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Interview with Maria Carias

Carias, Maria
Clarke, Kevin
Date of Interview: 
Cultural identification
Maria Carias talks about her personal background, her education, and her feelings about language assessment.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Kevin Clarke interviews Charlotteans to collect stories for a class project at UNC Charlotte.
KC (Kevin Clarke): My name is Kevin Clarke, today is January 30, 2003. And I'm talking to Maria Carias, from Honduras, and we're here to find out about her experiences with language classes growing up. And [pause] first of all I'd like to know, uh, how old you are.
MC (Maria Carias): Um, I'm 42 years old.
KC: And how many years have you been in the United States?
MC: I've been here for 18 years.
KC: OK. And how much English did you speak before you came here?
MC: A little. The basic. Basic English. Not a, how a-, not a full conversation, just like, uh, uh, ask questions, the colors, the numbers, days of the weeks, days of the months, the basic only.
KC: And before you moved to the States, what were you doing [pause] in Honduras?
MC: I was in-, I graduate, I graduated, um, as accountant. I work in a bank for three years.
KC: So you went to school to learn to be an accountant?
MC: Yes.
KC: What kind of school was that?
MC: Um, uh, it was a, it was a 17 years, it was it, it was it, uh, for, for kin-, kindergarten to sixth grade, is like, uh, regular school, medium school, how you call, middle school?
KC: Middle school?
MC: Uh-huh. It's from seven to nine, and like, uh-.
KC: High school?
MC: High school is from nine to 12, is 12 years in, in school, so nine to 12 I was, uh, study my career.
KC: As part of high school you can study a career?
MC: Yeah.
KC: So that's different than here.
MC: Yes.
KC: Like here you would graduate from high school and then you would go to a technical college or-.
MC: Uh-huh.
KC: -A university to learn a skill.
MC: We call that 'colegio', and it's like, uh, high school. It's the same as.
MC: So I graduated for accountant and then I went to-, like a, to work in a bank. Atlantic Bank. It's in here too, Bank of Atlanta.
KC: Did you have to use English in your job?
MC: No.
KC: Now how many years did you do that?
MC: Three years.
KC: Three?
MC: Uh-huh.
KC: OK, and then so why did you move to the States?
MC: I moved, uh, here to America, I moved to Florida for, um, to get a better job. Because my country is very poor and, you know, they all say America is-, you can get a better job, and better education, and I went to Miami. And I, I went to study English for three months. And then I stopped because my, my job. I work in a, in a, gas station. And I, I was a, housekeeper, for 15 years, and then I move here to -.
KC: Charlotte?
MC: -To Charlotte. I've been here for two and a half years. And I found this job as a translator. And I'm here, learning from you, everyday.
KC: So, when you first moved to Florida, how did you feel about the experience? Did you feel it was better, a better life for you or not?
MC: Oh, yes. // Yes. //
KC: // Why? //
MC: It was a better life because um [pause]. OK, it's uh, different, we have a different, different way to live over there, you know. It's hard to, to have a car, to drive a car, to get a driver license, and the pay, the money, you know, was a lot of money, big different from Honduras. And I, I like it, I like it here.
KC: So working in a gas station you could make more money than being an accountant?
MC: Oh yes, in here, yes. I couldn't go to work in a bank right here because my English.
KC: OK. So when you first came to Florida, you said you went to a language school?
MC: Yes.
KC: Where, where did you learn language for three months?
MC: It was in uh, Miami-Dade Community College. I apply, I apply for it. And I-.
KC: You were accepted?
MC: Yes, my application was accepted.
KC: Was it like here at CPCC // where-. //
MC: // Uh- huh. //
KC: -Immigrants can go for free?
MC: Yes.
KC: Any, anybody who's immigrant?
MC: Yes.
KC: And can you tell me about your experience in the language school?
MC: Oh, at the beginning it was hard for me. They make conversation, they ask you to, to read and write, and I was lost [laugh], uh, little by little, you know, I was doing good. And I started with sounding the words out, make, make sentences with the words.
KC: Did, um, was there anything about that experience that was different than the way you were taught in Honduras?
MC: Yes, because it was, it was a small group in here. In, in Miami-Dade we have like, uh, eight people, you know, in a class for my-, I was in, in the first period. Over there we have a 24 students in one class, so here, here you know, we, we focus better, you know, they, they, it was easier for me here than over there.
KC: OK, was it something about the way the teacher taught?
MC: Yes.
KC: What was different?
MC: A lot different. The way that they teach in there was uh, was uh, they use, uh, flash cards.
KC: In Florida?
