ESL students are no laughing matter

By Jane Fernandez

Students will always come across a classmate who is not fluent in the English language and because of this they should be considerate when talking to them.

College students should be more respectful towards those who are catergorized as English as a Second Language (ESL) learners.

I have witnessed several cases of students talking about other students who did not know the English language well.

Some students have used degrading words to describe those who come from another country and are not fluent in English.

“Fob” (Fresh off the boat), “wetback”, and “beaner” are words used to describe someone just because of their English.

Students who degrade someone just because of their language are insecure of themselves and do it because they think that by doing so, they are superior.

Elan and ESL student Shunri Liu, from China, has experienced classmates laughing at him due to words he said incorrectly.

In one instance, Liu, who was having a conversation with his teacher, used future tense instead of  past tense and the teacher pointed it out. The class started laughing and Liu felt so embarrassed that he laughed with them.

Liu also believes that the language barrier makes it harder for him to find friends in school.

“Students struggle when they come (to America) because they don’t have friends,” Liu said.

“The (language) barrier makes it hard for students to make friends here,” he added.

I have friends who are ESL students and I found that they are not fully comfortable when speaking to me because they are afraid to say something wrong.

Helping a friend, or classmate, feel comfortable with English will help them open up and talk to others more.

Liu’s friend, Xare Campos, also an ESL student, from Brazil, thinks it is better not to laugh when a word is said wrong. They both agreed that by doing so, ESL students’ self-esteem is lowered.

“I wouldn’t make fun of someone for that. ESL students are shy,” said Liu.

Both students agreed that if the person making fun of them is not their friend, then it’s not right and it will make them feel uncomfortable.

Native English students should encourage and support their ESL classmates instead of making them feel bad about not speaking the language fluently. Respecting them should be the first step they take.

Also, consider the fact that most of these students have only been in the country for a few months to a year. We would not like it if we were new to another country and were made fun of for not speaking their native language.

The school offers 16 percent of the courses for ESL students. Although Reading, Learning Skills and Humanities classes are specially made for them, many other classes they need are non-ESL level.

As a college community, students should always keep in mind that their words, even their laughs, could hurt others.

When students think something that another student said wrong was funny, they should think twice about the situation before laughing out loud.

Next time a student witnesses behavior that goes against the feelings of these students, put a stop to it and stand up for our ESL classmates.

Students should help each other and keep each other encouraged instead of put each other down, no matter where they come from or how they speak.

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