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The Volunteer

Serving YOUR Community as an
Instructional Aide for Adult ESOL
C. Chappell
We’re glad you’re here!
And during our time together, we intend to show you how important
YOU are to the growing number of adults in YOUR community
who need to learn English…

Whether you are…

•a retiree or pensioner
•a college or university student
•a young professional looking for service opportunities
•an educator interested in ESOL theory and practice
•a busy stay-at-home mom (or dad)
Chalk Dust
•motivated by secular or spiritual values
Be sure to check this corner
…OR just ready to learn and meet interesting for important tips, factoids,
people and unsolicited advice about
the world of
You’ve come to the RIGHT PLACE! language learning!
Our plan for deciding what’s important…

Your GROWTH is a priority.

Your EXPERIENCE is valued.

Our practices are ADDITIVE.

We RESPECT learners, and each other.

Your GROWTH is a priority
 Many volunteer programs emphasize practical training, and
spend very little time on theory or concepts (or vice-versa).
 The SSCC program balances theory and practice.
 You are considering a time commitment of between one half-
hour (minimum) and 6 hours (maximum) per week.
 So…in exchange, you should be afforded the opportunity to
learn ESOL material that you can apply elsewhere, including
your own career advancement plan.
 But don’t worry…we won’t speak to you in “jargon” without
providing an explanation and questions are ALWAYS okay!

ESOL stands for English for
Speakers of Other Languages.
Your EXPERIENCE is valued
You might be an experienced teacher with previous ESOL
experience in an ESL or EFL environment.
If so, please share…remember, this program is still in development,
so your opinion counts!
You should make suggestions whatever your field of work might be!

ESL stands for English as a Second Language.
Learners study ESL in an English-speaking country, such as
Canada, Britain, or the USA.

EFL stands for English as a Foreign Language.

Learners study EFL as a school subject, in countries where our
language is less-frequently spoken.

In each case, English is the learner’s second language, the

difference is where the studying takes place.
Our practices are ADDITIVE
A common misconception about adult English programs is that
our goal is to help ELLs stop speaking their native languages,
gradually replacing them with English.
BUT… like doctors, teachers have a professional obligation to
Losing their native languages can cause ELLs to be cut off from
their support systems, and even disrupt family relationships.
SO…English must be ADDED to the skills a learner already has,
without treating the L1 as a disability to be “overcome.”

ELLs are English Language Learners.
Our practices are ADDITIVE

L1 is a person’s first language or “mother
tongue” acquired as a baby.

L2 is the next language a person attempts to

learn or acquire and use on a regular basis.
In many cases, this takes place during the
early teenage years.

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Many youth are at risk of developing subtractive bilingualism,
a condition in which the native language is lost as
the second language is learned.
We RESPECT learners, and each other

You will be encouraged to approach the instructor on your adult ESOL site, or the area
coordinator if you have been placed into a situation that is making you uncomfortable.
Your site instructors and area coordinators are pledged to keep an “open door” policy, and
make every effort to resolve, in a professional manner, ANY conflicts that may arise among
volunteers and/or learners on the ESOL site.
Everyone is asked to remember that the world is full of many different kinds of people, and
there is now more cultural diversity in Alabama than at any time previously.
This means that what you personally consider “rude” or inappropriate behavior might be
perfectly acceptable to someone else, and the reverse is also true.
However, abusive language or terminology referring to ANY person’s race, ethnicity, sex,
family and personal status, or religion will NOT be acceptable on site (applies to instructors,
learners, and volunteers).
SSCC observes all laws, regulations, and guidelines established by the United States and the
State of Alabama concerning non-discrimination in education and employment.
Meeting Our Learners
When we meet a learner for the first time, we ask many questions…
Here are three of the questions that help us
GET – IT – IN — GEAR …

“Where are you from?”

“Why do you want to learn a new language?”
“Where do you want to go with English?”

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Many of SSCC’s learners were practicing as health care
professionals in their homelands before
coming to the USA.
“Where Are You
An Important Question in the
Language Classroom
The significance of this question…
“Where Are You From?”

