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Passions in Poetry

English for Immigrants

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since 02-29-2000
Posts 3797

0 posted 02-25-2007 12:59 PM       View Profile for rwood   Email rwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rwood

Every English speaking citizen must pass English in order to receive their high school diploma. This doesn't mean they can truly read and write on a high school level.

Before entering a college of choice, students must take various assessment tests to see whether or not they place in college level courses or in developmental courses.
They take their courses accordingly, and some can test out of English if they are advanced. This still does not mean they can or will read and write on a college level.

I hear this all the time: "English isn't for everyone," speaking in terms of interest, and I agree. Some people have no interest in grasping anything about English beyond that of filling out a basic employment application. Even if you have college level skills, legal forms, such as your mortgage agreement, auto loan terms, publishing contracts, prenups, and divorce decrees, etc. are tough because most are designed to confuse you and lawyers are paid to slip in terms that benefit those they represent but screw you. Medical terminology is way out there in a league of its own.

I don't know any English speaking individual who can say they know everything about English.

I realize it's difficult to take the fact that non-English speaking immigrants are being passed in our classes. Especially in high school, since No Child Left Behind was enacted. This seems as unethical to me as passing an English speaking student who is illiterate--which happens all the time.

There are some major problems within our educational system, and I think we all agree that education is of utmost importance in America. (Let me rephrase the last part) We all agree, but teachers are paid less than our sanitation workers. We all agree but if Little Johnny fails English his teacher was a Meany and by God we’ll see him/her fired. So yeah, that latter part is a little questionable, but if students are passed because of a clause and not because they really can pass, then where do we think those students will end up? In college? Not likely. Some may have the backing (parents) or the charisma (athleticism) to wing it, but mostly these students will end up struggling through life. We pay for that in so many ways it's anguishing.

I had to take foreign languages to earn my degree. I chose Spanish and French. I can fully empathize with foreign students. I had to work really hard! I had to study, struggle for a grasp, speak, read, and write on a level that earned me a passing grade. Talk about intimidating. If I failed, I didn't get my degree (In English). I'm not complaining about it. I'd love to be fluent in many foreign languages, but I'm more diligent in learning all I can about my own language. And I admit I'm very confused as to why foreign languages are required for a degree many Spanish and French speaking students couldn't pass if translated into English. Such are the politics of academia, and I can't place the blame on foreigners. They didn't make the rules.

There are so many underlying issues at hand that I can't mention them all, but here's something that maybe some of you have personally witnessed or experienced.

Two students: One from Mexico, one from Costa Rica.
Both ladies are wonderful individuals. They are warm, intelligent, encouraging, devoted and dedicated to learning and contributing to society as they embrace our culture.

The lady from Mexico took my creative writing class, and nervously presented her poetry to the class. She felt she was so inferior and inept with English that she spoke in a whisper. I had to ask her to please speak up. When she did, by the end of her poem, half the class was in tears because it was that moving. Her writing was fabulous. Her content was even more affecting and infectious because of her cultural flavor. She blew me away. Her level of writing was far above what most of the students in the class were presenting. And she was still so weary of her ability it took a lot of encouragement to get her to produce more. She was nominated by the English department for the Creative Writing award and the English award. I couldn't have been more proud for her.

The lady from Costa Rica was in my speech class. I was paired up with her as her partner. She was so far ahead of me in ability I was the one who fell nervous before each speech. She felt she would handicap ME in our pursuits as a team, which was quite the contrary. She was a fireball. Yes, her speaking ability was a bit muddled with her own language, but as far as presentation? She was highly prepared, confident, had clear points, and was not afraid to debate, even though her grasp of English presented a few hurdles, she'd clear those hurdles by forming questions that helped her to give clear and precise answers. The reason why she was so determined? Women in Costa Rica rarely have the opportunity to speak out the way she did in class. She saw it as privilege. She was also rightfully nominated by the debate team for an award.

Both of these ladies received hate mail. Students protested their nominations, openly and quietly. Some of the professors even felt their nominations were "riotous." I don't believe anyone who attended class with these ladies had any part in the negativity. Students and teachers who had no direct involvement with these ladies were on the attack because they were from foreign countries.

One can ask, "Why not challenge those who attacked them to produce something they felt was better in light of their achievements?" We did, and we were also treated with negativity and abuse.

This is just another example of how things are out of control, beyond borders.

I know there are valid reasons to be angry about certain issues that involve the influx of immigrants and illegal aliens, but blaming them and being angry toward them as individuals is not a solution. That's too easy, it's a cop-out, and our government is probably hoping that's the way we'll treat the issues instead of calling them to action because of the work involved. I feel like it's the old "let the peasants weed 'em out" trick and we're falling for it. It's also a great way to distract the focus away from the fact our own children are falling through the cracks in school.

We all seem to be struggling with English in some form or another. Communication is one of the hardest skills to perfect. How can we expect everyone to be in the know if we present English in the form of an elitist weapon or with such little importance we can hardly read, speak or write? Everyone has to start somewhere, and it can be so intimidating for one to stand up in any class and present ourselves no matter what language we speak, but that's what I feel is the greatest thing about being an American. I have the opportunity to go as far as I want to up the ladder of learning in any language. Progress is my choice.

I love English, not because it's American, but because it's the best vehicle I have to communicate, and it's my responsibility to utilize it to the best of my ability. I refuse to use it to bash newcomers to America, and I refuse to lose it as an art. English is beautiful and powerful, not because it's American, but because it's an intricate fusion of foreign and domestic languages. Why can't people be this way? Our language is. Doesn't it make more sense to present ourselves and our language in a manner so positive others would be compelled to learn or in the least respect the foundations by which we stand? Perhaps we wouldn't lose anything in translation if we'd lose our negative attitudes toward foreigners?

What's the harm in learning from them in the process?

It seems all we're teaching them is how uneducated we Americans really are.  
Larry C
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Member Patricius
since 09-10-2001
Posts 10765
United States

1 posted 02-25-2007 03:28 PM       View Profile for Larry C   Email Larry C   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems   Click to visit Larry C's Home Page   View IP for Larry C

Bravo! Much of what you said is exposed in referendums put on the ballot here in Arizona especially in the outcome of the voting. I knew there was something special about you that meant so much to me. My daughter reflected much of your philosphies in her english class room too.

If tears could build a stairway and memories a lane,
I'd walk right up to heaven and bring you home again.

Member Patricius
since 06-19-2003
Posts 13093

2 posted 02-26-2007 08:34 AM       View Profile for LeeJ   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for LeeJ

I commend you on this thread...thank goodness someone thinks along the same concept as me, after a while, you start asking yourself, "Is it me?"

I believe in working for what a person accomplishes, and rewards for a good job well done....

If everyone is treated the same, it's not far to those who work very hard, not to mention, the attitude the acheivers might derive from this....

To me, the ripple effect of this just makes people lazy...and when children learn this at an early age, a very valuable concept is lost...

Thanks so much for this
Member Elite
since 02-29-2000
Posts 3797

3 posted 02-27-2007 08:15 PM       View Profile for rwood   Email rwood   Edit/Delete Message      Find Poems  View IP for rwood

Larry, I wonder who she got that from? I'm honored to be anywhere near the light of your daughter's values. People do need to care enough about the issues to vote. Yall are in the know! I just hope we can all come to a place where we can grow with communication and acceptance and not resort to violence.

LeeJ, There's so much more hard work to be done, but I think it's worth it just because not too long ago my Irish and German ancestors were facing the same treatment.

Thank you both for your input


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