MC: Yes, uh, you know, um, they show you the card and what's the meaning is and then you, you know.
KC: OK. And, uh, did you have to take any tests?
MC: Oh, yes. To see in what grade I was? You know, grad-, what // level. //
KC: // To test // your level.
MC: Yeah. Ah, they uh, they uh, they say I was in the, in the second period. But I want, I wanted to start speaking so I went to the first one. And I finished my first.
KC: So when you joined they gave you, uh, like a proficiency test to place you in the group. And they placed you in the second group and you wanted to go back to the first group.
MC: Yes. Uh-huh.
KC: // And then did you-. //
MC: // I decided-. //
KC: -Take any more tests after the beginning?
MC: Yes.
KC: What, what, what was the reason for those tests?
MC: To see how was my grade, my speech, my, my writing.
KC: So did you move up a group? You went // to the second group. //
MC: // Yes. Two times. //
KC: You went to the third group then. OK. So let's, let's go back to Honduras when you were in school. Ah, when did you first take any English classes?
MC: Um [pause] that was when I started the seven, you know, I, I finished my school, my elementary school going to sixth.
KC: Right.
MC: Uh, and then I went to the seventh. Uh, I started English in the seventh.
KC: And is everyone required to take a language when they get to middle school, or was it optional?
MC: No. Everyone.
KC: Is it always English or do you have a choice?
MC: No, everybody have a, at those, at those day it was, uh, English, and only everybody have to take when they went to the seventh year. English.
KC: Is it still that way now, do you know?
MC: No, no, it's different now. They are teaching, uh, they are teaching [pause] French. You know, French. And they have computers now, every school, even the, the public school-.
KC: Uh-huh.
MC: -They have computers now. In those-, at that time we didn't have any.
KC: So in seventh grade everybody had to take English.
MC: English.
KC: And how did you feel about it? Did you, were you interested in it or you just, kind of, uh, endured it because you had to?
MC: We have to take, we have pass the, the grade, we have to take the, uh, the classes, have to pass the grade, the test, otherwise you cannot go to the eighth grade. We call that first, first grade, second grade but in the middle school. So ( ) be here seven, eight.
KC: You had to pass a, an // English-. //
MC: // Yeah. //
KC: -Proficiency test-.
MC: Yeah.
KC: -To go to eighth grade.
MC: To eighth grade, yeah. Otherwise you, you go to the, if you leave one assignment back, behind, you can go to the eighth grade and, and still, uh, haven't taken that from seven.
KC: You, you just have to take it again?
MC: You have to take it a whole year. If you don't pass it in the seven, you have to, you have to take classes on the eight and you have to have, uh, the regular classes from, from English. The eight, it's difficult.
KC: OK I'm not sure if I understand. So-.
MC: [Cough]
KC: -Everybody has to take English in seventh grade for the whole year.
MC: Yes.
KC: Like one time a day? Like everyday you study English?
MC: Yeah.
KC: For how long?
MC: 40 minutes.
KC: For 40 minutes a day.
MC: Three times a week.
KC: OK. // Three times. //
MC: // Yeah, // let's say it was Monday, Wednesday, and Fridays. So we have classes, you know, like we have art, and math, and reading, writing, social studies, science, and we have English and we have it for three days a week. At the end of the grade you have to take a test. If you don't pass it in seventh, they, they won't retain you because of one assignment-.
KC: One // class. //
MC: // -They give, // uh-huh, they give you the opportunity to, to take it in the next year. If you pass it in eighth, so you have double.
KC: So you had the same three days a week of English in eighth grade? So did you pass seventh grade English?
MC: Oh yes [laugh]. Yeah. Uh, the first year, the seventh year it was, it was, uh, it's like, uh, they show you the numbers, you know, the numbers, the colors, um, you know, basic things like, easy things. But in, in eighth, second year, we have, they, uh, we have to start reading, writing, ( ), uh, talk about the name of the, the month. Sometimes they, uh, the teacher read a book. They ask questions. It was a little difficult, but I did pass. In the ninth it was, uh, yeah, it was conversation, so, but easy, you know, basic stuff.
KC: So you had three years of English.
MC: Yeah.
KC: What about in high school?
MC: That is the-, that is the one seven, eight, and nine?
KC: That's middle school, // right? //
MC: // Um, // in high school, no.
KC: No more English.
MC: No. Just the three.
KC: High school you started studying accounting?
MC: Accounting, yeah.
KC: OK. So, let's, let's // talk about-. //
MC: // [Cough] //
KC: The English class in seventh grade. You're learning basic vocabulary