 It’s an ordinary conversation starter, but not a casual one.

 Most learners will be asked this question by Alabamians they meet in
public, as soon as it becomes apparent that they are somehow
“different” from others.
 The people who ask this question are those native speakers who are
willing to engage learners in conversation outside of class.
 Conversation with native speakers outside of class is an essential
support for language teaching that relies on a communicative
approach, as SSCC currently does not do, but aspires to do.
 The answer to this question provides instructors with crucial
information needed to design instruction.

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Communicative approaches tend to emphasize
life skills, helping learners acquire
vocabulary and figure out grammar in
the context of everyday situations
The significance of this question…
“Where Are You From?”

 The learner’s L1 may produce some interference as English

is learned; for example, the native language may have only
one sound that is produced in a particular region of the
vocal tract, where English has two sounds.
 Every language has a unique set of characteristics that
make it different from English, and poses a particular set
of challenges to speakers of that language who are
learning English.
 Thus, a Spanish speaker will not have the same “problems”
with English that a French or Chinese speaker will have.
 Also, knowing a learner’s first language background tells us
whether the native language support we have made
available is appropriate or inappropriate.
Inappropriate Native Language Support…
“Where Are You From?”

 It is not a problem for students to assist peers by explaining

difficult concepts to them in the native tongue, as long as this
behavior does not take place during English conversation practice.
 BUT…lack of knowledge about cultural geography can lead to an
environment of inappropriate native language support.
 The most common scenario occurs when Latino students assume
that their Arabic-speaking classmates will understand Spanish.
 Many such assumptions are indeed based on skin color.
 We can correct our own inaccurate assumptions about our world,
and become more familiar with its cultural geography by
understanding the significance of asking, “Where Are You From?”
What is appropriate Native Language Support…?
“Where Are You From?”

 Among adult learners of the same L1 background, advanced

learners may serve as classroom aides who assist beginners with
complicated directions written or spoken in English.
 The purpose is to correct misunderstandings; it may take weeks
or even months for an instructor who speaks only English to
become aware of these.
 Native Language Support should never be used to discourage
learners from classroom participation in English!
 In the K-12 classroom, the presence of adults who speak a
student’s native language (as volunteer aides) is often used to
address discipline and adjustment problems.
 Many ELLs at SSCC will be called upon to fill such roles in the
local public schools, if their children are enrolled there.
The purpose of this question…
“Where Are You From?”

 Instructors and volunteers should show a willingness to

learn about our ELLs home countries and languages.
 Previous experiences with English may have been positive
or negative: We need to know!
 The extent of previous experience with English varies
widely among adult learners.
 Knowledge about home countries should include their school
systems, and the proportion of their people who read and
write in the L1.
 One of the strongest predictors of how well a person will
read and write in English is that person’s ability to read and
write in the L1.
The answers to this question…
“Where Are You From?”

 So, have you been wondering why Alabama

schools would hire ESL teachers who speak
only English?
 Well…if teachers needed to speak every
Alabama learner’s first language, they would
have at least a dozen languages to learn!
 And…if you thought Alabama ELLs only came
from Mexico, prepare to be surprised as we
take a look at some of our learners’ L1
“Where Are You From?”

Achi Akatek
 Located in Central America, its Awaketek Chuj
people learn Spanish at school, but Garifuna Ch'orti
most in Alabama also speak one or Itza' Ixil Jakaltek
more of their country’s 22 Mayan Mopan Poqomam
languages! Poqomchi' Q'eqchi'
 At least four of those languages Sakapultek
(that we know of) are spoken in the Sipakapense
SSCC service area today! Tektitek Toquegua
Tz'utujil Uspantek
 Many (if not most) Guatemalans Xinca Yucatec Maya
now living and working in Alabama Mam K'iche
are learning English as a third Q'anjob'al
language! Kaqchikel
Source: Wikipedia
 A few Guatemalan learners have not
learned to read and write in Spanish,
or in first languages that have not
existed in “modern” written form
until quite recently.
 However, since the time of their
ancient, stone temple –building
ancestors, Mayan peoples have had
some form of written language. Language Map

Source: Wikipedia
“Where Are You From?”

