Language Not a Barrier When Making New Friends

Published: Tuesday, November 19, 2013

When Helen Pugliese, a resident at The Commons at Stonebrook Village, responded to a notice in her church bulletin, she thought she would be simply helping a young Korean woman learn to speak English more proficiently. Eleven years later, both Pugliese and Eun-Joung Lee remain friends, and they are sharing their combined love of music with other residents at The Commons.

“My reading and writing of English was good,” Lee said, when she first moved to the United States. “But I totally couldn’t understand the idioms of the American culture. My son, Ji-Yool Moon, was very young at the time, so Helen would come to my house to teach me.”

Pugliese visited Lee twice a week to help her understand commonly used facial expressions, gestures and voice intonations. “Eun-Joung was very shy at first,” Pugliese recalled. “but she was a great student and learned quickly.” Eventually, Pugliese encouraged Lee to practice what she was learning in every day situations such as at the grocery store, restaurants and banks to help her feel more confident in speaking English in public.

“Helen taught me not just about the language, but about the American culture,” Lee said.

Over the years, the two women have maintained a treasured friendship. One of the best parts, Pugliese said, has been the opportunity to watch Ji-Yool Moon, now 12 years old, grow into an accomplished musician.

For the past year, Ji-Yool Moon has been sharing his musical gift during monthly concerts at The Commons.

“We all love the concerts. My friends here ask me all the time when he will be performing again,” Pugliese said.

“Performing here (at The Commons) has been a great opportunity for Ji-Yool,” Lee said. “It teaches him responsibility and accountability.”

“When I went to The Commons for the first time, the people were so nice to me. And now every month I express my feelings by playing to the audience. I wish all of these people were my grandparents!” Ji-Yool said.

Pugliese shares these feelings with Ji-Yool, adding that he has become like a grandson to her.

“Helen has been so wonderful to us for so long,” Lee said. “She is like my American mom!”


(top): Eun-Joung Lee and her ‘American mom’ Helen Pugliese.

(bottom): Ji-Yool Moon, a student at Dorseyville Middle School, performs monthly concerts at The Commons at Stonebrook Village.


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