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119 languages spoken in the homes of students in the Wichita School District

Published: Oct. 6, 2016 at 1:38 PM CDT
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119 and 94, that's how many languages and how many countries are represented inside the Wichita School District.

As you can imagine, that many languages can create a communication problem. But not as bad as you might think, because of resources the district employs.

At Wichita's Jefferson Elementary, more than half of the students speak a language other than English that require specific teaching.

Here's a breakdown of the languages and how many students speak them:

Spanish-172

Vietnamese-11

Kiswahili/Swahili-8

Arabic-4

Pohnpeian-3

Kinyarwanda-5

Persian-1

Tigrinya-3

Sudenese-2

Luganda-1

French-1

Somali-1

Uranda-1

Thai-1

"What becomes challenging is when we kids, and they're the only ones in the building that speaks the language, we have to do a lot of pictures, a lot of one word, just until they start to acquire that language," said Delilah Crossette.

Crossette is one of three teachers over the program that teaches English as a second language.

"We are getting a lot of kids that are refugees from other countries that are coming to wichita," said Crossette.

Years ago, those refugees were from Asia. Today, they're from Africa and the Middle East.

Chances are, you've never heard of some of the languages, and neither have some of the teachers.

That can be difficult when these kids are held to the same education standards as someone who has known English their whole life.

"I think we do a good job here at school making sure we set them up so that when they do go home, they have the ability to do what they need to do at home," said Crossette.

But when parents need to be involved, the school and district have translators for Spanish, Vietnamese, with Swahili recently added.

For the other languages, they use a phone service called Propio, to translate when they need to talk to parents.

It can take years for these kids to get a full grasp of English.

That's why there are special classes at Jefferson made up of ESL students that will take them from second grade through fifth.

"It's fun. I love it. I wouldn't trade it. You get to build those relationships with those kids, and follow them throughout the years," said Crossette.

Here's a look at the top 10 languages in the Wichita School District:

English

Spanish

Vietnamese

Arabic

Lao

Swahili

Cambodian

Chinese

Bengali

French