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US Campaign Offers Lesson for an English Teacher Who Left Iran

AA: I'm Avi Arditti and this week on WORDMASTER: another in a series of chats from the recent TESOL, or Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages, convention in New York.

AZADEH LEONARD: "My name is Azadeh Leonard and I teach English at the College of Staten Island. I'm an ESL [English as a Second Language] teacher, and I'm originally from Iran. I came here about a year and a half ago, and since I have a master's degree in TESOL, I started teaching here, too."

AA: "So tell me a little bit about your students."

AZADEH LEONARD: "Well, my students, they are college students, so I would say they are between the ages of eighteen and maybe forty-five, or something like that."

AA: "Where do your students come from?"

AZADEH LEONARD: "Oh, they come from all over. They come from Egypt, China, Korea, Colombia -- where else? Lebanon. Just anywhere, anywhere you can think of."

AA: "Do you have any advice for students back in Iran who are learning English? Any things that, now that you've been in the States here for a year and a half, any special advice for the students back home?"

AZADEH LEONARD: "I would say watch a lot of movies, use a lot of movies, and also listen to music, English music, 'cause that's how I learned English. I learned it through -- I mean, movies and TV helped me a lot. Also, satellite, because Iranians in Iran do have satellites. Although it's illegal, they still do have it. I would just say listen, listen a lot, and then practice pronouncing the words. That's very, very important. I always tell my students to watch movies. That's how you learn English best."

AA: "Is there anything else you'd like to say about being an English teacher, or being an Iranian English teacher, or living in New York?"

AZADEH LEONARD: "Well, I can only say that everyday is not just for my students, also for me -- although I'm an English teacher and I've learned English, I still am learning. I'm still learning new terms, I'm trying to understand them. There are many things that even I still have problems [with]. I mean things that deal with the tax system or with the government. Like how you vote. There were many terms that I learned -- like 'caucuses.' I had no idea what caucus meant. I hadn't even heard it."

AA: "It's basically a big term for a [political] meeting where people get together and ... "

AZADEH LEONARD: "Yeah, I mean the voting system here is so different from my country, and it was interesting to learn about the delegates, super delegates, caucuses, all that, you know?"

AA: "Well, I'm curious then, are your students following the presidential campaign? I mean, do you discuss this in class?"

AZADEH LEONARD: "Yes, we do. We do discuss it and I try to make them realize that it's very important for them to care about these things because they're part of this country now. As a person who lives in a certain country, no matter where you live, you have to care about what's going on. Especially because they're immigrants, it's important for them to know, for example, who becomes the next president and what's going to happen to them, you know?"

AA: "Well, are there debates in class about, you know, Hillary Clinton versus Barack Obama versus John McCain? I mean, do you have to kind of tell them to cool it, or do they get into debates about this?"

AZADEH LEONARD: "Yeah, sometimes. Once, we discussed about different candidates, and some of them had some ideas. Some of them were obviously Democrats and maybe a few were Republicans. So, yeah, I did have to like tell them 'OK, you know, whatever your idea is, I'm sure it's great, but you know, just let's stop this ... ' "

AA: "Go on with the class."

AZADEH LEONARD: "Let's go on with the class, exactly."

AA: Azadeh Leonard teaches English as a Second Language at the College of Staten Island, part of the City University of New York. And that's WORDMASTER for this week. If you're learning American English, be sure to visit our Web site, And our e-mail address is I'm Avi Arditti.