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Refugee and immigrant students encouraged to maintain native languages

WBFO News photo by Eileen Buckley

A language specialist in the Buffalo Public school district says the biggest challenge for refugee students is communicating with their fellow classmates. But as WBFO's senior reporter Eileen Buckley tells us, they are encouraged to preserve their native languages. 

“Sometimes the students feel like their language is not important enough when are always being taught in English, tested in English,” said Abdi Yakub, a former refugee.

Yakub speaks Somali and other languages. He now serves as a language specialist for the Buffalo Public School District.

Even as the school district works with the many English Language Learners, who can make up 70 percent of the population in some schools, Yakub said students should maintain their own language to navigate with their home life and even to enhance their learning.

“When they learn English, they lose their language," explained Yakub. "Teaching students in the school using their own language is very important for both their learning ability and their communication, and their connection with their parents as well.”

Yakub noted Swahili is the fastest growing language among new English learners in Buffalo as many continue to arrive from the Congo and different parts of Africa.

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