 Often mistaken for Mexicans, Hondurans living and

working in Alabama speak a Central American variety
of Spanish, and may sometimes use a vocabulary
different from Mexican Spanish
 Nearly all have learned to read and write in Spanish,
and most have at least a high school education in the
 Many of the Hondurans in western Alabama have
come from the Honduran capital, Tegucigalpa
 In the SSCC service area, many Hondurans are new
to Alabama, but very few are new to the United
Yemen“Where Are You From?”
 Arabic-speaking Yemeni ELLs come to Alabama from a deeply
conservative, Islamic country, located at the southern tip of
Arabia and known for its archeological sites and Arab-Islamic
 A group of convenience store owner-operators in Alabama and
Mississippi accounts for much the Yemeni presence in the
SSCC service area.
 A K-12 presence in the public schools has been evident in
Sumter and other Alabama counties.

 Covering for women, known as hijab, is expected in

public with no exceptions, and female Yemeni
students will wear it in the language classroom, often
preferring not to interact directly with male
instructors or classmates if it can be avoided.
 Students from Yemen may become very
uncomfortable discussing the secular aspects of
American culture, especially those concerning
relations between the sexes.
“Where Are You From?”

 Arabic-speaking ELLs from this ancient, mostly

Muslim land have often studied ESL at SSCC.
 Most have studied at an advanced level.
 For most learners from Egypt, the cultural divide is
not usually as much an obstacle as for other Arab
 Though most are devout Muslims, they often have
had extensive contact with Westerners, and most of
these learners have many non-Muslim friends.
 The dialect of Arabic spoken in Egypt is a bit
different from other Middle Eastern nations, but
considered “standard, modern” Arabic by many
authorities because so many people speak it!
 Egypt is the most populous Arab nation.
“Where Are You From?”

 Brazilian learners are often able to understand the

Spanish spoken by their Latino classmates, but it is
important to remember that their native Portuguese
is not the “same” as Spanish.
 Mercedes and Mercedes-supplier employees are often
Brazilians rotated into Alabama for a tour of duty by
their employers.
 These learners sometimes study at SSCC for just one
class cycle.
 Brazilian learners may have extensive experience with
English, or none at all!
“Where Are You From?”

 In the SSCC service area, the community of

Vietnamese-speaking learners is much more diverse
than most people imagine.
 Family lifestyles are very traditional, and the role
of women outside the home can be severely
restricted by the culture.
 Refugee-focused programs often have difficulty
encouraging female students to participate in class
—their husbands simply answer every question for
them, according to custom, and write all their
assignments for them, too!
“Where Are You From?”

 Worldwide, Chinese learners represent one of the most

rapidly-growing groups of learners now studying EFL or ESL.
 There are online chat rooms where Chinese students look for
native speakers with whom to practice English.
 In the SSCC service area, outreach efforts have targeted
immigrant-owned businesses with some limited success.
 As with many East Asian cultures, it is important to avoid
discussing test scores, as students may be particularly
sensitive to the “loss-of-face” that accompanies scoring lower
than one’s classmates.

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Learners from some cultures may not respond well to
“spotlighting,” in which the teacher calls on one person
to answer a question in front of the whole class.
…and last, but NOT LEAST…

Mexico and the United States

“Where Are You From?”

 Mexico is the place of origin for many

(though certainly not all) adults in
Tuscaloosa who have come to SSCC to
learn English.
 Learners have come from several
different regions of Mexico, from
Mexico City to Guadalajara, Puebla to
Veracruz. Shaded red: Some common home regions
 Mexico is a a geographically diverse for Mexicans living and working in West
nation, like the United States. Alabama
 The necessity of learning English
arises not only from the immigration
experience, but also from internal
migration within the USA.
 In some parts of our country, Spanish
speakers might not really need English.
 In Alabama, however, English is a
Shaded red: Places in the USA where
English might not really be a necessity for
everyone who speaks Spanish
Other areas of opportunity…
 In the SSCC service area, there are adults
who need to learn English coming from many
other native language backgrounds.
 They are too numerous to mention each and
every one, but include….
Russian-Ukrainian (my next door neighbor)
Russian (my primary care doctor, accent training)
Romanian (guy at eating place on the Univ. Strip)
Hebrew (Israeli business owners in the mall)
Japanese (former SSCC students, restaurant owners)

