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ESL: The Struggles of Acquiring a Language

By Edited Nov 13, 2013 1 0

In America today, we have seen a rise in immigration throughout the years. Nowadays, diversity is something that is slowly becoming the social norm in our society. With this comes many people from many different countries who do not speak English. In our education systems today, educators have been trying to implement the best ways to teach ESL students and help them acquire a second language. While many American students are struggling with their foreign language classes such as French, German, or Spanish, ESL students are being immersed in a culure that they are not quite familiar with, and forced to speak the language. For many ESL students, this is a scary and overwhelming experience. As educators, it is our responsibility to make this transition easier for students. We need to foster their learning by allowing for second language acquisition development while also teaching the required content areas. Standards of Learning (SOLs) have made it even harder for foreign students. Because all students are tested on their abilities in content areas, so must the ESL students be tested. This gives teachers pressure for their students to succeed so that they will have high test scores, and pressure to get them to develop the language skills they need in order to understand the language.

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As educators, standardized tests should not be pushed so immensly, but that is the way society is going in this day and age. As we struggle to teach context specifix material to our ESL students who might not completely understand American culture, we are forgetting the true essence of education. Education is there to enhance, improve, and enable cognitive understanding of subjects. Instead of allowing our ESL students to grow, ask questions, expand on, and become involved in these school subjects, they are being overwhelmed with school material that they might not even understand that well yet. This is why so many different theories in TESOL education have been adapted. Not any one teaching technique is the best technique, but many can help. If we improve education by letting students become more involved in their education, than ESL learning and language acquisition can be improved. One way to improve this and to encourage acquisition is by putting students in groups and asking them to work collaboratively on a group project. For many ESL students, this will be an opportunity for them to use their language abilities to discuss how they should go about the project, which develops their oral language. Another way in fostering language acquisition is by the teacher coming around to each group and talking with students. By asking the students questions and inquiring about certain things using body language and symbols, the students will answer and be developing their written language, because they will have to come up with some answer. They will be using their own knowledge to "write" a response in their heads, as they answer back to the teacher orally. By stressing oral language communication and written language, students will benefit. Group work has proven very successful for many ESL students because they are involved in a sort of immersion program, having to use their knowledge of the English language in order to communicate with their group partners. All in all, TESOL could be improved if we put more emphasis on collaborative projects and group immersion than meeting content standards for standardized tests.


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