, and Chicago, Illinois. He told me, “I am the tour guide for my family.” He also likes to play golf and is trying to grow a vegetable garden in the Arkansas heat.

I was a writing tutor in graduate school back in 2014 and 2015 and I really like helping people learn to communicate better. Wanting to work with a nonprofit organization after I graduated, I signed up to volunteer with Literacy Action in the spring of 2017. I am very grateful for the opportunity to work with Sam and for the patience and perseverance I have learned from him. I am also constantly reminded of how challenging the English language is and am inspired by Sam and the other students who take time out of their full schedules every week to improve their speaking and comprehension skills.

Thank you for reading Cara’s story about tutoring Sam! If you would like to make a donation to support students like Sam, please consider joining the Ghostwriters, Literacy Action’s new monthly giving program! For as little as $5 per month, you can support a student for an entire year of tutoring!