….and countless others! New students from

Hungary, Iran, Iraq, Iceland,
and many other countries
have enrolled recently!
“Why do you want to learn a new

Another Important Question

in the Language Classroom
“Why do you want to learn a new language?”

 Educators often group second language

learners according to the way they answer
this question.
 They are said to have an instrumental
motivation or an integrative motivation.

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Learners also have intrinsic and extrinsic motivations.
They may be moved by their own aspirations, or by the
expectations of others.
Types of Learner Motivation
“Why do you want to learn a new language?”

Strong Weak Strong Weak

Instrumental Instrumental Integrative Integrati
“My boss said that “My parents said I “Since I became “My husband and I
I needed English needed French to Muslim, I’ve felt are planning a trip
for the promotion get into the that something to China. We love a
and raise I want. college they want was missing. I challenge, and
With that extra me to attend. If know I need to want to learn
money, we can my grades are learn Arabic, so Mandarin. We will
probably scrape good, I won’t get that I can read and really take in the
together the down hassled on things study the Holy local culture and
payment on our like phone, Qur’an in the get so much more
first home!” curfew, and you original language.” out of our visit that
know, like, other way!”
Instrumental or Integrative?
“Why do you want to learn a new language?”

Instrumental Integrative
Specific goals

Material rewards


Dependent on value

Short-term importance

Long-term importance
(Big picture)

Social Distance
 As a volunteer, you may be able to observe the operation of Schumann’s
Social Distance Model on the ESOL site.
 Many educators use this model as an explanation for the fact that some
learners are well-motivated to learn a second language, while others
might not be motivated to learn at all.
 According to the model, people who are not motivated to learn feel that
there is too great a social distance between themselves and those who
speak the target language (TL) —in this case, American English.
 People are highly motivated to learn English when they interact with
English-speakers on a regular basis, both professionally and socially
 Learners who believe their level of education is lower than that of most
English-speakers tend to view English as the language of power and
privilege; they may frequently need reassurance that they are welcome
and in the “right” place to learn.
 Schumann also identifies permanence as an important issue; the more
motivated learners see themselves as having a vested interest in
learning English for future plans, since they often plan to remain in the
USA for a long period of time.
“Where do you want to go with

Learners’ Goals and Alabama’s

Exponential Growth
 According to the U.S. Department of Education,
Alabama’s number of Limited English Proficient
(LEP) students as a portion of total enrollment grew
236.1% between 1995-1996 and 2005-2006!1
 Statistics help us understand the size of our
challenges, but rarely help us understand the exact
nature of them.
 Within this 236.1% increase, many individuals with
increasingly diverse backgrounds, needs, and goals
are represented.

1Source: NCELAretrievedfrom http://www.ncela.gwu.edu/policy/states/reports/statedata/2005LEP/Alabama-G-06.pdf

Who is here to help?
 In Alabama, formal schooling is mandatory until ELLs reach age
 ELLs aged 16 and older often seek some form of help outside
traditional institutions or school systems, though this doesn't
necessarily mean dropping out of high school.
 For adults, most free programs are faith-based or provided by
 Non-faith-based options are severely limited—mainly by ability to
pay, as there is no legal guarantee of a free education for adults,
unless their needs are related to a developmental challenge.
 Learners who choose to study at a private language school do
NOT qualify for the types of “financial aid” with which most
college students are familiar.
 This includes such facilities as the English Language Institute, an
Intensive English Program (IEP) located on the campus of the
University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa.
Who is here to help?
 Being designated an Intensive English Program (IEP) by the
federal government allows a language school to grant student

