The Effects of the English Language on ESL Learners and Vise Versa
Dec 9, 2013 Other 2022 Views
~~Just how powerful is the English language? The answer is very, very powerful. The English language has been the cause of change throughout the world. Its incursion on other cultures has changed the very face of their native languages. The fact that a single language can create a large ripple effect of change shows just how powerful it is.
English itself however, is not exempt from its own incursions. That sounds confusing, yes? Of course, because how can English cause change to English? The answer is through English language learners, specifically those with another native language. English language learners are generally called ESL students (English Second Language). Throughout the United States it is called by different names, such as, ELL (English Language Learners), or LE (Learners of English), etc. The English language of the United States is altered and influenced by these learners. Through several forms of studies, through immersion of the language, and through practice, ideally, these learners begin to speak English, some even learn how to read and write it. The English language then becomes part of their every day speech. They do not, however, lose their native tongue, and thus use both languages to communicate. Their native tongue is at times mixed with English, and they speak using both simultaneously. Among the Hispanic population this sort of language mixing is known as Spanglish, (a mixture of Spanish and English). These students use both languages in communication, thus infiltrating the English language with their native tongue. This works vice versa as well, their native tongue is infiltrated by English. Going back to the Hispanic (or Latino) population, this sort of infiltration can be seen through words such as, siesta, which came into English through the Spanish language. This mixing of two languages causes change in both the primary and secondary language. So English has an effect on its secondary language learners, and those learners then have an effect on the English language. Thus English is causing change to English.
But let’s not forget the middle man in all this, the ESL students. Let’s go back to the effect English has on ESL students. Not only are ESL students causing change in English, they are causing change in their own language. The effect the English language has on ESL students is great.
It takes time, practice, and work to learn a second language. Once a student learns the language, they begin communicating using both. Then they grow to using both simultaneously and the affect English has on their native language starts. Many words are created by ESL students, for example, in the Hispanic community words such as troca, were created by mixing Spanish (camioneta) and English (truck). Other words like puchale, are also a mixture of Spanish (empujale) and English (push). ESL students begin to code switch ( it occurs when a speaker alternates between two or more languages, or language varieties, in the context of a single conversation.) and in their practice of using both languages simultaneously many students end up tongue twisted, and mix the two languages to create a new word. Normally the two words used, despite the difference in language, have the same meaning. These words, among many, many others go from being a tongue twist to everyday use. In this way English has affected change in other languages.
It is especially hard for students who come from another country, and are immersed in a new language to learn English. Many students in the state of Oklahoma, who are ESL students, are Hispanics. They come to the country and are placed in schools were their language and culture is rendered useless. In other states, such as California, the Hispanic population is larger than in states like Oklahoma. An ESL student in California is affected differently from the English language, than a student in Oklahoma, because of the amount of people surrounding that student that share the same language and culture is larger.
When a student comes into the United States and is placed in school, they are being immersed into the English language. Students respond one of two ways, they retreat and avoid communication hoping to eventually finish or drop out of school, or they begin immediately trying to learn and converse. Age does not seem to have an effect on the student’s choice of one of the two. English has been proven to be the hardest language to learn. Thus many students decide to withdraw and hope to survive. They do not like a challenge. Others have noticed the change English can cause, and refuse to change “who they are” by learning the language. Others view the change, not as a threat to their cultural background, but as a means of being able to achieve more. Thus those kinds of students enjoy the immersion into the language, and eat it up. What both types of students don’t notice is that the language has already begun to influence change in them. The ones who reject it become irritated and oppose education, influencing change into their character. The ones who chose to learn and expand their knowledge of English have also been influenced; they become more optimistic and hopeful for the opportunities to come, opportunities that may not have presented themselves in their native country. Thus they also have been affected by English.
ESL students however, are not being taught English through immersion alone. Many schools (unfortunately not all), have programs and courses for students to learn English. Here students are taught to speak, read, and write in English. Being placed in these sorts of programs has its affect on students. The teachers behind these programs have very delicate work. Students can feel empowered, or barred, by their inclusion in these programs. Thus English, their knowledge of it or lack thereof, is affecting the student to empowerment or debilitation.
The effects of the English language outside of the school life for these students, is even greater. Learning a second language, a language that chances are their parents do not know, does not come without consequence. ESL students who have learned English can be considered a know-it-all. Other cultures are aware of the power that comes with being bilingual, (or trilingual, quadrilingual, etc.). Especially if one of the languages includes English, it’s not only the hardest to learn, it’s the most universal. Thus when a person learns the language, they try to share that knowledge with others. Others may perceive it as snobby or rejecting to their native culture. How dare someone try to better themselves, and share their knowledge with others!? That is the sarcastic remark someone might make, because of what they may think, but many people wish to hold tight to their native roots and see this as letting go of them. So the English language has reached their homes, changed their cultural way of thinking. Many don’t reject their native culture they have just adopted a multicultural way of thinking. This multicultural way of thinking is caused by the effect English has had on the student. However, there are families and friends of these students who are positive, and even excited, about the idea of one of them achieving more by means of the English language. So the English language affects an ESL student’s home life as well.
These topics, and others, for which one piece could not be big enough to cover, show the different ways in which the English language affects change in ESL students. Many of these topics have other aspects to them, and much research has been done on it. The reason this topic has become of importance, is because the English language is powerful and has strong effects, especially among ESL students. And not only are the students influenced by English, but the students influence English.