RE: Current ESL issues in the Texas Classroom

<b> Forum for teachers interested in discussing ESL, multiculturalism and teaching </b>

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RE: Current ESL issues in the Texas Classroom

Post by Jan » Mon Jun 02, 2003 10:12 pm

:D Hello Texas teachers,
What are some current issues that you are facing in the Texas ESL classroom?

I look forward to dialoguing with you all!

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Post by Duchess_Meli » Mon Jun 02, 2003 11:36 pm

I just finished a year teaching Spanish, not English or ESL, and the problem I've had to deal with is that of linguistic prejudice. Do ESL teachers have this problem with students unwilling to learn English?

Many of my students were completely unwilling to learn Spanish. They saw no point in learning a foreign language, and they had terrible stereotypes that they insisted on keeping. It was a terrible problem, especially when I tried to introduce cultural elements to language instruction. It was made worse by the administration, which openly discouraged me fromt eaching culture and refused to support my classroom management and teaching style.

Sorry to vent so much! :oops: :) Thanks for reading!

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Post by Jan » Tue Jun 03, 2003 10:33 pm

Hi Duchess_Meli,
Thank you for posting a reply so quickly :D

I think what you described as linguistic prejudice is not unusual to any language. Many monolingual English speakers often think that English is superior--and as a result, we have some groups who want to declare English as the official language. In actuality, one language is not necessarily any better than the other. There are many affective variables that do impact language learning, such as one's attitude towards the L2..or different cultural group. Is your Spanish class a requirement for all students---or for those who are in a college bound track?

It sounds like you have a truly challenging situation because I'm not sure how you can separate culture and language learning.... if the students learned about the other culture, possibly they would be more interested in learning the language. I will be interested to hear what some of the other teachers think....
Thanks again!

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Post by Genie » Fri Jun 06, 2003 4:45 pm

I remember when I was in high school it was required that we take a foreign language. I chose Spanish and a lot what Duchess_Meli talked about in her posting is what went on in my class too. Most of us did not want to be taking a foreign language because we would never use it. Now that I am older, I wish I had paid better attention in Spanish class because I would use it. This past spring break I went on a Mission trip to Mexico and I really wished I knew how to speak Spanish so I could have communicated with the children we were there to help.

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Post by Ruth » Sat Jun 07, 2003 8:26 pm

The same happened at my high school, Genie, except that in my case I spoke spanish. I took Spanish and French during High School and in both classes I heard comments that I really disliked because it was talking down both languages. I enjoyed learning correct spanish grammar and French was neat to speak, the teacher was also a great influence because she was always excited about the French culture that it "rubbed off" on me.
On another note, I teach first grade bilingual although I will be certified in 4-8 and I will be endorsed in ESL; the problem that I encountered was that I got caught trying to teach my students how to read and write and do what they needed according to TEKS that it was hard to focus on integrating ESL. It was my first year and I found it hard. I am not sure how much time of ESL are the children suppose to get in a Bilingual classroom. I also noticed that some of my students did not want to speak English, I guess this is because I speak spanish and they know that I will understand them. Are there any suggestions on how I can bring ESL strategies into my first grade class this coming school year :?:

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Post by Roger » Sun Jun 08, 2003 12:05 am

Hello, Texans!
I saw this forum for the first time this morning and initially I thought it was not meant for me. Then I saw the term "multicultural", and it clicked.
The topic certainly is familiar to me!
If people asked me 'what's your first language?", I would not know the answer really! My old man spoke French, but his wife was a german speaker, so he would sometimes use German. However, I lived in an English-speaking environment, so English became the medium for social intercourse, study and work.
BUt throughout childhood, I had trouble deciding which language I woed allegiance. In a conflict, you have an enemy and, sometimes, you have a friend. My parents divorced, and I declared French my enemy.
At school, we had to take two foreign languages, and I was good at them although I disliked being singled out by our French teacher as the student with the "best pronunciation".
Later, in my adult life, I became romantically involved with a French woman and I spent ten happy years in God's chosen country. I love France and its lifestyle (my father was not a french citizen!) and am still missing that country now ten years on after leaving my wonderful French partner and her country for the somewhat more prosaic China.
I often note that Chinese "study" English "diligently", but most of us expats get a rude shock in our first-time encounters with CHinese English learners and their lacklustre performance. The enthusiasm that some - admittedly only a minority! - among us in the West develop for a foreign language is almost entirely missing here. People learn because it is their patriotic "duty" to become their country's ambassadors to the rest of the world. English is a compulsory subject, classrooms are crammed full (minimum 40 students, often 60, not seldom 70 and more).
As a Westerner, I am somewhat isolated here - tolerated as the so-called 'foreign expert' that helps bridge the cultural divide, yet whose culture is assimilated to 'pollution' and 'poison'.
We may be shocked at such stereotypes about Western culture but they are real in the minds of Chinese. And I wonder if we also have some psychological problem in learning another country's national tongue, chauvinist, jingoist and nationalist as we all are to some extent or another. When I lived in France, my French partner was teaching German. She and I would often converse in German. However, in public areas we did not feel it was appropriate to do so. In fact, in some neighbourhoods it would have been decidedly unwise to speak itn - memories of the war being too well-kept.
And in England, we noticed that the word "continental" carried a connotation of 'exotic', if not 'inferior'. To be sure, English speakers the world over do have a perception problem with their own culture and language! It often reflects in their attitude towards becoming TEFLers in Asia.
Although the Chinese have their own superiority complex, they sometimes fall for cliches and stereotypes that must be flattering to a native English speaker.
Once I sat in on a round of interviews for new English teachers in a CHinese training centre. I had to give a speech, followed by several Chinese job candidates. They had to give an impromptu explanation of why they wanted to teach English of all subjects.
One guy started by saying how long Chinese students take in acquiring English, how important this language was for the community and the country, "especially our economy", and when he could not think of any more officially-sanctioned reasons he suddenly said "and I think English is the best language in the world,", which he repeated a little while later.
Needless to say he did not get the job! I do not know who had planted this funny idea into his head - that English was 'the best language' - but it certainly did not go down well with the audience!

