¿Hablas inglés?

During all of week 1, I was beyond excited for ESL classes to begin the following week. I started ESL classes last semester, initially because of an upper level Spanish class requirement. I am beyond happy to have found out about ESL classes because the program has strengthened my passion for another social justice issue: limited access to jobs that require English proficiency. In one of my Spanish classes freshman year, we learned about how there is still extreme discrimination by American employers all across the country; we read a variety of articles that explained instances in which employers would almost always choose a white American over a foreigner with an accent–even a slight accent–even when the American and the foreigner were equally qualified.

ESL classes began on Thursday (6/18). The student tutors and I were chatting with the English students on sofas in the classroom. One of the students began talking to a new student. She asked the new student, “hablas inglés?” The new student shook her head, sighing. The student responded (in Spanish), “You need English for absolutely everything. It’s one of the most important things in this country.” The new student nodded in agreement.

While I love working with English students on packets and I love any chance I have to practice my Spanish, my favorite part of ESL is the reactions of the students. It is easy to tell how passionate they are about learning English and improving their ability to communicate in the states. They like to read the entire English packets out loud just so they can practice…even the directions and titles of each section. They smile when they complete a sentence correctly and when they win a game. They smile when you tell them their pronunciation is strong. They appreciate everything the tutors do for them. Correspondingly, I know my time there is completely worthwhile.

When I work with them, I see a little of myself. They want so badly to learn, but sometimes lack confidence and fear messing up in front of fluent English speakers. The same applies for me when I speak Spanish. One of my biggest aspirations in life is to become bilingual. While the students appreciate me helping them with Spanish, I love that they are very willing to help me improve my Spanish as well.

Alyssa Weker ’17
Gettysburg

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