International students face language barrier

By Jing Ye

East Los Angeles College offers a wide range of programs designed to benefit all students and communities. 

However, the lack of multilingual explanations for these services may cause issues for non-native speakers.

ELAC’s growing international student population is facing a significant language barrier when it comes to accessing essential services such as the Metro GoPass Program. 

ELAC’s primarary response to this issue is to enroll non-English speaking students into an English as a Second Language class (ESL).

 The Adult Education & Noncredit Department has statistics showing the percentage of students enrolled in different programs.

 There were 22,543 students enrolled in ESL classes for the 2022 through 2023 academic year .

This makes the ESL program one of the highest enrollment headcounts among all.

Senior office assistant from the department, Margie Limon said it’s important to be sensitive when it comes to language usage when communicating with students who come into their office asking for help. 

Limon said nearly 100% of the students who visit her office struggle with English proficiency.

The Metro GoPass Program has fallen short in reaching this diverse group. 

Limon said the program’s promotional materials, including posters and email alerts, are exclusively in English. 

This leaves students who speak languages such as Spanish, Mandarin, Korean, Vietnamese and Japanese out of the loop.

She said Metro should provide promotional materials in multiple languages to address this issue.

“We would be more than glad to distribute them to students. 

“After all, this program receives funding from taxpayer’s money, and the community should benefit from it,” Limon said.

One solution to programs that lack language awareness is that ELAC has staff members who can speak Mandarin and Spanish to provide assistance to students.

 For example, the Career and Job Services office employs staff members proficient in various languages to help students when there is a language barrier. Unfortunately, there aren’t enough staff members with  diverse language ability to match the numbers of students who need help in their language. 

“We often have to use Google Translate as a tool to communicate with students when they don’t speak English,” Career and Job Services student worker Rebecca Hernandez said.

Hernandez said students in need are directed to the Welcome Center, where staff can guide them to websites with multilingual viewing options.

“We usually have students from Southeast Asia who speak Mandarin, Cantonese and Vietnamese that need help,” intern Fatima Zahoui said.

On the other hand, some students aren’t in such a bad situation. 

Michelle Hernandez, student counselor at the International Students Office, said most students that come to the ISO already speak a good level of English. 

She said students don’t have problems accessing the information for a program like the Metro GoPass. 

Eva Liang, a student worker at the International Student Office, who is from China, said the level of English that international students have when coming to school in the United States were good. 

“In order to obtain admission for schools in the United States, they [international students] must pass an English exam. 

Only with a passing score, they would be able to enroll,” Liang said.

Not all international students are as knowledgeable as they say they are when it comes to understanding, or interpreting, the English language.

Rebecca Zhaou, another student from China, said her native language is Mandarin Chinese. 

She said she has not heard about the Metro GoCard program. 

She didn’t see any posters in Chinese at school. 

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