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Post by Chronda » Sun Jun 08, 2003 10:43 pm

Genie, I have to agree with you. I was forced into taking Spanish in the 6th grade because my parents did not want me in the band. I hated Spanish from day 1. The teacher was strictly an English speaking teacher and had no clue how to speak Spanish. I stayed with Spanish about 6 weeks and dropped it and went to Art which was just as bad. Anyway, now that I am in college, I wished I had stayed with Spanish. My children come home and they know more Spanish than I do just from hearing it from some of their friends. I think if Spanish was offered in the lower grades(at least 1st grade, if not kindergarten) the students who have so many problems with a different language now, would not have those problems. I believe that the earlier you learn a different language, the better your school career will be. I have never been to another country, but there is such a diverse group of languages spoken all around you that you really don't have to go anywhere, you just need to know at least one other language.

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Post by Itza » Mon Jun 09, 2003 5:05 pm

I had the opposite problem when I was in school. My parents are both from Mexico, and when I was born they made sure I was born here in the U.S. They wanted me to have opportunities they didn't have. So they heavily enforced English to me since I was a baby. They discouraged me from using Spanish. It was a sad situation because I could not communicate with my own grandparents for the longest time. They only spoke spanish, and even though I understood what they were saying, I had no idea how to answer them. My grandparents took it upon themselves to teach me the spanish language, and showed me the beauty of the culture itself. They encouraged me to learn the language. When I was in High school I was given the choice to take a foreign language. My parents choose French. So for 3 years I took French, from a lady that was a fluent in French. She used to say, "You won't have any problems learning the language since you know spanish.'' Little did she know I was trying to learn both languages at the same time. You see sometimes kids don't see the importance of learning their home language because they are told by their parents they will never use it. Other times the kids feel so comfortable using their home language that learning a new one is just plain scary. They aren't comfortable with it. I know one of you said that your 1st graders did not want to learn English becuase you were a fluent Spanish speaker. Maybe making a game of it l.or rewarding them when they use English will work. I worked with a teacher who would reward her ESL students whenever they would use English. She wouldn't reward them everytime, but that was the beauty of it. The kids never knew when she was going to do it so they would constantly use English. After a while they would not expect a reward because a reward itself was given when they could understand and hold a conversation with other English speaking children not in their class. They felt so proud. They would come into the class proud. I'm not saying this is the best way, but I did see it work for her.

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RE: Texas forum

Post by Jan » Tue Jun 10, 2003 7:45 pm

Thank you for posting a response in this forum. Although most of us are Texas teachers, you are welcome to join us. Your expertise in the area of ESL will truly add to our ongoing discussion. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us!

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Post by Tammy30 » Wed Jun 11, 2003 2:11 am

I can also remember taking Spanish when I was in High School, and I did not really care about learning it. All we did was listen to tapes and repeat after our teacher. The class was full of students that could speak spanish and just wanted an easy "A". I wish that I would have taken the time then to learn spanish because when I got in college, I took two years of it and it was hard. It is a desire to learn spanish and be able to communicate with the students who can not speak english. This is another reason that I am taking ESL classes. I feel that the students do not respect the fact that they can learn other languages until they are older. I wish they would have Spanish classes for the younger students. My youngest daughter is in pre-k and they learn spanish, but once she gets into kindergarten, that will all stop.[/b]

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Post by Duchess_Meli » Tue Jun 17, 2003 7:40 pm

:shock: I must have been more of a nerd in high school than I thought! :lol: I thoroughly enjoyed my four years of French, French in college (though I didn't enjoy it near as much in college), and year of Spanish. I truly enjoy learning languages, and I get discouraged with those who don't. I realize that language isn't everyone's "forte," but it is becoming so necessary for functioning in today's society.

My students who were less than enthusiastic about Spanish were less than enthusiastic about life outside their teeny little town as well. Most of them wanted to go to Angelina College, then work in their hometown without getting out and seeing the world around them. They weren't interested in people from ANY other culture, including in many cases ME (I'm from a different part of East Texas and was considered an "outsider" by the town). :roll: They frequesntly made nasty, insulting comments about other cultures, Latin ones being the most common, but certainly not alone. It was a very difficult year for me. :cry:

I really enjoyed reading Roger's experiences as well. I have talked to several friends from Taiwan, and they've told me similar things to what Roger said about the "English enthusiasm" around the world. Of course, Americans are often made fun of for not knowing other languages, and in some cases rightfully so. I cannot count the number of times that people act like I'm some kind of freak or some kind of intellectual goddess because I speak four languages. Thanks for sharing Roger!

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