Raymond Brown
Staff Reporter
March 8, 2018

From calculus to chemistry to Common Core English, the typical high school school
day is challenging. But for Atholton’s ESOL students, there is yet another hurdle: overcoming the foreign language barrier.

“The English language here isn’t necessarily taught the same in different countries,”said ESOL teacher Ms. Edwards. “English is sometimes backwards compared to the rest of the world, just like something as simple as the way we right our date. Every single student in my class from their country writes their date a specific way, and it’s the same way. We write it different, almost backwards than they do. It’s the little things like this that might make English confusing for a non-native speaker.”

The ESOL program was founded in 1976 in order to give international stu-
dents and non-native speakers in grades K-12 extra help with
learning the English language and necessary English skills.

According to HCPSS’s ESOL website, “The program focuses on developing their proficiency in processing and producing academic English language.” At Atholton, however, most of the ESOL students are already on grade level, so they just need help in minor skills that are second nature to native English speakers, Ms. Edwards said.

Oscar Giron, a Spanish speaking student in the ESOL program, said that he had been making mistakes in his writing, reading, listening, and speaking, but ESOL helped him improve his English.  Moving from El Salvador to the United States, Giron still misses his native country.  Most of his family members live there, and he said that El Salvadorian food in America does not taste the same as it does in his home country. Others reflect the same homesick sentiments. “When I miss my country, I like to listen to music from my country and looking at my old albums from Ethiopia,” ESOL student Minieteab Kme said.

The strangeness of the English language isn’t the difficult part of adjusting to life in
America. “Living in America is not easy,” said Kme. “When I was back in my country, I re-
member playing with my friends the whole day, so it was difficult to adapt the situation. School is very different. We have to use a bus to get home, and we use a lot of tech-
nology [that I’ve] never had experience with.”

Although living and attending to school in America is not easy, it does have its perks. “All
Turkish students really love the yellow school buses, and dream about going to school America so they can ride the yellow school bus. In Turkey our school buses are white and boring,” Freshman Sena Guien said. “We always dreamed about having a locker in the hallway of the school. In Turkey, our lockers are in the classrooms.”

Moreover, many students look forward to be ing a part of American society, as well as meeting friends and peers from around the globe.  “I was excited to learn how students learn and how teachers teach in America. I was also excited to meet students from different cultures and learn what Americans are like.  Now I have friends from other countries that I met at Atholton,” Guien continued to say.  Ms. Edwards also noted that her students and their families are often drawn to America due to the vast opportunities here. In other countries, schooling is often very strict compared to the education system in America.

For example, in Germany, 15-years-olds must do well in school and on their tests or else they must get a job and stop attending school, according to Ms. Edwards. “One of
my students had to become a pizza boy on a bike because that is all he could do before
he tried to go back and get his GED,” Ms. Edwards said. To enroll in the ESOL program students must take a test on a variety of English skills and receive below a certain score to be considered for the program. After the student receives his/her score, he/she may opt out of the ESOL program. Currently there are 14 students in the ESOL program at Atholton who speak six different languages.

The ESOL program also counts as a language credit, but many students in ESOL also take a different language class, as well. Ms. Edwards says she teaches a freshman
who is also in Spanish 4 Honors.  The ESOL program builds friendships, teaches students the English language, and helps people from all across the globe. Guien says, “It is great to be a high school student here because everyone is so nice and helps you.”

The program has helped dozens of students since its reintroduction this year, and regardless of what language(s) you speak, it’s certainly something to talk about.

Every single student in my class from their country writes their date a specific
way, and it’s the same way.  We write it different, almost backwards than they do. It’s
the little things like this that might make English confusing for a non-native speaker.

Posted by rjbrown525

Raymond, known as RJ by his peers, is a junior at Atholton. A Chicago native, his family moved here when he was in second grade. RJ has an older sister named Victoria in addition to one cat and one dog named Silver and Kiki. He fills his spare time with hobbies such as basketball, 2K, and shoe collecting. His favorite brands include Jordan, True Religion, and Nike.