Growing number of students face the challenge of a new language

Published: Monday, November 12, 2012 at 12:07 PM.

She was worried that American students would pick on her the same way she’d seen classmates in Germany pester foreign students. Fortunately, her worries were for naught.

“Everyone was so nice,” she said.

Today, she’s friends with American students and students enrolled alongside her in the school’s class for ELLs.

They don’t always understand each other, but the language barrier isn’t nearly as wide anymore. It’s also easier these days to admit what they don’t understand and laugh over it.

Diaz de Varela said that’s exactly why she and Kellen Francis, the teacher who oversees a class at the end of the day for ELLs, tend to focus initially on helping students learn words to help them socialize with their American peers.

“They feel so isolated and scared because they don’t speak the language,” said Diaz de Varela, whose native language is Spanish. “I provide them shelter as they go through assimilation.”

That usually takes about six weeks, she said.

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