 In addition to the ELI, central Alabama is served by two other

language schools located on college campuses:
English Language and Culture Institute (ELCI) at UAB
Alabama Language Institute (ALI) at Gadsden State

 Our situation is quite different from larger cities such as

Atlanta or Washington, DC, where almost anyone can and will
open an English language school in any storefront or office
In adult ESOL at SSCC, we will…
 Attempt to prepare those who did not finish high school
for successful study in an all-English GED class.
 Give those who finished high school in the home language
the opportunity to develop English language skills for
specific purposes.
 Help college graduates with TOEFL exam preparation and
pre-professional learning that requires English language
 Become advocates for those who need assistance learning
 Network with institutions that provide assistance.
Can you be more specific?
 As the U.S. economy becomes more globalized and the professions,
including education, become more specialized, EGP (English for General
Purposes) is taught less and less frequently.
 Instead, adult learners enroll in language programs that are focused on
specific needs… ESP (English for Specific Purposes).


EBP (English for Business Purposes)

EOP (English for Occupational Purposes)
EAP (English for Academic Purposes)
VESL (Vocational English as a Second Language)
{This list could be at least a dozen slides long…}

•Many of the more successful programs focus on career development and integrate
technology (computer skills) into the learning process.
•Language proficiency may be part of a training program provided by a large employer,
which can be helpful, but doesn’t usually put the students’ interests first.
A Communicative Approach…
 Has been in use since the 1970’s.
 Focuses on interaction, and the skills needed to carry on a conversation
in the target language.
 Does not discount grammar, but presents it as used in real life
situations (contextualized).
 Doesn’t focus so much on “What’s correct” as on “What’s necessary for
my intended meaning to be conveyed?”
 Doesn’t measure proficiency as much as it observes an individual’s level
of competence in second-language situations.
 Asserts that a learner has become competent in the second language
when the ability to understand a native speaker’s intentions during
discourse (conversation) has been developed as fully as possible—one
can memorize the “correct” way to say everything and still be quite
unable to communicate.
Getting a notion…
 Many learners will ask for a more practical approach to learning English, one that
will be familiar to everyone who has tried to learn a foreign language using a
phrase book.
 These books show and tell learners what to say in a particular situation, for
example “At the Grocery Store” or “In the Post Office.”
 Teaching language in this way is called using a notional-functional syllabus.
 This approach has its problems, but many advantages, as well, and can be used to
address the many different meanings the same words often have in English.

“Push” and “Pull” are But now I’m going to

important words in English. I “pull” into traffic. Does
see them whenever I open a this word have the same
door in public. meaning while I’m

The Four Language Competencies

 All language programs have

in common the need to
teach the four language
competencies. Writing
 In the past, many language Listening
programs did not introduce
all four of the language
competencies at once.
 Writing was usually
reserved for the most
advanced learners. Speaking Reading
 Today, most language
programs teach ALL FOUR
skills from day one.
 Proficient use of English
requires the development
of all four language
Thinking About Language and

Role Play and Discussion Topics for

Small Group Orientation*

*names used in this section are not “real names” of any individuals
A “Third Way”
 Many disputes about what is or isn’t “politically correct” in the adult second
language classroom come from the fact that culture is being taught as language
is taught.
 An assimilationist perspective is often represented in public policy by the
English Only movement.
 Assimilationists often say that English must become an immigrant’s primary
mode of communication in most situations, replacing the native tongue, and that
the norms and values of American culture must replace those with which
learners were raised, if their long-term goal is to remain in the USA.
 Multiculturalists usually favor some form of bilingual education, which is a
politically impossible outcome in most of the states, including Alabama.
 Multiculturalists often say that as far as possible, society should accommodate
the presence of more than one generally accepted set of cultural norms, and
that more than one language should be the norm, since most societies in the
world today are, in fact, multilingual.
 Both assimilationism and multiculturalism are very controversial, but there’s
another approach…
An Intercultural Approach
An intercultural approach leaves the question of “How Americanized should I
become?” to each individual learner…
Participating in
immigrant programs in the
home language
community service role
Parenting in the Getting
and giving instructions
home language
at work in English
parent role workplace role
Joe or Jane Learner
(playing many roles)
Worship in the Shopping for basic
home language necessities in English
spiritual role consumer role

Talking with a child’s

teacher in English
parent role

The ability to use English is treated as a “life skill” that needs to be

developed, in order to succeed in those roles that an individual must
perform in an all-English environment…
Not my day today…or my year! Tim’s a good
friend and will always try to cheer me up, but
the future still just scares me! That job didn’t
need to be “the one that got away!”

