Saturday, July 16, 2011

Unexpected Inspirations: English as a Second Language

I recently had the wonderful opportunity to work with a group of ESL students at a language school in the Midwest (as per my blog policy, I do NOT mention specific names or places unless I have permission. ). These students were upper-level, and had done some type of professional academic work in their native languages and were in classes taught in English at the local university. They wanted to write their stories about coming to America and about what they loved about the US and at the same time, what they missed so much about their own country.

Great! I thought this was a wonderful idea. They were excited to have a published American author visit them (and I was thinking "dude, don't get too excited---I'm not exactly Maya Angelou here.")

What I discovered was---WOW! Unexpected inspiration.
When one student had a hard time describing the beautiful spring in her native Iran, she said to me, "I don't understand how to describe it in English---all the beauty of the land comes together on the wind and creates music."

Um, how to describe it? I think you just did. And much, much better than many who are native English speakers, may I add.

The unexpected inspiration was that it really made me wonder how much we really, really think about our own language. Sure, I know what these words mean, and maybe that's why I don't really spend more time thinking --is this the BEST word I can use? Is there another word that would be better?

These are questions that were constantly running through the minds of these students. Perhaps, in some ways, they understand English better than we do...


Gypsi said...

That is lovely!

Dawn said...

Thanks Gypsi--- these writers really were something. They wanted me to read something of mine for the group, but thankfully, we didn't have time--- I think they would have been very disappointed. :)