Los Angeles High School of the Arts

The rocky road to the giant tree

The word English is powerful enough to make you tremble like leaves in autumn falling with the wind. Students who are learning English as their second language (ESL) come across these challenges of discouragement and embarrassment that deter them to not pursue learning the new language. As a former English learner, I have come across these exact challenges that made it difficult for me throughout the years.

ESL students tend to be ridiculed by their peers due to being not able to communicate well. The native speakers are commonly the ones making fun of these students. Unfortunately, it is the reality. ESL students are sensitive and insulting them may encourage them to challenge themselves more to be fluent or drag themselves down

When I first moved here to the United States, it frightened me to attend school, thinking that students would not want to  talk to me because of my background or because I only spoke Spanish. I feared that whatever they said I was not going to be able to understand it. The most difficult part was introducing myself and expressing my thoughts when it came to socializing, reading, and writing. I was focused on avoiding the activities that involved talking until I eventually tried speaking a version of my own “pseudo-English” that was just a primitive way of talking, filled with mispronunciations. When I was finally adjusting, I discovered that talking to other kids who spoke English as their native language helped me to improve my speaking skills. Little by little, the activities in class that involved talking were getting easier but hearing these natives speaking English fluently made me feel somehow disappointed and aggravated which slowed my learning process down.

As I continued through my years of learning English, I realized that my bad english was easily  made fun of. I remember mispronouncing words almost every day, getting stuck in between sentences; it was very frustrating not being able to finish a sentence. Eventually reading aloud, writing more, and communicating with others somehow assimilated my way in into this culture. As I shared a common experience with another former ESL student, I found out that he had also come across the same challenges. He felt criticized and discouraged by the people who surrounded him. He said that he took those insults and discouragement into a source of power to keep him focused and challenge himself more and to go beyond. After a talking to a few others, I came up with a question which addressed the experiences of every English learner and demonstrated what they felt, “How self-conscious are you?”

The question is not about whether you know what is going on your surroundings; it is about whether you know what happens when you undergo some thing but doesn’t go the way as planned, when start you feeling guilty. You blame yourself over and over again until it gets to that point that it lowers your self-esteem and you tend to focus on your insecurities.

According to “Difficulties English Learners May Face In a ESL Environment,” the progress of ESL students on learning the new language is affected by how aware are they about their choices. This will make it more difficult for them to improve their proficiency in English. In some cases, teachers allow the ESL students to not participate and let the ones who are more fluent in English participate, according to “Extending English Language Learners’ Classroom interactions Using The Response Protocol,” by Kathleen A.J Mohr. Therefore in the long run, those ESL students are mostly likely unable to succeed on learning the language, leading to a road block.

There are some techniques that teachers and students could use to help improve their academic progress. Teachers can check for understanding on a daily basis, meaning, checking every time they are prompted with a lesson (“Empathy & Inclusion for ELL students”). The creation of a safe environment where students can contribute their ideas freely without being judged by their English is crucial to a student’s progress. The main reason for the student’s insecurities is mainly because they are afraid to be judged. If teachers can contribute the time to re-model their ways of teaching ESL students, they would be more bound to improve their proficiency in english.

ESL’s academic performance is well below that of their more fluent peers and ESL’s have also excessively high dropout rates (“English Language Learners Face Unique Challenges”). This is a conjunction between the perpetual idea of feeling like you’ll never improve and just end up giving up in the end.

Things get worse, ESL students make 76 percent of elementary schools and 56 percent of middle schools, according to “English Language Learners Face Unique Challenges.” Which means there are many ESL students that could possibly encounter these type of problems on a daily basis. That is why schools should support ESL students, helping a student now will help them gain an advantage that helps ensure their future.

Problems in school are inevitable for ESL students, they are as random as they come. It’s up to teachers to elicit the students progress and facilitate their struggles and for students to synthesize their problems into their guidance and what it’s already done for them, and keep striving for the future and it’s benefits. We are the future and what great we can do now can really open up the incredible possibilities the future holds in store.