You ‘bout ready to call it a day,

man? We been out here since
sun-up without even a nibble.
Kind of like my job search…
Whoa, dude, are you still
obsessing about that
interview? It might help
you to remember, all
these things happen or
don’t happen for a
As I recall, that reason was my entire cultural
background, including the way I express myself. My
speech wasn’t good enough for Washington, DC.
And man, are Christina and the kids ever
disappointed! Her mom is in Richmond…only 90 miles
away, Tim. We were gonna look for a place halfway

Well, sure, it might’ve been great for y’all. But I still don’t
understand what happened. You say you had the interview
nailed, ‘till you said….what was it?

I said, “I reckon I should call my wife and tell her I

have good news!” And they said they might rather
have me say that “I suppose" or “I guess” I should
call her. Then they reminded me that this was a
“leadership” position, and this point was important to
Translation: I sound too Southern
to work in a “professional”
environment! To which I say, let’s
go, man…it’s fixin’ to be dark! Also,
it seems there’s not a thing left in
the cooler for me!

Umm…sorry, buddy. I can take a hint…

but ya’ know, Josh, you aren’t the only
one who’s been on the receiving end of
people’s messed up ideas and
prejudices about language. It just
ain’t a good situation when someone is
sure they know all about you just by
how you speak OR the way you look. I
even have four stories to tell ya’ while
we’re gettin’ packed up….
Hypothetically Speaking
Story #1
Marie and her friend, Dorothy, a business owner and
community leader, have known one another for nearly 30
years. They have attended the same church for most of
that time. On a Wednesday evening after church let out,
Marie stopped to talk with Dorothy as the two were
helping prepare for a celebration the following week….
Marie: Hey, there.. how are you? Did you ever call that number I gave
you…the one about volunteering to teach American English to adult
Dorothy: Well…you know to be honest with you, I didn’t.
•What do YOU
Marie: But why, Dorothy? When I told you about how much we’re
needed you seemed so…excited. You’re one of the most giving people
think about
I’ve ever known! Dorothy’s
Dorothy: Thanks. I guess I just never got a clear signal that we concerns?
belong, Marie. I got to thinking, what would be the first thing
someone would say if I walked into a class where they try to teach •Is this a situation
newcomers “standard” English? They would probably tell me to talk
the “right” way, because that’s what newcomers need to learn for that could happen
employment. But the way you and I speak to each other is a very in real life?
important part of who we are. And I don’t feel like leaving a part of
myself “at home” just to satisfy someone else. It seems to me like yet •Did Marie
another situation where Black people may be treated like we don’t
really belong! I truly want to help, but I am so tired of that. respond to
Marie: I sometimes feel that way, too. But African-American English Dorothy’s
IS American English, Dorothy…even if there are some differences concerns in a
between our dialect and school English. Newcomers need to learn how
to get by in their new community. We are as much a part of that
positive way?
community as anybody else. I respect what you say, but I think you’re What might she
making a mistake!
Hypothetically I feel called to do
Speaking this…but I just don’t
Story #1
 Dorothy is apprehensive about volunteering as a classroom aide for adult English
Language Learners.
 She believes she will not be respected, and her contribution will not be valued,
because she speaks a dialect of American English that professional educators now call
AAVE (African-American Vernacular English).
 While it is true that many employers always expect the use of “standard” English at
work, and some educators always expect the use of “standard” English in school,
English Language Learners who live or work in Alabama must learn to interact with ALL
 It’s quite possible that at least 1 in 4 Alabamians speak some form of AAVE at least
part of the time (perhaps 1 in 3).
 SO…English Language Learners can benefit greatly from listening to Alabamians who
speak AAVE, even if they personally will never speak it at work, home, or school.
 You may disagree with this perspective, and if you are taking this orientation in a
group session, let’s continue our discussion…
But there's something to be
said for doing things the
correct way…it’s always been
Think: If you were a newcomer interviewing for your first job in the USA, you
important for my work!
would probably need to speak “standard” English during your job interview if
you expected to be hired. But what would happen when you actually got that
job? Would YOU want to deal with unnecessary misunderstandings with
coworkers who spoke a dialect, just because somebody thought you should only
be exposed to native speakers who spoke standard English?
Hypothetically Speaking
Story #1

