Saturday, November 15, 2014

Conversaciones En Español

As an elementary school English to Speakers of Other Languages teacher, I work with a lot of children who speak English as a second (or third) language. Most of my students either immigrated to America from a Latin or South American country as small children or were born in America after their parents or grandparents immigrated.

I have had the joy of meeting a little boy who was born in the states (before moving to Mexico at a young age and then moving back) who did not speak English when he first arrived at my school. I screened him with our screening test and placed him at a non-speaking level. I see him over four times a week, either in a small group or one-on-one, usually both during the course of the week.

Every time I pull this little boy, he repeats to me: "How are you?" When I say: "I'm good, how are you?" He responds: "Good, thanks." Sometimes the roles are reversed. That entire dialog is scripted and we repeat it every day I see him, sometimes in Spanish as well. He is making connections. The rest of our informal conversation, before we get to my portable (aka "learning cottage"), is in Spanish. Often, I have to use a translator app on my phone. Many days, I ask him to repeat himself. One good thing is that because he is young, he uses simple dialog and phrases. We have had several conversations together about his family, his favorite things to do, and what he ate for lunch. I even had to explain a lock-down drill to him... In Spanish!

I guess this means that I have completed number 28 on my list: Converse with someone in a language that is not my first. It wasn't magical or easy or even extremely difficult. It was just using the words that we knew in each language (and a whole lot of code switching) in order to understand each other. The goal was a human connection and we did not want to let language get in the way.

This little boy is learning English much slower than anticipated, and we think there is another issue at work, perhaps a learning or processing issue. I'm working on giving him grace and supporting his development, one slow step at a time. In the mean time, I am enjoying code switching with him and practicing my on-the-spot Spanish skills. This is not my dream job, but some days it is pretty close.

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