COM Welcomes First Intensive English Language Student From Tuva

College of Marin

Acclaimed Tuvan Throat Singer, Kongar-ol Ondar, to Perform at Daughter’s Welcoming Party

Kentfield, CA—January 13, 2011—Until arriving this month to begin the College of Marin Intensive English Language program, 18-year-old Khürgülek (KK) Ondar had studied English only at her schools in Tuva, a remote republic of Russian Siberia that is best known for its unique throat singing performers.

KK is the first Tuvan student to study at the college. She says she is excited to begin class. English will help her work in the Tuvan tourism industry.

“I want to invite people to come to Tuva,” she says, pausing often to find the right words. “I want them to see the culture and nature. We have beautiful things in nature.”

KK arrived just after the New Year with her father, Kongar-al Ondar, an internationally acclaimed throat singer who is performing throughout the U.S.

From the mountainous region where they live, they drove 12 hours through temperatures that dropped down to 40 degrees below zero. From Krasnoyarsk (the third largest city in Russia), they flew to Khabarovsk (the second largest Russian city), to Vladivostok (Russia’s largest port city on the Pacific Ocean) and to China before landing in San Francisco.

Kongar-ol Ondar, who has performed on the David Letterman show and has been listed as one of the featured artists in National Public Radio’s 50 Great Voices exploration, will be singing Sunday, Jan. 23 at a private welcoming party for his daughter before setting out on tour again. Online videos of Ondar’s performances can be found at and at
The press is invited to attend the welcoming party on Sunday, Jan. 23, 2-4 p.m. at the home of Sylvia Kwan and Denis Henmi, 440 Woodlands Rd., Kentfield.

While she is attending the College’s Intensive English program, KK will be living with the Leighton family in Tiburon. Ralph Leighton is a long-time family friend who first ventured to Tuva in 1988 and chronicled his decade-long quest to visit the remote country in a book called, “Tuva or Bust! Richard Feynman’s Last Journey.”

Leighton said he recommended College of Marin because his son had benefitted so much from studying machine shop and welding in night classes at the early age of 11. “I am particularly thankful for the flexibility of the teachers and the program at COM to allow this,” he says. His son, Ian, is now a fourth year mechanical engineering student at UC-Berkeley “in large part because he developed a love and ability for building things while at COM.”

About College of Marin’s Intensive English Program

College of Marin’s Intensive English Program (IEP) has more than 30 years of success educating English language learners. We welcome new and returning F-1 international students, and F-1 transfer students from other schools and local residents who wish to improve English language skills.

Located in Novato on the College of Marin Indian Valley Campus, IEP prepares students to enter American colleges and universities and improve English skills for business and general communication ability, and also to prepare for the Institutional TOEFL and TOEFL IBT tests.

The IEP offers two 16-week semesters each year for F-1 students. Each semester has 20 hours per week total instruction time, divided into four subject areas of Grammar, Reading, Writing, and Speaking/Listening/Pronunciation. IEP students are placed into one of three class levels—High Beginning, Intermediate, Advanced—based on placement tests the first week of the semester. Each semester students progress through the program by completing all assignments and by testing into the next level. Students who complete the Advanced level are guaranteed admission in the College of Marin’s Credit Program. For more information about IEP contact Sara Oser, or Community Education Director Janice Austin at 415.485.9316. More information is available online at

Original press release


1 Comment

  1. Wow! I am always amazed at people who venture abroad and are determined to learn a new language. And from Siberia to California, quite a distance in miles and cultures!

    Thanks for incuding the link to the David Letterman performance on throat singing. I had never heard someone who had that kind of talent, nor with that amount of breath control .


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