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"I felt I would throw up," the 17 year old recalled with laugh.

"English is easy to learn," Bilol said with a smile. "But the accent is a little bit hard."

Diaz de Varela said that's exactly why she and Kellen Francis, the teacher who oversees a class at the end of the day for ELLs, tend to focus initially on helping students learn words to help them socialize with their American peers.

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takes about six weeks, she said.

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More often than not, Francis said she tries to make learning English fun.

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classes at Fort Walton Beach, she could speak English, but her accent was impossible to hide.

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They don't always understand each other, but the language barrier isn't nearly as wide anymore. It's also easier these days to admit what they don't understand and laugh over it.

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While the number might not sound like a lot, combine it with the 36 languages they speak and the limited resources for educators, and the district faces a daunting task.

Some families come for job opportunities, a few for family and many because of the low cost of living compared to larger southern cities with similar climates.

Growing number of students face the challenge of a new language

"Everyone was so nice," she said.

In the two years since, Bilol has reached the point that he understands his teachers and classmates most of the time. He's given up carrying a translation dictionary and even helps newer students learn the language.

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During that time, the students attend nearly all their classes alongside their American peers. Teachers make an effort to work with them, but sometimes that's not enough.

Bilol's story isn't unique. Many students enrolled in Okaloosa County schools are here for similar reasons, according to Paola Diaz de Varela, who is the English for Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) translator at Fort Walton Beach High School.

The high school sophomore said his father moved the family to the United States so each of the children could become fluent in English before returning to their home in central Asia to find well paying jobs.

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Today, she's friends with American students and students enrolled alongside her in the school's class for ELLs.

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More advanced students test their wings differently. On a recent Thursday, a group of six girls spent the class writing six different stories together. Each would write a sentence on a paper and then pass it on.

"I didn't understand nothing," the 15 year old Fort Walton Beach High School student said. "It was, 'Hi, how are you?' That's it."

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"They feel so isolated and scared because they don't speak the language," said Diaz de Varela, whose native language is Spanish. "I provide them shelter as they go through assimilation."

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The tasks they accomplish are as varied as the cultures they come from. The goal is not only to help the students expand their English, but to help them through assignments and homework from their other classes.

When Bilol Ibrohimov moved to the United States with his family in 2010 from Uzbekistan, he was fluent in Uzbek and Russian, but not English.

She was worried that American students would pick on her the same way she'd seen classmates in Germany pester foreign students. Fortunately, her worries were for naught.

"They're just exhausted when they get here mentally," Francis said. "In their other classes they're getting just the same material as native speakers It's very, very difficult."

That's where Francis and Diaz de Varela step in.

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On any given day, more than 700 students in Okaloosa County schools might not understand what they hear.

But nearly all of them arrive at the schools feeling one thing: fear.

struggle to translate every word. Others miss only a word here and there. All of them are part of a growing population of English Language Learners (ELL) in the district.

Less advanced students tend to spend time with pictures and pieces of paper with corresponding words on them that they have to match up if they don't have homework.

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