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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

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The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Swedish native uses linguistic experience to tutor in ESL

Ryan Cullom
Communications major Nikoletta Kontarinis (left), 23, helps ESL student Balnca Linares with her English homework, Wednesday, Oct. 22, in Santa Barbara. Nikoletta is one of several tutors available for students in the ESL program at City College.

Nikoletta Kontarinis, 23, may not be from Santa Barbara, but her understanding of multiple languages has led her to become an English as a Second Language tutor here at City College.

Working with people trying to advance their knowledge of the English language, Kontarinis enjoys being able to help students that are in the position she was once in.

As specific as it is, being an ESL tutor in Santa Barbara wasn’t her plan from the beginning.

“I kind of ended up here randomly,” said Kontarinis. “I knew I wanted to go to California but I was also really sure I didn’t want to go to Los Angeles.”

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LA was too big and crowded for Nikoletta, so instead, after leaving Sweden she would pick Santa Barbara as her destination. A city she happened to already be familiar with.

“I visited here for the first time in 2012 for six weeks and I really liked the place,” said Kontarinis.

“I just really liked the area and heard SBCC was really good, so I came back in January of 2013 to start my first semester here at City College.”

A year went by, and Nikoletta realized she wanted to be more than a student at the City College.

“After being in the states studying for a year you’re allowed to start working on campus, so I figured I would like to tutor,” said Kontarinis.

Though the idea of becoming an ESL tutor wasn’t one Nikoletta had originally thought of, she soon realized that having the past experience of learning multiple languages could be of great use.

“I thought maybe it would be inspiring for students who might struggle a little with English, to hear that its possible to be able to learn and speak another language fluently.”

The ESL program is purposely designed to make it easier for the students to have success in the City College environment.

“I would say that it is definitely worth it,” said Kontarinis. “Learning a language, other than your own, opens a lot of doors.”

Kontarinis was quick to add the fact that work must be put in to achieve success in the program as well as with learning new languages in general.

“There is no easy way to learn a language,” said Kontarinis. “I’ve had the question so many times, ‘what is the miracle way to learn a language’, but the truth is it’s really all about time.”

That time must however be productive, as only sitting down with flash cards isn’t really the best option.

“You also have to be willing to speak that new language,” said Kontarinis.“I think that really the thing to do is just go out there and talk, talk, talk.”

As much as the practice has helped Kontarinis, the experience of being a tutor has proved equally rewarding.

“Even though it can be embarrassing it’s worth it. I stumble on words all the time but practicing has helped me get here.”

Nikoletta stated that since beginning her tutoring position, she has been more inclined to seek tutorial assistance for other classes.

This experience has allowed Nikoletta to help students find what they are looking for, even if they don’t know how to explain it through English.

“Since some people may not have a great grasp on the English language, they have trouble knowing or asking for what steps they should take to improve their speaking ability,” said Kontarinis.

Now during her second semester of being a tutor, Nikoletta has really settled into her craft. This has not gone unnoticed as Marit ter Mate-Martinsen, the head of the ESL department, has great praise for Kontarinis.

“She’s a wonderful example to our ESL students, as she is a nonnative English speaker herself,” said Mate-Martinsen. “She’s an excellent tutor, and we hope she’ll be tutoring with us for a long time.”

When asked if tutoring may lead to a future in teaching, Kontarinis remains undecided.

“I don’t know,” said Kontarinis smiling.

“Ever since I started tutoring the thought definitely crossed my mind but we’ll see. I really enjoy doing this.”

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