San Luis Obispo is home to one of the last remaining private language institutes in the country. The California Coast Language Academy (CCLA) enrolls students from all around the world who wish to improve their English skills, usually in preparation for college.
Because of fears of terrorism around the world, CCLA Director and Founder Bill Abbott said language schools all over the country are having trouble staying alive.
“The really sad part is that us cutting down the number of foreign students coming actually creates huge misunderstandings and a lot of hatred among the people because basically they think we don’t want them in our country,” he said. “It not only hurts my school but it hurts everybody in this country.”
Abbott said limitations such as expensive visas and a six-month limit for foreigners to stay in America prevent some from coming at all.
“Cal Poly loses a lot of intelligent people who would come and bring a lot of different perspectives,” he said. “We need to fight against the ignorance toward internationalism.”
The institute is constantly struggling to get students, and Abbott said he hopes the institute can stay alive and continue to have a diverse student body.
“I deal with agents all over the world and they call me and tell me that it’s politically incorrect for them to send students to America,” he said. “These programs are really a lifeline so people can realize that we’re not bad people.”
Though the institute is struggling, the faculty and students said they have great faith in what the program has to offer.
“We offer the students personalized attention,” Abbott said. “I know each student by name and I know what problems they have in English even down to what tenses they’re working on.”
Cal Poly modern languages and literatures senior Jamie Relth teaches at the institute and said there is a very diverse group of students in the program.
“People automatically assume that we’re teaching Spanish-speaking students,” she said. “But what makes it really unique is that there are students from all over the world.”
Relth is currently balancing a full load of classes at Cal Poly in addition to her teaching responsibilities at CCLA.
“It’s hard,” she said. “I planned my Cal Poly schedule so I don’t have class until noon, so I teach here in the morning.”
Relth speaks English, Spanish and French, and said she uses various methods including body language and facial expressions to communicate with students who speak other languages.
“It’s a lot of charades and just patience,” she said. “They learn really fast because they’re immersed in it.”
Abbott said Relth is doing a great job and he is surprised at how fast she became comfortable with teaching.
“She is able to go into the classroom and handle all of the different methodologies,” he said. “She has students who are older than she is that really respect her teaching ability.”
Assistant manager Regina Flaieh said she loves the diversity of the cultures amongst the different students.
“I was born in Syria and I grew up in Brazil so I have a bit of a mixture of cultures in me,” she said. “It’s just fascinating to see the different people and their lifestyles. With every single new student we learn something new.”
Abbott hopes to one day merge CCLA with Cal Poly.
“My biggest dream would be to take this school and place it in the middle of Cal Poly so they could have access to our students and our students could interact with American students,” he said. “It’s just magic for both sides.”
To learn more about CCLA, visit their Web site at www.cclausa.com.