 It’s really NOT okay to assume that members of any

particular ethnic or religious group will automatically speak a
certain dialect, simply because that particular dialect is
associated with that group in popular culture or in the media!

 Have YOU had an experience during which someone made

assumptions about how they thought you should speak based
on your race, religion, or ethnicity? Please share!

I prefer to speak
my dialect at home
and standard
English at work.
Others take a
different view. We
are all individuals.
The Last One Picked
Story #2
Mei, who is from China, and her friend, Thanh, who comes
from Vietnam, have just finished their second week of free
English classes for adults at the local community college
ESOL site. On a Monday evening after their teachers left the
room to file paperwork, the two young women talked about
a problem they both were having in English class….

Mei: I dunno ‘bout you, but I am getting very,

very frustrated. Do you think that they really
want us here, or no?

Thanh: Oh, I know what you mean! I studied

my lesson and handout for class three hours
before I came here tonight.

Mei: And the teacher called on the others three

times each, but she never called on us to read
or answer any questions…

Thanh: Exactly!

Mei: So what is the problem? Do you think they

just don’t believe we are very smart?

Thanh: Maybe…but I can never be sure with

our teachers, you know what I mean?

Why might their teachers not be encouraging Mei

and Thanh to participate during class?
The Last One Picked
Story #2
The teachers were also having
a little chat after class…

I’m about to call in and find out when these

reports are due…by the way, I meant to ask, do
you think we should start calling on Mei and Thanh
to participate a bit more?

Well, sure…eventually. There’s no need to rush

them. After all, didn’t we learn in graduate
school that students from Asian cultures
don’t like to be put on the spot in front of
their peers? I don’t want them to lose face.
If they do, I’m afraid they won’t come back.

•What do you think about Mei and Thanh’s dilemma?

•Can this situation be handled effectively with a minimum of
hurt feelings and without losing two good students? How?
The Last One Picked
Story #2
What went wrong?  Mei and Thanh didn’t know it, but their teachers
really weren’t prejudiced against Asians in the
hateful sense of the term, nor did they consider
Asians less capable than members of other groups.
 Instead, the teachers were using what is called a
modal personality.
 A modal personality is a profile that helps us try to
predict how members of a particular group, based on
We are language and cultural background, will behave in a
each… given situation—in this case the classroom.
 The problem is that modal personalities don’t allow

for variations from one individual to the next
(example: MOST African-Americans do one thing,
while MOST Whites or MOST Latinos do another).
 Mei and Thanh are highly motivated young women who
simply do not wish to be judged based on the modal
personality profile for Asians, which holds that they
do not respond well to “spotlighting” during class.
 Let’s backtrack, and take a look at how many times a
modal personality has been used during this
When Words Fail…
Story #3
Medical Center


Try to stay out of

trouble and remember
your court date…don’t do
anything like this again! I
don’t want to come back
out here…
When Words Fail…
Story #3

[sigh]…I only arrived a few weeks ago, and I

already wish I could move back home tomorrow.
I miss my family and friends so much! I knew
Medical Center that after 9-11, there would be people in
Alabama who don’t like Arabs. But nobody told
NEIGHBORHOOD me Americans would be so mean, and say the
STORE most unkind things you can imagine. I’m sorry I
got into a fight, but that man had to know how
insulting his words would be, and how much they
would hurt me! In Arab countries, the worst you
can say to someone is to call him a “dog!”
When Words Fail…
Story #3
A few minutes earlier…

EXCUSE ME?! Medical Center



Chalk Dust
Assume nothing! The fact that a learner
understands “whassup” as a greeting
does NOT mean that he will understand
I can’t believe it!
dawg as a term of affection.
Does Mahmud really
think Dr. Connor is
insulting him?!
In Other Words…
Story #4
Ahmed is an immigrant from a Middle Eastern country, and has been living in Alabama for three
years. He did not study English in high school or college before moving to the USA, and has just
enrolled in the adult free English program.

