ESL students share learning journey

Can you speak another language? If not, you fit into the 80 percent of the United States that is monolingual. With more than half of the world being bilingual and having the U.S be built up of immigrants, it’s quite a surprising statistic that only 15-20 percent of Americans consider themselves as bilingual.
District 127 itself is made up of 3.1 percent English learners. There are 11.7 percent English learners in Illinois altogether. North is a more diverse school in comparison to others, but many students don’t have the language or the tools to communicate with other students who don’t predominantly speak English. In fact, North has many students that are just learning to speak English.
So what does North do to help these students? Mrs. Alderson, an English as second language teacher, works with students who have beginner English comprehension skills.
“People think that these students aren’t smart because they don’t know English, but they don’t recognize the language barrier. These students have a gift and a lot to give,” Alderson said.
The ESL classes at North are generally made up of students who have come to the U.S in the last few years. The class does various activities, such as going on field trips and watching movies, to create a comfortable environment and learn English simultaneously.
“These classes challenge students academically but still give them the extra scaffolding they need to learn English,” Alderson said.
Junior Andy Mata is a student whose family decided to move here two years ago from Mexico to have a “fresh start.” He started high school as a freshman and was thrown into an environment that prominently spoke English, a language that he was just starting to learn.
“It wasn’t an option to not learn it anymore as it was in Mexico. I depended on it,” Mata said.
He gives credit to the ESL program and Mrs. Alderson for helping him so much along the way.
“It is going to be difficult, it is going to be frustrating, and you’re going to want to give up. Take a break when it gets too hard, but keep trying and you will get there,” Mata said to advise new English learners.
Spanish is the second predominant language at North but not the only one that is spoken. Junior Sofiya Chernyshova moved to the United States from Ukraine when she was only six years old. She took ESL classes in her first grade class and picked up the language faster with the help of the two kind teachers at Thompson.
“Everything will be okay in the long run, and you’ll meet people you love. It’s okay to be stressed, sad, and miss friends from your home country. One day it will all click,” Cheryshova said.
ESL programs have proven to be extremely beneficial, but they can fall short on the social aspect of fitting a new student in. It is up to the student body and the staff at North to create a comfortable environment of patience and open friends.
“If you see a student sitting alone at lunch, take over a group of friends and talk to them! Pick them for your sports team in gym.Offer to help them in your classes. There’s a lot that every individual can do,” Alderson said.
Learning to speak English as a second language is something that too many people don’t recognize how difficult it is.
“Being bilingual opens you up to two culutres, gives you more opportunities, and gives you more perspective on the world,” Chernyshova said.
The three percent of ESL students have embraced learning a new language, and North has the resources to support them.