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‘English is a simple language’

Hamza Ali, 17, of Aden, Yemen

by Tom Chillemi

The following is the first of a series on each of the seven international exchange students at Middlesex High School.

Hamza Ali, 17, of Aden, Yemen, is a senior at Middlesex High School (MHS). After this school year he will return to his country and repeat his senior year there.

After graduation, Ali hopes to study petroleum engineering or business in college. He would like to get a scholarship to a university outside of his country.

He explained that in Yemen college level books are written in English, even though the country’s language is Arabic.

Basic English is taught in public schools as a second language, but students are not taught to speak English. Those who want to learn to speak English attend a private school, such as through an American organization called AMIDEAST, or other private classes.

When he was 15 years old, Ali started attending English classes for 2 hours a day, 5 times a week. His English, both written and spoken, is very clear. “English is a simple language,” said Ali. “My own language is harder; the accent changes the whole meaning.”

Ali had to start at the beginning by learning the English alphabet, which is very different from Arabic and is written from right to left, the opposite of English.

Ali said the majority of high school students prefer to attend medical or engineering colleges. Those who are not good students usually choose the military. “Other kids make their own pathways to achieve their goals,” he said.

Schools in Yemen are very different than those in Middlesex, he said. Public school classes are split into two shifts per day—one runs from 7:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m., and the other is from 12:30-5 p.m.

In addition, there are “model” public schools for talented students, where they receive a higher level of education. 

High school students don’t pick their classes, he explained. Some students take math, physics, biology, chemistry, Arabic, English, and two Islamic religion classes. Other students take history, geography, social studies, Arabic, English and two Islamic religion classes.

Ali said there are no clubs or band in Yeman schools, and soccer is the only school sport. However, there are clubs and sports outside of the school system.

Read the rest of this story in this week’s Southside Sentinel at newstands throughout the county, or sign up here to receive a print and/or electronic pdf subscription.

posted 04.16.2014

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