Ahmed’s cousin, Rafik, who studied English for three years in high school, has just joined him in
Alabama. Rafik has never actually visited an English -speaking country, but wishes to earn a
business degree from an American university. At Ahmed’s suggestion, he has also enrolled in
the free English class. The two young men usually attend class together.

On Rafik’s first night, Bill, a student teacher, found a book about the cousins’ home country in
the classroom library. It was written in English on a 6th grade level, and Rafik read a short
passage out loud carefully, making no mistakes in pronunciation. He used his pocket translator
to look up the definitions of unfamiliar words, took notes, and answered 4 of 5 questions
correctly on a written quiz Bill gave him. Ahmed participated in the same exercise, but didn’t do
so well. He struggled to pronounce English words that were unfamiliar, and could not show that
he comprehended the meaning of the passage.

Bill concluded that Rafik’s previous experience with English in school had prepared him for the
advanced English group. Ahmed would need to study with the beginners.

Later that evening, during wrap-up, Bill spoke with Mr. Barnes, the supervising instructor on the
ESOL site, about his work…

Mr. Barnes: So, did you do an informal assessment of Ahmed and Rafik?

Bill: Yes….it was about what I expected.

Mr. Barnes: Right. Rafik has never lived in an English-speaking country and just isn’t
ready for the advanced group. He can barely manage a “Hi, how are you?” Ahmed
can make himself understood very well. I’m sure you could see that right away,
couldn’t you?

Bill: Ahem…um…ah…well, not exactly.

Mr. Barnes: I feel you might need to explain some things, Bill. This really wasn’t a
difficult assignment that I gave you, and frankly, I’m disappointed right now. Why do
you seem to think this is complicated?
In Other Words…
Story #4
• What Mr. Barnes didn’t understand, and Bill didn’t know how to
explain, is that Ahmed and Rafik are both advanced students of
What’s going on with English, but have not mastered the same type of language.
Ahmed and Rafik? • Ahmed, having been in Alabama for three years, has acquired
his BICS (Basic Interpersonal Communicative Skills).
• Most ELLs should have BICS about two years after placement
into the second language environment.
• BICS includes basic survival language for everyday activities
and social situations.
CALP •Ahmed has not yet acquired his CALP (Cognitive Academic
Language Proficiency) for English.
• He can make himself understood very well in oral English, but
has not mastered the language of written, academic books and
journals, which is quite different from social English.
• Most people need 5-7 years to acquire CALP.
• Rafik’s experience with English has prepared him for some
academic tasks, but not for survival outside the classroom.
For more information please
Phillip Johnson
(205) 391-2665

Cary Chappell
Adult Education ESL Instructor
SSCC Holy Spirit Adult Ed. Site
(205) 886-0900
Resources used in this
Brown, H. Douglas. (2000). Principles of language learning and teaching. White Plains:

Freeman, D.E & Freeman, Y.S. (2001). Between worlds: access to second language
acquisition. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.

Freeman, D.E, Freeman, Y.S., & Mercuri, S. (2002). Closing the achievement gap: how
to reach limited-formal-schooling and long-term English learners. Portsmouth,
NH: Heinemann.

Otto, Beverly. (2006). Language development in early childhood. Upper Saddle River,
NJ: Pearson.

Richards, Jack C. (2006). Communicative Language Teaching Today. Cambridge, UK:

Cambridge University Press.

Samway, Katherine & McKeon, Denise. (1999). Myths and realities: best practices for
language minority students. Portsmouth, NH: Heinemann.